The Story of BottleTop and TogetherBand Leading Social Impact
Aug 5, 2020
BottleTop, perhaps most well-known for its unique upcycled bottle top handbags, was born with a mission to empower people and the planet through sustainable design and a creative culture. Through a collaboration with Mulberry, its designs have become international best sellers, supporting artisans and funding health education for young people in Africa. With atelier and training programs in Brazil and Nepal, the company continues to source the finest sustainable and upcycled materials in challenged parts of the world. Recently, BottleTop launched the #TOGETHERBAND project, with the purpose of uniting all as a global community by sharing a commitment to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Handmade in Nepal from upcycled ocean plastic, one kilogram of plastic is removed from marine environments whenever a band is purchased. This project was launched in partnership with UBS AG, Global Citizen, and the UN Foundation, as well as BottleTop Foundation. Recently, Kenneth Kwok had the honor of sitting down with Mr. Oliver Wayman, Co-Founder of BottleTop, to gain more insight into the sustainable world he wishes to build. KK: Oliver, thank you so much for your time. Somehow, every time I think of you, I imagine someone in a breathtakingly exotic location, working with locals on sourcing sustainable materials and doing more research. OW: Sorry to burst your bubble, but today, and for the past few months, I have been in London. At the same time, I do mentally transport myself to South America and Asia when I conceptualize our company’s next moves. KK: And we look forward to hearing about them. Let’s start with a personal question: what gets you out of bed every morning and where did this source of passion come from? OW: The thought of being able to help drive systemic transformative environmental change across the planet and support people through their journey out of poverty. It probably stemmed from having established our inspiring atelier in one of the most disadvantaged communities in North-Eastern Brazil. KK: And by doing so, created gainful employment for many in the region. Speaking of transformations, what are the key risk factors and mega-trends your business is likely to face over the next three to seven years, and how have these influenced corporate strategy in advancing environmental change? OW: As consumer awareness has increased, so has consumer distrust in fashion brands. The demand for transparency has actually put us in a strong position to build market share, as consumers seek brands that mirror their values. KK: At WEF 50, your company partnered with many global organizations to further your message. I remember meeting your Co-Founder Cameron Saul at an event hosted by Global Citizen, where I attended on behalf of Global Citizen Capital. It was amazing to see so many global impact advocates showing their SDG pride with their respective TogetherBands. How has that changed with the onset of COVID-19? OW: The landscape has changed, but this period of transition has actually accelerated new partnerships and enabled us to collaborate with other purpose-led brands and companies. We are all hoping for a green recovery post COVID-19 and there certainly seems to be an appetite amongst certain entities for that to occur. KK: Same here, and like many say, this is an awakening for many. Going forward, how would you further your corporate purpose and how do you help your employees share your vision for the company’s role in society? OW: For 18 years we have used creativity and culture to connect the public with critical sustainability issues. Our collections positively impact people and the planet, and transform our customers into advocates for our mission. Our approach is shaped by a belief that business must play a leading role in driving positive change in the world. Consumers are demanding purpose from brands more than ever before. It is essential that our employees believe in this vision and can see that business with purpose can be transformative for the planet. We have a sustainable growth plan and take careful consideration around our human capital requirements. We have successfully streamlined the employee onboarding process and our heritage in sustainable luxury has put us in a unique position to attract the Generation Y & Z conscious workforce. KK: Speaking of Generation Y and Z, they will form the majority of the audience participating at the StartmeupHK Festival. Last question for you, what is BottleTop’s strategy for interacting with its key stakeholders in building and rallying a community behind your initiative, and how can the StartmeupHK ecosystem support this? OW: The key cultural movement of the next decade will be centered around securing the future of our planet and the fundamental shifts required to deliver change. Our aim is to build our #TOGETHERBAND campaign into the leading content platform for sustainable living; empowering people to make positive choices and take action in support of a healthy future. Shifts across all areas of our lives have already begun; with significant changes occurring in the geo-political and economic landscapes. Trends in consumer behaviour reflect this emerging cultural movement; with conscious, sustainable, and ethical consumerism central to these trends. We would love StartmeupHK to facilitate our growth and inspire more people in the region and beyond. KK: So, for those of you interested to learn more about the amazing initiatives which BottleTop and its Foundation does globally, do visit their homepage https://bottletop.org for more information. Once again, thank you Oliver for your time today, and we look forward to Hong Kong and Asia coming on board your community! Kenneth is the Founder and CEO of Global Citizen Capital, an impact-oriented healthcare, biotech, logistics, technology and education focused multi-family office investment venture based out of Hong Kong. Kenneth has worked 15 years in the finance industry, serving as the CIO to a large Chinese listed conglomerate as well as a financial professional at UBS AG and Deutsche Bank. He is passionate about social impact work through his Better Together Foundation, which supports youth entrepreneurship related initiatives across Asia, and about health and well-being through his Co-President role at Asia World Anti-Aging and Well-Being Association (“AWAWA”). He is a UN SDG Accelerator Labs Mentor as well as UPenn/Wharton alumni interview chair.