Lao Tzu, CHinese philosopher, founder of Taoism
While charity can be a noble act, it does not tackle directly the problem of poverty, which is so widespread in our nation. Poverty is a societal problem, that can only be handled through gradual improvement of social infrastructure and cannot be magically wiped out overnight. In India, there are few organizations that possess the vision, determination, and ingenuity to tackle poverty head-on. However, in December 1994, a social organization called 'Industree Foundation' was formed that completely changed the dynamics of how organizations approach the problem of poverty. Today, Industree Foundation is transforming lives and communities, one empowered woman at a time.
The idea behind creating Industree Foundation was to enable millions of Indian artisans to be able to build sustainable livelihoods for themselves. Its founders, Jacob Mathew and Neelam Chhiber, realized two important things that now form the foundational framework of the organization. First, people all around the world are getting more aware of climate change and in turn, they are looking to buy sustainable products that are made in fair-value chains. Keeping that in mind, Industree Foundation started using biodegradable raw materials, focusing on sustainable natural fiber and regenerative agricultural value chains, such as banana, bamboo, and non-timber forest produce. They have meticulously tapped into the huge potential that natural fibers have in consumption. This form of production uses much less energy than the kind of energy used in recycling plastic.
Secondly, it is the direct manner in which Industree Foundation addresses the crux of the problem of poverty. They believe that if one can increase the amount of money that the poor are able to earn, they can all pay for all the other services that they require for their sustenance. Simple, yet effective, this philosophy has in part addressed the issue of poverty at a very fundamental level. At Industree Foundation, they believe that this theory of change has huge potential not just in India, but across the globe.
Neelam Chhiber, from the Industree Film 2021
Neelam Chhiber aptly justifies why women form the backbone of the Industree Foundation. The organization works on the regenerative economic transformation of India’s most vulnerable women by unleashing their abilities to build and scale self-owned collective enterprises and leverage economies of scale. Industree upskills women to adopt green business practices and connects them with markets for natural and biodegradable products. So far, it has established 35 for-profit women’s collectives and four producer companies, which supply homeware and apparel that meet sustainable procurement standards to major global retailers. Its ecosystem supports its entrepreneurs with upskilling, capital, digital tools, and more.
Industree has already impacted 500,000 lives and ensured cumulative market access of over 58 million USD, with a clear focus on equity, gender, and climate. Its work ensures that women in communities have access to work close to their homes, becoming part of mainstream value chains with customers such as IKEA, H&M Home, Fabindia, and the Future Group, in climate-positive value chains. This gives them greater control over their economic security and significantly improves social gains such as a stronger voice in their families and communities, access to social security, better health care, improved nutritional and educational outcomes for their children, and resilience to crises. Their ownership of net positive, creative production value chains gives them added confidence as societal agents of change.
Industree Foundation stands as a trailblazer in the fight against poverty and gender inequality. By unlocking the potential of vulnerable women, Industree empowers communities, preserves the environment, and builds a more equitable society. As they continue to scale their efforts and collaborate with diverse stakeholders, Industree Foundation exemplifies the transformative power of sustainable entrepreneurship, propelling India's most vulnerable women toward a future defined by dignity, agency, and prosperity.
You can learn more about Industree Foundation by watching the video below.