Sustainability In Practice

As Funlayo Alabi searched for a treatment for her children’s eczema, she re-discovered shea butter, a product common in her native Nigeria. Across West Africa, shea butter is often used to treat various skin problems. Alabi was always amazed at how well the product relieved dry, itchy skin, leaving moisturized, radiant skin in its place. What started as curiosity soon turned into a passion. In 2008, Funlayo and her husband Shola co-founded Shea Radiance, a company specializing in high end, luxury, shea based cosmetics.

Shea Radiance’s ingredients are inspired by Africa’s natural bounty. The company aims to incorporate traditional African elements into each product with a rich and diverse array of ingredients ranging from baobab oil to kalahari melon seed oil, Kigali extract, and more. They wish to create a range of rich and lush hair and body care products that deliver actual results.

In 2014, Shea Radiance officially became a GSA sustainability partner, and is currently undertaking a Shea Safety Solutions Pilot program in partnership with fellow GSA sustainability partner Naasakle Ltd, a long-time Shea Radiance supplier. Shea Radiance and Naasakle envision this project as a long-term advocacy initiative. The project will determine needs of the women, and demonstrate impact by providing comprehensive health and safety trainings and technical assistance to women cooperatives across the GSA network.

Shea Radiance believes that giving women economic opportunity through trade is a key factor in poverty alleviation, especially in the agricultural sector. Helping women increase their production capacity through greater efficiency in shea kernel gathering and butter processing allows them to increase their income. Keeping women safe from snake and scorpion bites, burn, and other physical dangers allows them to continue generating income for their families without fear and anxiety. Shea Radiance also believes that having a supply chain partner with the same values of poverty alleviation through business makes all the difference. Their partnership with Naasakle ensures that the women who gather the nuts used in the production of their butter make a premium over market price.

In November 2015, Shea Radiance and Naasakle Ltd. received a grant from the Global Shea Alliance as part of a USAID West Africa Trade Hub program that will enable the two companies to launch their pilot project in the Damongo area of Ghana’s Northern Region. The Shea Radiance and Naasakle teams interviewed over 100 women to establish a baseline for health and safety risks and conducted a physical assessment of the work environment. By going out into the field to meet with women collectors and processors, they heard concerns and recommendations directly from the source. During this field visit, Shea Radiance and Naasakle also noted other potential safety hazards through direct observation of the working environment.

Before returning to their base in the United States, the Shea Radiance team worked with GSA sustainability partner TechnoServe to brainstorm and discuss possible meaningful and effective solutions. Next steps will focus on research and evaluation of potential solutions based upon the needs expressed by the women.

By May 2016, the beginning of the next shea harvesting season, Shea Radiance looks forward to testing interventions with approximately 500 women in the field. Expected impacts for the project include improved work conditions, increased productivity and increased profit for women workers in the industry. Shea Radiance and Naasakle Ltd. anticipate that the solutions can be shared and adopted by all shea collecting and processing communities through the GSA network, potentially impacting millions women.

Through the Global Shea Alliance, Shea Radiance has connected with like-minded stakeholders and created meaningful partnerships focused on ensuring that shea becomes a sustainable commodity. Shea Radiance believes that a “bottom-up” approach of supporting women in the supply chain is the key to the long-term future of shea.