WHOEVER said you can’t be a successful entrepreneur and help promote sustainability by empowering environmental efforts clearly hasn’t met Jen Horn yet.
Horn is the power behind MUNI Cultural Creatives Inc., the firm operating Muni-dot-ph.
MUNI started as a small community of social entrepreneurs Horn put up six years ago to promote a single advocacy: responsible production and consumption.
They organize meet-ups, where they discuss different ways toward achieving a zero-waste lifestyle.
Two years after its establishment in November 2012, the online community organized its first-ever MUNI Market, where members presented their various sustainable products and services. The event also served as an avenue for merchants to find ways to profit by cultivating natural and renewable resources.
The online community has also branched out and became mobile in the form of MUNI Travels, where participants go to places where sustainable businesses take shape.
To date, Horn’s firm has organized over 50 meet-ups all over the country and overseas, establishing connections with different businesses and promoting her advocacy worldwide.
DESPITE her accomplishments, Horn says she personally doesn’t think of herself as a social entrepreneur.
“What we do is create a space that helps enable other social entrepreneurs and hopefully inspire a new breed of entrepreneurs.”
Along with other social entrepreneurs, Horn explored the unlikely connection between social entrepreneurship and how businesses affect different environmental advocacies, such as forest conservation.
“Our core focus is one of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], which is responsible production and consumption. It also impacts a lot on the other SDGs” like addressing poverty and hunger.
Horn said the SDGs, a set of development goals by the United Nations, help not only businesses to contribute to larger global goals.
“If you are currently in business or are thinking of creating your business, it might be useful to also look at the SDGs as a point of inspiration,” she said during the Best Friends of the Forest Movement’s first event last July 28 in Makati City.
HORN said she embraced advocacy for the environment after watching a video titled The Story of Stuff, a short animation film on consumption.
“We consume in a linear way versus a circular way. So it’s like, we take, make and dispose instead of take, make and see how we can use that product more,” she said. “I watched this documentary, which is about how we make all these cool stuff, but what happens after we’re done with it? So that stuck with me for a while.”
The cutting of trees to make way for a shopping mall in Baguio City “became the final straw” for Horn.
“After that, I thought business should be done differently. And instead of focusing on creating products, I wanted to focus on service and gather this community and be able to talk about these things,” she said.
Nonetheless, Horn believes people, like her, “don’t become environmentalists overnight.”
“With MUNI I try to appeal with what little actions people can take because not everyone is going to be an all-out environmentalist,” she said.
“I won’t say I’m an all-out environmentalist either. I am all for creating a more sustainable world, but there are a lot of things you need to consider.”
She said it’s not easy to convince people to, for example, stop using plastics all together, or to stop cutting trees.
“There’s a process. [These things] take time.”
HORN said she advocates for a sustainable lifestyle.
However, she admits the public is unaware sustainable products are less expensive over time.
“Granted that a lot of sustainable brands are a bit expensive, but it also begs the question, whether you’re purchasing all the time and can you also reduce the amount of things that you consume,” she said. “It’s a mindset-shift; slowly. It’s about knowing what resources I’m consuming and how can I consume less. If you think about consuming less, then it actually means you spend less. It’s not necessarily more expensive if you are more conscious of how you consume, and that’s how it can actually start.”
She said MUNI, for one, always asks first how a product can impact the environment?
“Are we purchasing products that are made responsibly? Or are we purchasing products made from recyclable materials? These are things that we need to take into consideration,” she said. “We want people to ask more questions about the things that they buy and their impact on the environment and on the community.”
HORN added that while the MUNI platform focuses on businesses, it also encourages consumers to evaluate if the manufacturer uses materials that “aren’t sustainably sourced.”
“It pays to start asking these questions. And when you also talk to different brands—whether social entrepreneur or not, the fact that they see consumers are asking these questions means that you value that certain products are made through certain standards.”
Horn said she considers online communities like MUNI important to promote sustainability.
“Sustainability is much about the people as it is about the planet. We can keep on talking about sustainable living, but not unless you have other people to talk about, or be accountable to, sustainable change won’t happen if you’re just alone,” she said. “For sustainable living, it’s not everyone. So whenever we talk about it in MUNI, we try to approach people where they’re comfortable.”
“For us, we just want you to start something, no matter how small,” Horn added. “And hopefully it’s a journey that you progress in for as long as you are connected with the community, as well.”