Organic Initiative on mission for hygiene revolution

Organic Initiative sanitary products are made in Europe with cotton sourced from certified organic farms.
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Organic Initiative sanitary products are made in Europe with cotton sourced from certified organic farms.

A new social enterprise says it will make "that time of the month" a whole lot more honest.

Organic Initiative's mission is to provide sanitary products that are good for women and good for the world.

Its first product range – pads, tampons and liners made entirely out of certified organic cotton sourced from the United States, Pakistan, Turkey and Sri Lanka – will be available in supermarkets from next week.

Bridget Healy has been passionate for years about making organic sanitary products available for all women.

Bridget Healy has been passionate for years about making organic sanitary products available for all women.

Co-founder Bridget Healy said the idea came as a solution to a problem.

"Tampons used to be made from cotton. Sometime in the '80s they became made from synthetic materials. Not because they're better for our health, not because they're more absorbent, not because they're more comfortable; simply because they're cheaper," she said.

It was not just the issue of using "unnatural materials" so close to a sensitive area that Healy wanted to remedy.

"Plastic never ever breaks down and there's a lot of plastic waste from pads and tampons. Most women menstruate for up to 35 years," she said.

Experts said the amount of plastic in the oceans outweighed marine animals by seven-to-one, she said.

"If all women could make a tiny little change to use something that's organic and biodegradable, that has a massive flow-on effect on environmental impact."

Organic products were notoriously expensive but Healy said Organic Initiative's range would be "premium products without the premium price tag".

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Healy provided the idea for the new company and former Microsoft New Zealand chief executive Helen Robinson provided the commercial prowess.

The two met through a mutual business associate and a year later, they had an entire board of directors and a brand strategy in place.

A brand agency helped come up with its marketing slogans, which encourage women to be "safe not synthetic" and to have "no lies between my thighs".

The board, which Robinson said was unintentionally all female, has directors with diverse backgrounds in business, media, auditing, law and health.

Organic Initiative received seed funding  and then another injection of funding from private investors.

"This is the easiest company I've ever been involved with to fund," Robinson said.

She said operating on a lean model with few overheads meant the team had been able to keep the cost of products down.

They are now  planning other products that would expand beyond women's hygiene. There were also plans to go international, she said.

"This is just a little gem of a Kiwi company with a simple idea that has big legs, done right," Robinson said.

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Emma Parry, who sits on Organic Initiative's board, said it made sense for women to use organic cotton sanitary products.

"If I am talking to women about approaches to reduce inflammation of the vulva and vagina, I recommend underwear made from naturally occurring fibres such as cotton," she said.

"It stands to reason that sanitary products which are also made from natural products will have a benefit for these women."

 - Stuff

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