Keep this story going! Share below!
Celina Alejandrino and Maan Olivia are two childhood friends passionate about creating a greener earth. On a random day in 2018, they debated how to save the environment. During this time, the effects of plastic pollution in the Philippines and the globe are becoming increasingly prominent. For Celina and Maan, this was both a wake-up call and an opportunity. With this, they came up with one specific product that they would use daily – a net bag. They then started selling their net bags to just their friends and family, with no websites or online shops and only word-of-mouth marketing to rely on. But to Celina and Maan's surprise, their small, personal target market began looking for more sustainable products from their start-up, as the industry of sustainable shops in the Philippines is relatively close-knit. This served as a cue for them to make it a full-on advocacy campaign, giving birth to Simula PH. Having separate full-time jobs, founders Celina and Maan first saw the venture as a passion project to help and share their vision of reducing waste, with no intention of making a profit. From 2018, the company had continuous growth. Starting with only a net bag, they expanded their product offerings into various sustainable, everyday products, such as bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars, and more. Compared to most companies, the pandemic allowed Simula PH to thrive as more consumers switched to online shopping. Eventually, they built a website for online orders and ran a physical store in Glorietta, a shopping mall complex located in Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines, from 2021 until now.
Simula PH is an innovative and pioneering community-interest company dedicated to actively promoting accessibility to sustainable and zero-waste products across the Philippines. Simula PH firmly believes that "even the tiniest changes can have a profound ripple effect of positive impact." The essence of this belief is captured in their thoughtfully chosen name, "Simula," derived from the Filipino word for "beginning." Supporting over 70 micro and small enterprises and providing eco-entrepreneurs with a broader market reach, Simula PH empowers consumers to integrate sustainability into their lifestyles.
Simula PH strongly emphasizes fostering collaboration through engaging in various initiatives and partnerships with different organizations, such as NGOs like One Million Lights PH, Wavefarer PH's Waves for Water, and Project Pearls' GROW PH. Simula PH is committed to making a significant social impact and contributing to meaningful initiatives. Simula PH is committed to creating a wider positive impact by actively participating in community-driven efforts.
When the pandemic hit, and lockdowns were imposed, the availability of sanitation products, particularly alcohol, became a significant challenge. However, Simula PH, an established online store at the time, saw this as an opportunity to address the scarcity by introducing a unique innovation. Recognizing the absence of refilling services for alcohol in the Philippines, the company's owners, leveraging their existing online platform, decided to establish a refilling station in Maan's village.
This discovery opened new possibilities for Simula PH as they realized the potential of offering refilling services for alcohol. With the help of a chemist on their team, they created a unique alcohol formula that was non-drying and had other desirable qualities. This formula became the basis for their refilling services. Considering the high demand during the pandemic, Simula PH obtained large amounts of alcohol from Celina's chemist brother-in-law. Dealing with significant waste, including alcohol bottles, face masks, and face shields, inspired Simula PH to find an innovative solution. They turned to social media and asked people in online communities to bring empty bottles for refilling. Recognizing the scarcity of such services in the Philippines, Simula PH aimed to provide a comprehensive solution that was both plastic-free and sustainable throughout the entire product lifecycle.
While some prominent brands and fast-moving consumer goods companies like Unilever have offered refilling options, Simula PH stands out by ensuring their products are plastic-free and produced ethically. They carefully oversee the manufacturing process to ensure that every item they create meets strict plastic-free standards. They also promote responsible use and disposal of materials, making a dedicated effort to reduce waste. Simula PH extends these requirements to its partners, working together to achieve sustainability goals. This commitment is something they take great pride in. Simula PH continues to offer refilling services in their physical stores at Glorietta. They have expanded their range to include refills for shampoos and dishwashing liquids, which they produce themselves. Simula PH goes beyond by actively avoiding mass-produced goods and prioritizing a smaller carbon footprint. While they plan to introduce more innovative products in the future, Simula PH firmly believes that their dedication to ethical sourcing and sustainability is an innovative approach.
"Our commitment to sustainability is an innovation by itself." - Celina Alejandrino.
Simula PH's Donate-a-Pad campaign with Waves for Water Philippines (W4W) where they distribute to women in Siargao
Celina and Maan were already aware of environmental issues aggravated by what they saw on social media. Fueled by plastic pollution's atrocities on the Philippines and the world, they set on to come up with one staple that would help them help the environment. Since they loved shopping and going to the beach, they decided on a net bag that they could use for many reasons.
Their business soon grew when they reached a more significant market of environmentally-savvy consumers and sold more product offerings to continue their mission of reducing plastic pollution in the Philippines.
They transitioned from selling their products to becoming a community for other zero-waste products by joining different bazaars centering on sustainability. Celina states that their eureka moment was when they talked with these small businesses and NGOs, "That's when [we] realized there is no such community in the Philippines yet that has that marketplace wherein a customer can just go into a website and actually purchase all in one. Because we started with just three brands, because they were our friends, and it just grew through word of mouth."
Simula PH has managed to produce a ripple effect with its efforts. They collaborated with multiple non-governmental organizations to ensure that they widened their reach. The company has partnered with 1 Million Lights and Waves for Water, where they've supported communities by donating light bulbs and providing reusable napkins, respectively. They do not only advocate for a plastic-free——or at least an environmentally conscious——Philippines, but also for women's empowerment. They host products of Grow NGO, where each sale would support jobless women, effectively ensuring that these women have a sustainable source of income. They empower multiple small business owners by hosting their products in their online and offline space as well, carrying around 110 brands as of the moment.
