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Posted on January 30, 2017

Disrupting ‘business as usual’

Sustainable, compassionate biz in GK’s Social Business Summit: social entrepreneurship continues to shift global business landscape

The days of ‘pity purchases’ and charity are over.

Today, social enterprises are shifting the global business landscape by making ‘inclusive growth’ standard practice. Putting the poor at the top of the agenda has made Gandang Kalikasan Inc. (Human Nature) the Philippines’ largest and most successful social enterprise.

“We wanted to start a movement through social enterprises that will do business differently. We didn’t know much about the cosmetics industry, but we wanted to transform the lives of poor workers,” Dylan Wilk, Co-Founder and Chairman of Gandang Kalikasan Inc. shared at the 2017 Social Business Summit held recently at GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan.  Over 600 attendees from 20 countries including Malaysia, France, and the US attended the three-day summit.

Wilk added that the traditional business model prioritizes profitability and this often leads to unjust labor practices. Contractualization, lack of health benefits and absence of programs to help rank and file employees move up the organization are just a few of the accepted business norms in the Philippines. It was these practices that Wilk togther with his wife, Anna Meloto-Wilk, and his sister-in-law, Camille Meloto sought to change when they founded Gandang Kalikasan in 2008. From the beginning, the company was committed to improving the lives of their employees and influencing industry norms through their company policies.

The company regularizes all their employees, including merchandisers, and gives over 68 percent above minimum wage compensation with full benefits, including healthcare. Gandang Kalikasan also enforces a no firing policy for its regular employees.

Multiplying the good

Dina Ocampo, a Gandang Kalikasan employee, proved that the company’s people over profit vision is truly life changing. Ocampo, who used to be part of the warehouse staff, now works as the Provincial Coordinator for Merchandising Operations of Gandang Kalikasan in Visayas.

Through hard work and the opportunities she received, Ocampo was able to buy her own house, a van and a motorcycle. She’s on her way to complete paying for a second house and is saving up for her own overseas trip—all at 25. “If not for Human Nature, I will not be able to achieve any of this,” Ocampo shared.

From three employees in 2009, Human Nature has grown to 500 employees, with over 30 branches nationwide, overseas operations in Singapore, Malaysia, US, and a store in Dalma Mall, one of the premier malls in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Helping other local social enterprises scale up is part of Human Nature’s agenda. Last year, Human Nature curated a special line of social enterprises through Super Goods. Local social enterprises like Bayani Brew, Villa Socorro, Holy Carabao, Sweet & Fit, Hineleban Coffee, Hope in a Bottle, Wellness Water, and Theo & Philo are now available in Rustan’s Supermarket. Through Super Goods, consumers will not only be treated to world class goods, but they are also assured that they are buying from businesses who put serving and uplifting the poor at the top of their agenda. 

The future of business

“Social businesses are growing three times faster now,” Gawad Kalinga Global Executive Director Luis Oquiñena said at the Social Business Summit at GK Enchanted Farm.

Oquiñena cited that with the Philippines’ standing as one of the top 40 largest economies in the world, social entrepreneurship will lead the way for inclusive growth for all. “When there’s [economic growth] acceleration like that, it’s the poor who gets left behind. That’s why we’re all here so when we accelerate, the poorest will not be left behind. ”

Social enterprises have a triple bottom line: social, environmental, and financial return, narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.

A forum with Laurence Lien, co-founder of Asia Philanthropy Circle; Rob Aspin, co-founder of investment firm Marc Whittaker, David Thomas, Chief Risk Officer of CIMB also shared insights on key factors that investors are looking for in a social enterprise.

Lien said that he sees social enterprises as a tool to connect the disconnected—an equal opportunity for everyone to grow. For Thomas, a person’s character plays an important role. “Finding someone with hard work, character, and [personal] values is important to merge our [traditional business] platform to your [social enterprise] platform.

 Meanwhile, Aspin emphasized that investing in social enterprises that have social impact, environmental impact, and profitability is what he looks for. “Profit that can be invested back to the society is important for sustainability,” Aspin noted.

Reviving agribusiness for the youth

Despite being an agricultural country, farming communities remain poor. Most sons and daughters of farmers often leave farming to their parents to pursue more lucrative opportunities in the city.

