Sustainable Microfinance: The Journey Of A Woman Entrepreneur Leading The Zero Waste Revolution

The Philippines plays a considerable role in the global plastic waste crisis. The Philippines is the number one contributor of plastic waste into the ocean, responsible for a staggering 36% of the world’s total contribution. Almost 3 million tons of plastic waste is generated in the Philippines annually with a considerable amount of that ending up in the oceans. Playing a huge part in this are “sari-sari stores”,  micro convenience stores that sell basic items predominantly in single-use sachets. There are millions of these tiny shops all over the country and approximately 163 million sachets are used by Filipinos each day. 

Want to learn more about sustainable microfinance? Read our post: Sustainable Microfinance: Bridging the Gap to Financial Services for the Marginalised while Minimising the Environmental Impact

Analen Alopoop was one such store owner. Analen opened a sari-sari store to supplement the income she was earning from her primary rug production business, based in Rizal, Philippines. Her sari-sari store sells basic goods in low-cost, single-use plastic sachets. Being an advocate for the environment and recognising the role her sari-sari store was playing in contributing to the problem, Analen decided to become part of the solution.

Throughout 2023, Dana Asia’s microfinance partner Grameen Pilipinas Microfinance Inc (GPMI) worked on a new strategy towards developing sustainable microfinance products in order to meet its objective of being “The hub of microfinance in nurturing families to uplift themselves, contribute to their local economy, and take care of the planet”. With advice from Dana Asia, the eco sari-sari store loan was born, advocating for the reduction of plastic waste in communities while generating income for sari-sari store owners. This new loan product gives borrowers the capital to turn a section, and eventually all, of their store into a zero-waste store. Loans are used to buy refill containers and weighing scales and bulk purchase basic products that can be sold without plastic packaging. For example, instead of buying a sachet of coffee, customers simply refill the coffee powder directly into their mug. Analen became GPMI’s first pilot eco sari-sari store owner and the loan of PhP10,000 (AU$277) enabled her to purchase seven refill items highly needed by her customers, based on the market assessment conducted by Dana Asia and GPMI. Analen was trained by Dana Asia in operating the eco store and provided with equipment and supplies she needed to start the zero-waste store. Though still in the early stages, the zero-waste sari-sari store concept is already showing financial viability and the concept is starting to gain traction in the community.

After just a few months of trialling the first seven items, Analen decided to purchase additional items like liquid detergent, dishwashing and fabric conditioner which are fast-moving items in her store. Analen is doing a great job of running the refill store and advocating for the reduction of plastic within her community. One of the key factors in the success of the store is the community’s buy-in to the concept so creating awareness on the benefits of using less plastic will be crucial to Analen’s success.

Leveraging the lessons and successes from Analen’s first six months of operation, the next two pilot eco sari-sari store loans are on-track to be disbursed by GPMI in March 2024 to sari-sari store owners like Analen who want to join the fight against plastic waste. This example of a woman from a humble background who transformed her circumstances serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration. Her journey exemplifies the power of resilience, innovation, and determination in overcoming adversity and effecting positive change. Through her entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to environmental sustainability, she not only uplifted her own life but also contributed to the betterment of her community and the planet. Analen’s story reminds us that no dream is too big, no obstacle insurmountable, and that with perseverance and passion, individuals can truly make a difference in the world. Her legacy will continue to inspire generations to come to embrace sustainability and strive for a better, greener future for all.

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