At Kahina, a fair wage is paid to the women who source the oil and the company donates an additional percentage of profits to support programmes that directly benefit these women. “Last year, the women of one of the villages from where I purchase my oil identified their need for sheep. Now, with two sheep for every woman, they have a source of wool for their weaving, milk, and can breed the sheep to sell. They are now weaving beautiful rugs to sell at the market.”
L’Heureux’s latest initiative is to develop a clean cooking stove programme for the region, replacing traditional wood burning stoves with solar powered stoves. This reduces the health risks associated with smoke inhalation and the dangers to children, as well as helps preserve the argan trees from being cut down for fires.
Another niche brand working directly with Berber communities is UK-based ila. The brainchild of Denise Leicester who has meticulously combined her passion for essential oils with her philanthropic spirit, working directly with growers and farmers in local communities in some of the poorest areas of the world to preserve ancient knowledge and harvest ingredients naturally and ethically. Ila sources argan oil from a women’s co-operative in Morocco, whose skills have been passed down over generations of Berbers. The kernels are crushed, filtered and cold-pressed in the way they always have been, using many hands and a few simple mechanical aids.
The company also supports vulnerable single mothers in the Hunza region of Northern Pakistan by sustaining a co-operative for the harvesting and cold pressing of apricot oil. “It is a project that is micro financed from a large charitable organisation but needs a commercial outlet which ila provides,” explains Leicester. “We also buy medicinal herbs and oils directly from the Kayapo Tribe in Amazon and pay into a community bank account to support fair and sustainable trade for these indigenous people.”
Natural eco-friendly brand Aveda is well known for their charity collaborations and groundbreaking innovations that benefit those in real need. The company’s annual Earth Month campaign for example, carried out in over 30 countries, raises funds for the protection of clean water. Aveda partners with Global Greengrants Fund (www.greengrants.org) to identify groups around the world who are in need of support to help them gain access to clean water.