Janell Stephens, Founder Of Camille Rose Naturals Is Teaching Small Black-Owned Businesses How To Be More Sustainable
Janell Stephens, the founder of Camille Rose Naturals, started her company to solve her children’s aggressive skin ailments. A former therapist and mother of five, it all began in early 2010 when Stephens became horrified at the list of ingredients in skin and hair care products for children.
Fast forward 11 years, Camille Rose Naturals is now a household name. The beauty and wellness entrepreneur recently partnered with sustainability consultant and activist, Dr. Tanya Rawal, to develop a sustainability plan that sets attainable and accessible goals for the brand in hopes to act as an example for other small BIPOC-owned businesses to also take the small yet pivotal steps to a sustainable future. Tanya worked with Janell to create a plan that enacts immediate partnerships and steps for the brand alongside clear goals for the next decade. The plan includes the
brand’s donation to One Tree Planted, a non-profit organization with a dedicated mission to help global reforestation efforts, shift to FSC certified paper on all packaging, dedication to recycling, and an announcement of other attainable and accessible goals.
BET spoke with Janell and Dr. Tanya about their plans to provide awareness and spark conversation surrounding diversity within the sustainability community.
BET: How did your “One Step Matters” initiative come about?
Janell Stephens: The “One Step Matters'' initiative came to fruition as I truly wanted to commit to making sustainable changes, choices and actions within our Camille Rose production. It’s evident that we as individuals, but even more so as companies and brands, play a pivotal role in the current global climate crisis. Our team began to ideate and reflect on ways we could implement more sustainable practices however it became a bit overwhelming as we began to navigate the volume of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, particularly as a small black-owned business.
Though Camille Rose is one of the leading natural hair care brands, we’re one of the few leading brands where a black woman still maintains 100% ownership, which is no easy feat in navigating a space that is heavily funded. We partnered with sustainability consultant and activist, Dr. Tanya Rawal, in order to develop a comprehensive sustainability initiative that ignited immediate steps for our brand as well as set realistic goals for us to become more sustainable within the next decade.
More than anything, we hope that “Small Step Matters” acts as an example for other small black-owned businesses that may be overwhelmed to take the small yet pivotal steps to a sustainable future.
BET: What are some challenges you face as a small business owner when it comes to being more sustainable?
JS: I would say one of the challenges small business owners face when it comes to being more sustainable is the lack of support and limited options of vendors. As a small business owner tackling the volume of ESG issues that companies are increasingly asked to deal with, without the resources or funding to overhaul and implement can be overwhelming. However, it is not secret that our future greatly depends on sustainable practices being implemented in all businesses. It’s so essential for us to take the steps that we can and set goals for ourselves and our brands to continue to aspire. Our future depends on it.
BET: For small brands and business owners who are BIPOC, what are some steps they can take to become more sustainable?
Dr. Tanya Rawal: Embrace what you already know. As a result of structural racism, BIPOC people are more likely to have been exposed to practices of doing more with less, which is exactly what sustainability campaigns aim to do. All the little conservation practices we saw in our homes and in our communities are exactly what the earth needs right now, which is also why it is so important for us to have brands and business owners who are BIPOC embed the circular economy approach in your business model. Actively rebuild the resources that your brand/business depends on. Camille Rose is setting a great example -- the business depends on paper packaging so not only is it converting to immediately using sustainably sourced FSC certified paper but they are also working with One Tree Planted to support agroforestation efforts.
BET: Why is it important for the global corporate brands to join in on the sustainable action?
TR: With the environmental crisis we have staring us in the face, big brands have no choice but to join in on sustainable action. What we need is for these big brands to accept their responsibility in making sustainability affordable and accessible. Nobody should have to be in a position where they can only afford toxic products. Big brands also have the capital strength to ensure that raw materials are sourced ethically and sustainably. This is important, because right now a lot of big brands are making false promises. And in a world full of cameras, consumers have more opportunities to realize these promises are almost always broken. Aside from the glaring moral issue here, these broken promises also undermine sustainability as a whole. This can be wildly unfair for smaller brands and businesses that are either designed around sustainable practices or use their limited resources to prioritize sustainability.
BET: How can us consumers become more sustainable in our everyday lives?
JS: There are many ways consumers can become more eco-conscious. As a dedicated vegan, I encourage consumers to cut down on their meat consumption. Not having red meat - even if it’s just for two or three days a week - can have quite a significant impact on reducing your carbon footprint. Also, wasting food is a big one! Wasting food adds to the amount of CO2 being created in landfills. But, also buying more consciously and recycling. Recycle, recycle, recycle. A part of our immediate actions was to place a recycle link within our website to encourage our consumers to recycle.
TR: I am going to say something you have probably heard before: buy less. The other thing we all need to do is research. Know your power as a consumer and know what you are buying. I understand that doing research can be overwhelming. So a great way to build a consumer-research practice is to make a list of your environmental priorities. If you are an ocean-lover, look out for companies that are actively improving our oceans. Then make a list of the companies you want to support as well as a list of the companies you think you need to avoid.
BET: How can we keep this conversation going about living a more environmentally friendly life?
JS: By striving hard everyday to live an environmentally friendly life and having candid conversations with the people around us to encourage change, even if it is one step at a time.
TR: Part of being a more sustainable consumer is being a more vocal consumer. When you do research and locate companies that support your sustainability goals, share that information with your community! Just like we need companies to be more transparent about their supply chains, we need to be more transparent about our consumption practices.
This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.