Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Ukraine Women Entrepreneurs Building a Sustainable Future

Amidst reports of Russian troop build-up on its borders and international community worried about the whole situation, Ukraine reports stories of women entrepreneurs adopting new approaches to business, putting the environment and people first.
February 14, 2022
Ukraine Women Build a Sustainable Future
Photo Credit- Made in Ukraine

In an interesting feature on women entrepreneurs, the United Nations recently shared the story of Valentina and Tetiana Denysenko, two women forced to flee Donetsk in eastern Ukraine after armed conflict broke out there seven years ago. They moved to the Kharkiv region and founded a mini-farm, Green for You, where they now grow lettuce, herbs and microgreens – young shoots that are harvested as soon as they begin to grow. Every month, restaurants order 300 kilograms of produce from these sisters.

The project is supported by the UN migration agency (IOM), through its economic empowerment programme which, in 2016, provided equipment for Green for You. This led to the creation of a network of similarly responsible businesses by IOM. The agency launched a pilot project, Svidomo Made (or Sustainably Made in Ukraine) in November 2020, which led to the development of the first voluntary corporate sustainability standard for small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.

The new standard takes into account the Principles of the UN Global Compact – which include protection of human rights, ethical labour practices, environmental responsibility, and anti-corruption – international best practice, and national legislation.

Due to Svidomo Made, consumers in Ukraine have learned more about innovative businesses, supporting eco-friendly solutions, such as the production of organic straws made from plants.

Such green businesses are needed now, as a recent survey says, a quarter of Ukrainian consumers polled said that they regularly refuse to buy a brand’s product if they disagree with its stance on social and environmental issues. At the same time, half of the respondents said that the most important aspect of corporate social responsibility is the protection of the rights of employees and decent working conditions, whilst a third indicated that sustainability and environmental protection are important.

The study also showed that 75 percent of SMB leaders are willing to accept the voluntary corporate sustainability standard because its principles reflect their own values. “The term ‘corporate sustainability’ is usually associated with big brands and corporations,” said Anh Nguyen, Head of the IOM Country Office in Ukraine. “People think it has little to do with micro, small and medium enterprises. However, they are the driving force behind the economic development of Ukraine, providing more than half of the country’s GDP. So, while the impact of a single micro or small business may seem small, their combined impact can be huge”.

For Valentina Denysenko of Green for You, the small business that she runs with her sister, the goal is to support sustainable consumption and production, using only eco-friendly packaging and waste-free technologies, but also to help children to understand why it’s important to learn about the world around them.

“We are going to launch a pilot project in two schools and help children create urban farms in the classroom,” she says. “We want to educate them, and change their eating habits, by explaining that adding salads and microgreens to their daily diet is good for their health”.

Anna Karelina, coordinator of the Svidomo Made project at the IOM Office in Ukraine, says, “We pursue the goal of improving the business climate in Ukraine, and creating alternatives to irregular migration, which leads people to look for a better life, often abroad, where they end up being trafficked, both outside and inside Ukraine.”

Men of Ukrain are also doing their share of work in the green business, “DeLaMark”, a company in Ukraine that produces household chemicals and care cosmetic products was the first to receive the international eco-certificate Living Planet  (according to ISO 14024) for the entire product line. Company’s product range tops up with new products for household cleaning, clothes and body, every year. All DeLaMark products are produced according to modern formulations from safe components of high quality and meet the European requirements for ecological products. Therefore, the products are sold not only in Ukraine but in Poland and other countries as well.

“Principles of responsible production are imprinted in our DNA and are part of our employees’ mentality,” Oleksii Verenikin, CEO of DeLaMark home care brand, said. “It is important for us to know that we are contributing to a bigger good. We created a ‘green office’ within the company, ensuring waste sorting and transparency of supply chains.” he added.