Home Technology Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for

Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for

by jcp

By Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ®

FemTech: The Beginnings

Initially, the term FemTech was coined to describe the powerful offering from tech start-ups as they ventured into developing revolutionary products centred around women’s health needs. Whilst the beginnings were humble, we have witnessed a whole host of innovation enter the market which has changed the game for women and business leaders around the globe.

Fast forward to 2021, FemTech is now an industry predicted to be worth $50 billion by the end of 2025[1] and a powerhouse that is not only tackling women’s health issues but also helping to solve various environmental and sustainability crises that we face today.

Fearless female entrepreneurs have founded and nurtured businesses that are continuing to help women across the world deal with issues pertinent to fertility, periods, sexual wellbeing, pregnancy etc.

It’s a Man’s World

Technology and medical sectors, traditionally, have been very slow in addressing women’s issues and notoriously lagged in developing products and tools that tackle issues predominantly affecting women. Figures show that women spend 29% [2] more on healthcare than men, but only 4% of overall R&D funding goes towards developing products for women[3], therefore the market is ripe for disruption.

As a woman, a mother and entrepreneur, I knew that like many others, I had to take matters into my own hands.

Following an incident with incontinence, while training for a marathon in 2011 after the birth of my second child, I recognised the need to innovate apparel that offered a dignified, supportive, and sustainable solution for women to manage leaks from periods, incontinence, and everything in between.

After two years of product development and over 1,000 scientific tests, I founded Modibodi in 2013 with a long-term view of demystifying taboos, opening minds, celebrating diversity and offering a sustainable alternative for eco damaging single use products that are not just for women – but for the benefit of all bodies on this planet and the environment too.

Now, we have expanded on that notion to support all people. We offer a range of products and sizes across our brands: Modibodi ®, Modibodi RED for tweens and teens, and Modibodi Men to manage incontinence, sweat and chafing. We have also recently launched a new Maternity and Baby range, which includes the most absorbent reusable nappy on the market.

As you can imagine, this was far from simple, not merely due to the tech and business sector being dominated by men. With figures showing that 98% of VC funding goes towards male founded products [4]and also because we were selling a new brand form of cosmetic or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category based on talking about things that made people and retailers equally uncomfortable.  Being a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights I knew that I needed to persevere because the amalgamation between technology and feminism is a major force of social change and one that would have a wider impact across the world.

The Sustainability Story

The sustainability agenda has increasingly become popular in the last few years, especially in our fight against single use plastic. However, it occurred to me very early on that we are not doing enough and there are areas that need urgent review.

From the early development stage of Modibodi, I knew that sustainable sanitary products could be a game changer in eliminating single use plastics from circulation and as global nations and governments were focusing on plastic straws and bags, I felt that the change needed to arise from numerous angles and streams of consumerism.

On an average, a woman uses approximately 11,000 disposable feminine hygiene products in her lifetime and these convenient products come with an inconvenient environmental cost. They take up to 800 years to biodegrade, which means the first ever pad and tampon is still in a landfill. Even more alarmingly, 8% of all waste that enters water treatment works comes after period waste, including non-flushable items such as pantyliners[5].

This is why I believe that the revolutionary innovations that are born out of the FemTech sector are capable to be one of the crucial drivers of the sustainability agenda.

What’s Next?

As most purpose driven business leaders will tell you, the fight never stops as the world evolves and continues to change. The sheer growth in the FemTech sector and the capabilities developed to date have changed millions of lives around the globe. As an industry and a movement, we’ve also managed to play our part in driving the sustainability agenda and I will argue that actually the wide scale change and unity needed to continue making strides in eradicating single use plastic from our circulation will come from within the powerhouse that is FemTech.

The sheer capacity for change can be easily demonstrated if we look at the granular data and its potential for growth. If just 100,000 young girls use Modibodi alone from the start of their menstrual cycle, this would prevent 1.1 billion disposable hygiene products from ending up in landfill or 1.5 million garbage bags of waste. As of July 2021, our global base of 750,000 customers alone have prevented over 3 million garbage bags of disposable hygiene waste from ending up in landfill or flushed into the ocean.

With the FemTech industry growing at a racing speed, I have no doubt that we are at the tipping point of pioneering wave of inventions that will take the agenda further and have the capacity and means to lead the movement. It is up to the trade organisations and world leaders to recognise the potential that such businesses and brands carry in order help to facilitate its growth trajectory.

[1] https://venturebeat.com/2018/03/08/frost-sullivan-femtech-could-become-a-50-billion-market-by-2025/

[2] FemTech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market, January 2018

[3] Femtech—Time for a Digital Revolution in the Women’s Health Market, January 2018

[4] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/315992

Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ®

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