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Ethics, Big Brands and Novel Solutions

By Ian Bell, Euromonitor | December 1, 2011

Euromonitor's Ian Bell emphasizes the importance of maintaining and developing ethical footing in emerging markets.

When it comes to sanitary protection products launched in emerging markets, brand owners have a lot of issues to address in order to be successful. It's not a simple product launch. Brands must take into account the societal norms and social taboos of the region they are attempting to penetrate, and also consider the area's economic situation.

Ian Bell, head of home care, tissue and hygiene research, for Euromonitor International, says that perhaps Kenya offers a signpost to developing sanitary protection consumption amongst low-income groups. SCA, he says, has made some serious inroads in the African nation by teaming up with Action Aid, an international organization whose goal is to end poverty, to supply free sanitary protection to schoolgirls, while cottage industries have also developed. "The best example of this comes from Jani and is an idea hatched by design students," Bell explains. "The Jani sanitary brand is locally produced and utilizes water hyacinth, which is a threat to the ecology of Lake Victoria and harvested regularly, as a result. The Jani towel – if affordable – provides employment for local people and is made from natural materials, making it something of a shining light in the developing world."

According to Bell, sanitary protection brands should continue to maintain and develop their ethical footing. "Away from schools, the issue of education is also key in many developing markets, where religious or social taboos surrounding menstruation tend to have a less-than-liberating effect on the female population," Bell says, adding that education campaigns, especially in more outlying regions, appear to have the capacity to change attitudes, to the extent that small-scale sanitary protection businesses are reported to be opening up to provide for growing demand.

Each emerging market is different in its own way when it comes to its social barriers, and each offers unique challenges. Take India, for example, where Bell says the sight of charitable and socially-conscious brands might be regarded as window dressing. "One of the major barriers to usage in India is social taboos, though education campaigns appear to be having some success in breaking them down," Bell says.

With a view to long-term market development, investment in education, as well as sponsoring the development of small-scale sanitary protection businesses, Bell says it would appear to be an excellent opportunity for international sanitary protection players to develop an ethical position. "While broader involvement would certainly help satisfy a significant need, it would also encourage the first steps towards the development of a broader sanitary protection market in some of the world's most populace areas, surely making it a win-win situation for all," he says.

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