Bug oil and social developmentBy Rina Jimenez-David |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Very seldom are we given the opportunity to meet our daily personal needs while helping others at the same time. Or to put it another way: Very seldom are we allowed to flex our consumer muscles by buying healthy and buying organic, while taking part in social development and the economic uplift of poor rural communities.
How does this happen?
In these days of heightened concern over the spread of dengue, buying and using mosquito repellent has become a habit for many householders. But if the repellent we buy happens to bear the label “Citronella Bug Shield,” produced by the social concern Human Nature, we will also be contributing to the development of two farming communities in Bukidnon, which will be engaged in the farming, harvesting and processing of citronella, a natural insect repellent, and other organic ingredients that go into every bottle of “Bug Shield.”
Recently, Human Nature, together with its partner organization Gawad Kalinga, launched the “Farmer’s Fund Drive.” As part of the drive, Human Nature has committed to donate 100 percent of its profits from the sale of Citronella Bug Shield oil and lotion to fund the establishment of processing factories in barangays Imbayao and San Jose in Bukidnon. (There are existing facilities in Bicol and Biliran.)
The goal is to set up essential oil extraction facilities, training, values formation and other programs for the children of the community. But to raise enough money for the facility and program, Human Nature will have to sell 50,000 bottles of the “100% Natural” Bug Shield Oil and Lotion.
That shouldn’t be too much of a problem, it would seem, since the citronella oil and lotion are currently the top sellers in Human Nature’s range of products. (It supposedly alternates for the “best selling” title with the Sunflower Beauty Oil.)
Then again, the Bug Shield oil and lotion face a lot of stiff competition from other products in the market, which range from not just spray or lotion repellent, but also newfangled “stickers” that parents attach on their babies’ clothes to drive away mosquitoes, as well as insecticides and sprays and even coils (katol).
But none of the competitors would protect us from bugs with truly genuine natural products, would they? And help develop rural communities and combat poverty at the same time, right?
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A “pity purchase” is how Anna Meloto-Wilk, who founded Human Nature with her sister Camille almost five years ago, describes buying a product out of charity, even if it has no distinct advantage over similar competitors.
But buying any one of the over 100 products in Human Nature’s line is not a “pity purchase,” Anna protests. Much thought and research went into conceptualizing each product, she says, and in fact the Human Nature brochure boasts of its “natural care labs” staffed by researchers and scientists where products are formulated, developed and studied by dermatologists and “independent third-party labs.”
While staying in California with her husband Dylan Wilk, who himself has quite an interesting history that led him from England to the Philippines and Gawad Kalinga, Anna began researching on the best products to use for her then infant daughter. “I had lots of time on my hands and would scour the Internet for safe, healthy and organic products,” she recalls. Anna was fortunate, for the “organic” trend was booming in California and throughout the United States. One of the first decisions she and Dylan made, she told another interviewer, was to use cloth diapers for her eldest after finding out the adverse environmental impact of disposable diapers.
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About the same time, Camille arrived for an extended visit, and the two sisters—the health-obsessed new mother and the make-up maven—put their brains together, conceptualizing a venture that would merge their shared concern for social development, healthy living and responsible consumerism.
“Kikay with a social conscience” is how Anna describes the melding of healthful conceit and love of country.
When they returned to the Philippines, Anna, Camille and Dylan (he oversees the company’s operations) put up Gandang Kalikasan (Natural Beauty), which would be the mother company of Human Nature.
They are not shy about their ambitions or goals. “We aim to be the global standard of a business with a heart,” declares the Human Nature “magalog,” a blended word of magazine and catalog that is all the rage in marketing these days. “Our goal is to help inspire and nurture social enterprises to scale up and be as big—or bigger!—than Human Nature, and in a much shorter time than it took us. The Philippines has so many world-class products created by people who care. By supporting local social enterprises, we firmly believe we can uplift the poor communities in no time.”
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Anna emphasizes that the “Farmer’s Fund Drive” involves not just Human Nature employees or Gawad Kalinga supporters but everyone in the wide net cast by natural and organic products—dealers, sales persons, consumers, advocates. The drive, she adds, “is one of the most concrete and direct ways that ordinary Filipinos can make an impact in improving the lives of the poor in our country. With every purchase, not only are you providing a better life for farmers but you are also giving the best and safest protection for your family through a world-class product that feels as good on your skin as it does in your heart.”
Every Human Nature product carries a simple, profound slogan: “Pro-Philippines, Pro-Poor and Pro-Environment.” And for less than P100 for a 50 ml. bottle of Citronella Bug Shield oil, you can also carry the same slogan proudly, even if you’re only talking to yourself.
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