Three, Sixty: With Lauren Duggan

This is an extract from Issue 13 of SDG Alpha, my newsletter that casts an Irish lens on the world of Impact Investment, Innovation, and Sustainability. In each issue, I pose three questions on the theme of sustainability to an impact entrepreneur or innovator, to get a better understanding in sixty seconds of how they’re working to achieve the SDG targets. On this occasion, I was delighted to chat with Lauren Duggan, co-founder at Riley, an Irish startup seeking to improve the health and wellbeing of women via a range of eco-friendly period products.

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On a personal level, what impacts of the climate crisis are you most concerned about?

The biggest concern for me in relation to the climate crisis is the impact on future generations as a result of global warming. Without drastic action, we are going to leave this planet in a dire state for our children — a world where deforestation, animal and marine extinction and extreme weather is rampant. Whilst some positive advancements have been made since we first heard about the effects of climate change including the Paris Agreement, action on a global scale needs to speed up and people need to be held accountable for their carbon footprint. It is more important than ever that we don’t just talk the talk and instead use our votes and our voices to ensure political and business leaders take action on climate change.

Which of the UN SDGs did you start Riley to address?

As founders, we are all obsessed with female equality and female health. So when we launched Riley, we aimed to align our business with the UN SDGs of 3 — Good Health & Wellbeing, 5 — Gender Equality, and 12 — Responsible Consumption and Production. Firstly, we are dedicated to providing a sustainable solution. Right now, for every kilometre of beach cleaned there are almost 50 pieces of menstrual waste found! Riley products will decompose within 12 months, drastically reducing landfill. Period poverty is also a huge issue across the world today with 65% of girls in Kenya missing school each month because they do not have access to sanitary products. We believe sanitary products are a fundamental human right. To help combat this issue, we have partnered with Irish registered charity Development Pamoja providing free sanitary products to young girls in Kenya as well as funding doctor school visits to educate them about menstrual health. As we grow, we plan to scale this initiative to more countries. We are also creating shared value by building a trusted community focused on female health education. To date there has been a vast gender gap in medical studies resulting in female health being a completely underserved market. By opening up the conversation, Riley will be part of improving women’s lives.

How does your business model enable the transition to a low carbon, or more sustainable future?

The average person uses 11,000 tampons in their lifetime — the equivalent of 5,500 plastic bags. We were shocked when we heard this statistic and also to learn that the average sanitary pad contains up to 90% plastic content, taking 500–1000 years to break down. Given there are almost 2 billion females menstruating worldwide every month, the compounded issue here is huge! We knew there had to be a better way. Our Riley products are made with 100% certified organic cotton meaning they are free from all toxins and chemicals and can be composted, decomposing in 12 months. The applicators on our tampons are uniquely made from sugarcane which is a renewable source — this results in carbon savings of nearly 80% when compared with mainstream plastic applicators. We are delivering these directly to our customers doors with carbon offsetting, and also are liaising with large corporate to offer these in office to all staff as part of their gender equality and sustainability initiatives.



Earthling. Director at Resolve Partners . Ex- @entirl , ex- @StartupGrindDUB , ex- @ndrc_hq . Fan of community, serendipity, Oxford commas, & the open sea.

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David Scanlon

Earthling. Director at Resolve Partners . Ex- @entirl , ex- @StartupGrindDUB , ex- @ndrc_hq . Fan of community, serendipity, Oxford commas, & the open sea.