Aside from their collaborations, Simula became what they are right now due to its consumers that spread their initiative through word-of-mouth. Through this, they could build a community of 14,300 strong and attain a spot at Glorietta 2, free of charge. They sell their partners' products here that have beneficiaries in far-flung places and are made by marginalized communities.
They contribute to many more communities than the ones mentioned above, but in the end, Cel says, "Simula is really more like a community than a place to shop. I'd like our customers to know that every time they purchase (something), there's always like a positive impact that you get to do every time."
Simula PH benefits from advancing the availability of sustainable and waste-free products in the Philippines. Simula PH's dedication to accessibility capitalizes on the rising demand for environmentally friendly goods and positions them as an industry leader in the sustainable sector. Simula PH prioritizes collaboration as they work with organizations. These collaborations increase their reach and societal impact. Simula PH is committed to having a bigger beneficial impact by actively participating in community-driven activities. Simula prioritizes its community above all else. By collectively striving to enhance accessibility to sustainable living, they inspire others to join their journey and foster a supportive environment of learning and mutual assistance.
The main objective of Simula PH is to provide community access to sustainable living while having a favorable effect on industry and the environment. To reduce expenses, boost revenues, and effectively run the business through direct interaction with people, they offer products created by people working from home who have ethical sourcing practices. The impact of word-of-mouth has been considerable in raising knowledge of Simula and its programs, which include encouraging refilling habits and minimizing plastic usage.
"One of the goals for us is informing people of how small steps that we do have actually have a big impact on the environment or in the world."
Simula PH hopes to eventually establish itself as the premier source of environmentally friendly and locally produced goods in the Philippines. They seek to enlighten and educate people about tiny actions that can have a significant environmental impact, particularly in places where sustainability concepts are less well-known. They broaden their influence and advocacy work by collaborating with various groups and NGOs to spur change outside Metro Manila.
Simula PH takes pride in its commitment to community outreach, personal engagement, and creating a welcoming forum for discussion of sustainability. They have observed workers implementing sustainable behaviors at home and introducing them to their families, which has had a beneficial domino effect. Future plans include collaboration with significant businesses, lodging establishments, and vacation destinations to carry out sustainable initiatives more widely. Simula PH seeks to coordinate its activities with the Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing sanitation, clean water, and human health and well-being. Ultimately, they want to make sustainable living more approachable and accessible to everyone.
"One of the things that we believe in Simula, [is] we always say this small is better than none."
As a community interest company, Simula aims to have as much positive impact in the Philippines as possible, which entails addressing multiple SDGs. However, Simula mainly tackles SDG 12, which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns to promote economic growth, social well-being, and environmental protection. As mentioned earlier, Simula is a locally grown space that makes sustainable and zero-waste products accessible in the Philippines. With their online platform and accessible physical store, they aim to reduce their carbon footprint by offering sustainable products from other brands and requiring those brand partners to be completely plastic-free with their packaging and whatnot77.
During 2019, they started to partner with organizations and brands with more or less similar advocacies. And currently have 110 brand partners in their community that offer sustainable products. It is clear that the organization's purpose indirectly applies to other SDGs and is not limited to SDG 12. For instance, Simula targets SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) by partnering up with Wavefarer PH's Waves for Water, which provides clean water to different communities in the Philippines. On every community visit by Waves for Water, Simula distributes reusable napkins to women in the community to promote sustainable products. By partnering with Food for Hunger, which provides food for the less fortunate, they cover another sustainable development goal: SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). For every purchase a customer makes in Simula, they donate to the mentioned community. Aside from that, they also plant a tree not only in the Philippines but worldwide for each purchase to reduce their carbon footprint. Simula also heavily emphasizes women's empowerment by giving resources and job opportunities to women alongside Project Pearl's G.R.O.W. P.H. This partnership alone covers multiple SDGs, namely, SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), and SDG 10 (reduced inequalities). From this, it can be seen that Simula covers multiple SDGs with its platform because it acts as a community interest company that does not prioritize profit but puts its positive impact on the country as a top priority by donating to N.G.O.s.
Celina states, "I want our customers to know that for every purchase they make, they are contributing to a positive impact on our society."
Get stories of positive business innovations from around the world delivered right to your inbox.
Celina Alejandrino, Co-Founder
Simula PH, proudly women-led and founded by visionaries Celina Alejandrino and Maan Olivia, began with ten pieces of net bags and zeal for sustainability. Supporting over 70 micro and small enterprises and being actively engaged in collaborations with NGOs, the organization advanced various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12) and women’s empowerment (SDG 5). The company was among the trailblazers in the Philippines in establishing refilling services for alcohol during the lockdown, promoting plastic-free and sustainable practices through ethical sourcing. Being a community-interest company, Simula PH benefits from the increasing demand for environmentally friendly products, solidifying its position as an industry leader. Its physical store in Glorietta manifests the company’s commitment to facilitating sustainability discussions and strengthening customer relationships. With a focus on ethical sourcing and responsible use, Simula PH exemplifies innovative practices in the sustainable sector, making a meaningful positive impact on society and the environment.