How 3 alumni from West African and Europe are changing the world for better? – sustainable cleaning
AIESEC Alumni Europe (AAE) and AIESEC Alumni International (AAI) are proud to present you 3 inspiring fellow alumni women whom – even though they had never ever met in real life yet – are deeply connected through AIESEC and their passion for sustainable living.
Please read bellow an exciting story of starting a business from zero while working together remotely across 2 continents the last 2 years.
In 2020 August Cordula N’Vekounou and Auria Assogba joined an AIESECpreneur business incubator in Cotonou and created Limpieza Services, an eco-friendly cleaning business from scratch. While the pandemic made the entire world freeze, this one brave decision accelerated their self-fulfilment journey and Limpieza Serivces became the first ever sustainable cleaning product manufacturer of Benin Republic just a year later.
How is that even possible? Let’s get back to the beginnings. Why did you start this initiative?
Cordula, co-founder of Limpieza Services took the lead by describing her mission which eventually became the driver to start this business: “during my AIESEC journey I learned about SDGs and that if we want to see a change in the world we have to become one. We created Limpieza Services because we want people to adapt a good behaviour to protect themselves and the environment”
Auria the other co-founder of Limpieza Services added “during my journey as AIESECer I learned what is leadership and it was obvious for me that at the end of my AIESEC career I have to implement all the leadership knowledge acquired through AIESEC in my life. In Benin Republic (West Africa) especially we need that they see us and try learning from our leadership stories as women who are starting a business.”
As Auria reminds us for the role of a women in society, I can’t stop the urge to paint a bigger picture here: in the US about 19.9% of firms are women-owned, the largest % can be found in Panama. While we can read the hopeful note on World Bank’s page that “Africa is the only region in the world where more women than men choose to become entrepreneurs”, the underlying reality still is that women in West Africa primary regarded as caretakers, housemaids and babysitters. From age 5, girls are often involved in all these activities mentioned before, while boys get to enter (on a higher %) into formal education. This little breakout can put Auria’s statement in a perspective: women should be regarded as capable, as job creators, as entrepreneurs as well. In this road AIESEC is a tremendous help to actually develop skills, gain knowledge and acquire the needed mindset regardless gender to tackle this issue. Before we drift off to an other topic, let’s come back to see how a German Alumni get into the picture of eco-friendly cleaning product manufacturing in Africa.
Why did someone join 2 young ladies from the other side of the world for a project and mission like this?
Christiane Stein, then VP of Comm&NAA growth, currently President of AAE is the appointed business coach of Limpieza Services. Chris gave the reason to be involved in coaching fellow AIESECers as alumni: “ AIESEC’s vision is clear and it is all our responsibility and duty to do something for peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential. For me I feel my contribution to the fulfilment part through assisting Cordula and Auria in this project. Beyond that in today’s world where we are facing climate change and already feeling the impact of it, it is important to look at our lives and our homes and see how we can turn it towards sustainability. That is why I think it is a great project and happy to support them.”
What SDGs this project contributes towards?
Limpieza Serivices with EcoClean product line contribute towards the following targets under SDG 12 and 3.
- SDG 12 target 4. – Responsible management of chemicals and waste: Limpieza Services eco-cleaning product lines use 100% natural ingredients to replace harmful chemicals like bleach, alcohol etc. which minimises adverse impacts on human health and environment.
- SDG 12 target 5. – Sustainably reduce waste generation: Eco Clean product line items are in a container which can be refilled on a subscription base to reduce plastic waste.
- SDG 12 target 8. – Promote universal understanding of sustainable lifestyles: Being Benin’s first local eco-cleaning product line they are leading the way for sustainable lifestyle. They also hold workshops and encourage their communities to adapt for ecological lifestyle. Limpieza Services offers a range of other services as well to complement their EcoClean products including space reorganising/ decoration & cleaning services.
- SDG 3 target 9. – Reduce illnesses and death from hazardous chemicals and pollution: While EcoClean products keep households clean from germs & bacteria, all of their products are also safe for children, as made by non-toxic ingredients making it the best alternative for harmful chemically filled cleaning materials.
What are the current practices in Benin which you see as great examples for sustainable living?
Auria: “already great practices are in the households like recycling of plastic bottles, it is natural for our people here to get empty cola or alcohol bottles and disinfect them then refill it with their hand made products like liquid soap.”
Cordula: “Yes, bottles like whiskey are soled empty on the market so some small business women fill it up and reuse/repurpose it to use as packaging for selling peanuts, biscuits and other small produce.”
What natural ingredients do Beninese use already in their households?
Auria: “There are natural products for beauty which people use daily like shea butter. To produce the shea butter is traditional and local here in our country. There is no industry built around it so it is kept cheap. It also do not use gas or oil as it is not traveling across the globe so it means less pollution and it is more safe for humans as well as they know exactly who made it and how. Most of these used for hair, nail, skin or even for cooking.”
Cordula: “Our ancestor’s techniques and traditions are still around which are more sustainable and eco-friendly as heavily building on local plants and natural ingredients. Although due to colonization, young people have fallen far from keeping up these time consuming traditions as they think of it as not trendy, not modern, not appropriate. But this is far from the truth. For example our grandparents still perform practices like using (for variety of household activities and cleansing) the natural product called black soap. It is even better than the new things in terms of health and sustainability and better results for example for cleaning and skin care etc.”
What techniques Beninese use for cleaning around the traditional households?
Cordula: “Our elders still use ash to clean the dark spots and sand to polish the dishes. These are the already existing solutions which Limpieza Services would like to modernize and get people back to their traditional roots to take better care of themselves and our environment.”
What does the government do for sustainability in Benin and how it impacted people?
Cordula: “The government of Benin banned the use of plastic in 2017. There is a tendency that people started to care about reusing of plastic bags. People use their old bags when they are going to the market, or they carry the reusable bags rather. It is already an existing practice. People were more careful in the old times of no wasting, today it is having a come back with the bags and water bottles as young people are carrying it with them rather than buying new every time so they reduce plastic waste.”
What do you think Chris about ecological start-ups?
Chris: “in Germany only 3-4 years ago a few start-ups existed on eco-friendly products.. so on this way Limpieza Services in Benin and those new eco-businesses in Germany are kind of together, not far beyond on the timeline regardless of any external factors. There are still changes to be made in Germany as well so social businesses are constantly coming up to bridge that gap (what profit oriented businesses can not). I am happy to see that Benin with Limpieza Services is leading the way for sustainable living in Africa as well.”
If you have any questions please reach out to Limpieza Services on email@example.com. You can also read more thespace.team/limpieza-services
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With this I would like to wish great strength and courage for these 3 ladies on their road to make EcoClean a world wide phenomenal. We all deserve healthier environment and sustainable future. Let’s celebrate also the female AIESECpreneurs leading the way and utilising their AIESEC experience and global connections. Keep going.