Sustainable Voices: Farah Kabir

February 7, 2019

Sustainable Voices: Farah Kabir

Welcome to our Sustainable Voices series, where we talk to inspirational climate leaders around the world about their passions and projects.

Who, What, Where?

What makes Farah Kabir, co-founder of HANX, #climatepositive about the future? The story of HANX began when two friends, a gynaecology doctor and an investment banker walked into a bar. Farah was telling her friend Sarah a story of a friend who had been «caught» buying condoms by her sniggering (male)boss. It got them thinking that everything about condoms is wrong – overtly masculine, garish and with cringey names - and usually not climate-friendly. - Even today, in a world where our health and wellbeing matter more than ever, men that carry condoms are seen as studs but women usually aren't considered to be part of the equation, explains the co-founders who's based in the UK. So Sarah and Farah decided to create a brand dedicated to creating a range of vegan and sustainable sexual health products that are approved by gynaecologists and designed to sit unashamedly in our bags - and be a better option for the planet. The brand is now getting earned media mentions globally and is on the rise to become the new handbag IT-item.

What was your a-ha moment that made you become engaged in sustainability?

When Sarah, my co-founder, and I made the decision to create a disruptive sexual wellness brand, we found many areas where you could improve on the current offering, including sustainability and health aspects. We found that there was a need for sustainably sourced latex used in the production of condoms, vegan options, and the reduction in chemicals added during the production process for both condoms and lubricant. It was a real ‘a-ha’ moment as we realized big brands were missing a trick with the products they were offering and that there was a real gap in the market for considered sexual wellness products that were kind to both you and the planet. HANX condoms don’t contain casein, an animal protein usually found in condoms. Instead, thistle extract is used to create the silky smooth effect, and ensuring we are vegan certified. We are ethically made in Germany out of natural and Fair Rubber latex, meaning the latex plant workers get a fair wage and safe working conditions. We never test on animals and avoid nasty chemicals wherever possible.

What is your single best tip for someone who wants to do more for the environment on a personal level?

I think you just need to try! If you’re willing to actively change your habits and reduce your impact on the environment, you’ll find so many alternatives you didn’t even know existed. There are amazing influencers out there who are leading the charge and sharing tips on how to do it right where possible, from using metal straws, to taking public transport over driving, avoiding single-use beauty products, to eschewing fast fashion and choosing to shop second hand. I recently hopped on an Instagram live with By Rotation, a ‘rent and lend your wardrobe’ app that’s playing a huge role in indulging those ‘I need something special to wear tonight’ urges while readdressing how we consume clothing and reduces the act of buying a cheap ‘quick fix’ only to wear it once before discarding it.

What do you think will be the legacy of your generation?

This is a great question! I think I’ll go with… we put our heart into figuring out how to right the wrongs of previous generations and break the cycle of destructive manufacturing. It’s heartening to see fellow startups and young brands with sustainability at the forefront of their minds and how entrepreneurs are adopting new technology and practices to challenge ‘the norm’ e.g. mass use of single-use plastics inconvenience products and turn it on its head.

What is the most critical technological breakthrough that needs to happen for the world to reach the 1,5 degree goal?

We all need to stand up and pay attention, from large corporations to big business to brands, individuals and people in power. If we all work together, we can address cultural behaviors and really raise awareness and change certain perceptions around sustainability and giving a damn. It’s not a ‘hippy thing’ to care about the environment: we all live on this earth and a concerted effort would be a beautiful thing.

What will this breakthrough demand from us as a society?

We need to want to know more! If companies aren’t going to be transparent about their manufacturing practices, we should want to seek out an answer. By having a greater understanding of where everything comes from and the process it took to create that product, you can actually consider if it’s actually worth it. You don’t really learn about energy and how much of that is used for example, to make a single pair of jeans. We should be asking questions and looking to support brands who do want you to know everything about their process, how they treat their workers, if their product is vegan, its carbon footprint and how will it affect your body or your lifestyle in the long run.

What is your company’s most impactful contribution to fight climate change?

As contraception options go, condoms are up there as being the most sustainable. The active ingredient in combined oral contraceptive pill (estrogen) is a pollutant that can harm wildlife in waterways. Ethinyl estradiol (synthetic estrogen) can result in “intersex” fish and is very difficult to remove from wastewater, which carries the hormone into waterways. However, it is worth noting that any effective method of contraception is positive for the environment, as the impact of birth control is minimal in comparison to the impact of another human impact on the planet. As a young company, and a new brand, we are always listening to our community and adapting to guidelines in order to improve our sustainability. Our products travel within Europe, and therefore do not have to travel too far to reach customers both in the UK and the rest of Europe. HANX condoms are presented in cardboard boxes, which are recyclable, and our lubricant bottle is made from recycled, recyclable plastic. We do not cellophane wrap our products, we were led to believe that this was necessary when we initially launched but rectified this as soon as we were notified this in fact, wasn’t standard practice. Whilst HANX condoms are currently wrapped in foil (for freshness, as a CE certified medical device) we are very conscious of improving our sustainability while maintaining quality and safety and are actively seeking alternative packaging that is in line with medical device standards. We will continue to review the options that help to reduce our carbon footprint and innovations in packaging, in order to continually improve as a company. Watch this space!

In your industry, what do you think will be the most groundbreaking change over the next 10 years?

Hopefully, a shift towards making products vegan where possible, cruelty-free, and there will be greater transparency around workers’ conditions and the journey products take before they end up in your bathroom cabinet. We’re interested to see what the focus, particularly in a hopefully(!) post-COVID world will be for our peers and if it takes sustainability into consideration, that can only be a good thing.

Which brand (in general) do you think is at the forefront when it comes to sustainability?

Patagonia is, of course, a really great example of a company that takes responsibility for its entire supply chain, pushing for just working conditions while protecting the environment. If we’re talking a little closer to home, Dame, the sustainable period products brand is B Corp certified and currently paving the way for small emerging brands setting foundations for an ethical future. They’ve focused on reducing and reusing materials by creating their and the world's (!) first reusable tampon applicator, 100% organic cotton tampons and campaign to end period poverty in the UK. We were really excited to partner with them earlier in the year on a curated box for people choosing to come off hormonal contraception.

What makes you climate positive about the future?

There’s plenty of buzz, we’re seeing entrepreneurs tackling problems we never thought could be solved and there is a general shift in attitude to people who champion living and working in a more sustainable manner. Caring about the environment is considered much less ‘out there’ I think, than in previous decades, and I look forward to seeing developments in business which help us to make little changes with a big, positive impact.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me and please do email if you have any questions!