Buy a Saint Luke bag, and US$20 will go directly to helping provide clean water to people in Nepal. Here, Globetrender speaks exclusively to the company’s founder.
You’ve probably heard of Toms shoes, whereby for every pair sold, a second pair is given to children in need (so far, 45 million pairs have been donated), but other companies are taking an ethical stance to business as well.
“Designed in London, inspired by travel”, Gandys flip flops was set up as a social enterprise in 2011 by two brothers, Rob and Paul, after losing both their parents to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.
With a desire to help other orphans, namely children less fortunate than themselves, a percentage of their profits go to helping bring food, shelter and education to kids in India and Sri Lanka.
Famous ambassadors for the brand include Richard Branson, who recently had a consignment delivered to his luxurious private island Necker.
Meanwhile, there has been another arrival on the scene. Eye-catching luggage brand Saint Luke was set up by founder Tessa Holladay in June, and she now has a team of seven people working with her, although not all are full-time.
So far it has three different travel bags for sale (St Anton, St Barts and St Ives), in three colours (red, green and navy), in three sizes (Long Haul, Mid Haul and Short Haul).
Inside, each is lined with funky pineapple print fabric. They range in price from £125 to £185, with US$20 (about £13) from each sale going to charity.
Globetrender asks Holladay what her motivations were. She says: “After ten gruelling years in the world of finance, I became increasingly unfulfilled, bored and unhappy. I wanted to redirect my skill-set at making a positive difference, and to build something that made people feel inspired and excited.”
How would you describe Saint Luke’s business model?
“We believe that businesses can and must be a force for good. We wanted Saint Luke to be successful not just in terms of sales but also in making a positive difference to the planet, which is why for every bag sold, we donate the funds to provide the materials and resources for 40 people in underdeveloped parts of the world to receive clean water for up to five years.”
What was the thinking behind creating an ethical business?
“After saying goodbye to my career in finance, I spent about six months working for Richard Branson’s charity organisation, Virgin Unite. The people I worked with were so inspiring and constantly searching for innovative and audacious ways to change the ways we live and work for the better.
“I learnt so much there about the power of collaboration and the huge difference businesses can make, and I really wanted to be part of that.”
“Saint Luke is all about travel and having fun. When I came across the charity we work with, Waves For Water (W4W), whose motto is ‘do what you love and help along the way’, I knew we held the same values.
“Having access to clean water is such a basic human right yet so many people still don’t have it. Every year, the number of people that die from a water-related (and, therefore, preventable) disease is about 840,000 – that’s more than the entire population of San Francisco. Sadly, 90 per cent of these are children under five.
“Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. Even though an estimated 80 per cent of the population has access to drinking water, it’s not safe. The poorest of these communities have limited, or in some cases, no access to any drinking water.
“The demand for water is increasing significantly day by day in Nepal and access to safe and adequate drinking water is crucial. By bringing tools, techniques and inspiration, W4W makes this possible.”
What have you achieved so far?
“With our help, W4W has now reached half its $10,000 target. So far, the funds have impacted over 10,000 people in Nepal.”
Why is it important for travellers to think about the ethical aspects of the products they buy and the companies they use?
“If we continue using the resources of our world unsustainably, our planet will be unable to sustain human life. Business have the power to change the world, which is why supporting those businesses that put people and planet alongside profit is so important.”
What is the future for St Luke?
“One of the great things about Saint Luke is that the brand is so diverse. As well as planning to bring out more bags this year, we’re also looking at the possibility (a bit further down the line) of creating a wider product range, which could consist of anything from caps to swimwear to surfboards.
“Whichever way we decide to go, you can count on each product to be full of colour. We’re always on the look out for new great causes to get behind and hope that the more we grow, the bigger the difference we can make.”