“We need to engage the young and help them to go back to agribusiness. Agribusiness is the way to entice young farmers,” William Dar, Strategic Global Adviser of Prasad Seed said. Farming communities often produce crops like corn, coconut, and rice which Dar calls low value crops.

Arsenio Barcelona, President of Harbest shared that mentoring farmers, especially the young, can help improve agriculture in the Philippines. Barcelona once led a training program for farmers that focused on enhancing their knowledge on crop rotation. “This [the training program] made me realize that helping the poor is not just about training them, but nurturing them, guiding them so they can make more to support their family,” Barcelona said. 

Inclusive growth

For traditional business, scaling up meant growing through profit or assets but for social enterprises, growth is seen through impact: empowering people, community building, and improving the quality of life.

“Our public face is really the natural, social enterprise, but most of our success is working with the urban sector and improving the lives of the working poor. It’s something that we’re really pushing for: to improve the quality of life, to give them jobs that will allow them provide for their family and not just live from paycheck to paycheck,” Anna Meloto-Wilk, cofounder and President of Gandang Kaliksan Inc shared.

For Anya Lim, cofounder of Alternative Nest and Trading/Training Hub for Indigenous/Ingenious Little Livelihood seekers (ANTHILL) Fabric Gallery, growth was a slow yet rewarding process. Lim aims to preserve the Philippines’ weaving culture by working with local weavers and turning weaves to beautiful fashion pieces.

“ANTHILL has been around for six years, but we only scaled up in the last two years because we spent four years for community building—building the trust with our partner communities took time. [Seeing] how our partner communities are able to achieve their dreams [is] my strongest motivation,” Lim said. Lim further adds that she hopes to encourage the younger generation of weavers and weave wearers for a sustainable future.

Building communities is also an essential part of Rags2Riches’ growth. Rags2Riches has trained over 900 weavers from poor communities, producing eco-friendly and sustainably-made bags sought after by many.

“People see us as a fashion brand but I hope they see the lives that we’re changing. It’s not a one-time thing: we’re looking at the changes for the lives of their children, the children of their children. We’re starting with a generation that wouldn’t know what it’s like to pick garbage at a garbage site,” Reese Fernandez-Ruiz, cofounder of Rags2Riches shared.

Lim and Fernandez Ruiz, together with Malaysian Social Investor Shirley Maya Tan of GK Enchanted Farm launched a collaboration project between ANTHILL and Rags2Riches called Malaya Collection at the summit. The collection is a celebration of the Asian heritage and friendship of the Philippines and Malaysia, honoring the tribal communities from both countries. 

Moving Forward Together

Putting up a business used to be a far-fetched dream for the poor. But now, budding entrepreneurs from Gawad Kalinga’s School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) are putting up their own businesses as a sustainable solution to poverty.

Most SEED students are second or third generation farmers from the poor farming communities in Bulacan. Through the program, SEED students are equipped with skills & training to be social entrepreneurs. “SEED restored our capacity to dream,” SEED student Vincent Tatel said.

“I used to steal bananas because I was hungry. People would call me a thief because I stole bananas for my mother,” Mice Geloso, a SEED student said at the social business pitch. From a banana ‘thief’, Geloso founded Friendchips, a social enterprise that offers flavored banana and casava chips. Friendchips currently sells 160 packs a day and has five flavors. “I don’t need to steal bananas now. I can grow, plant, and sell them. I can make [bananas] valuable and profitable not just for me, but for my family and my fellow Filipinos,” Geloso said. 

About Human Nature

Human Nature is the Philippines’ largest brand of genuinely natural, affordable personal care, cosmetics and home care products. Founded in 2008 by Dylan Wilk, Anna Meloto-Wilk, and Camille Meloto, Human Nature’s products are 100% made in the Philippines and 100% free from harmful chemicals. Operated by social enterprise Gandang Kalikasan Inc. (GKI), Human Nature is driven by the core philosophies of being PRO-PHILIPPINES, PRO-POOR and PRO-ENVIRONMENT. In 2012, Human Nature was recognized by the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation as a Champion for Social Entrepreneurship.  To learn more about Human Nature and its advocacies, log on to

For press inquiries, contact:
Tish Martinez-Castillo, Corporate Communications & PR Manager | 09065084252 | 224-2224 loc 319

This post was posted in Latest Updates, Press Releases

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