My commitment to sustainable business

Andrea Bury

I am Andrea Bury, founder of ABURY, a fair-trade lifestyle accessories label based in Berlin, Germany.

When I was living in Marrakech, Morocco, renovating a riad (traditional house in the old part of town), I fell in love with the people and their amazing skills. But I was shocked by the living conditions of many of the artisans, and the literacy rate of 50 percent among women.

So we created the ABURY cycle of good design. Together with international designers we train local artisans in quality management and design. We co-create high quality, colorful accessories that we sell on the international markets. We mainly work with artisans in Morocco, Ecuador and Ethiopia, and 50 percent of the profits are re-invested in education and community projects through the ABURY Foundation.

I was part of GAP Paris in November of 2019, and I can’t really put in words what happened in that week. I was quite overwhelmed by the warmth and openness of everyone.

Andrea and Val, GAP Paris 2019

The first big takeaway was the connection to my mentor, Val Quinn. She was this amazing woman with a clear picture in her head, asking the right questions, super quick, bright and extremely funny. And there I was, with 100 ideas in my head, but not able to give them structure. Here is the wonder that happened on the way: I learned to let go and focus. We carved out the essence of what had to be done at ABURY and put some things at the bottom of the priority list, or let them go. I am not sure if she is aware how much this all meant to me.

The next big takeaway was personal and emotional growth. Being with this group of heroines who were strong enough to open up about their fears and vulnerabilities—in private as well as in work life—was really a life-changing experience for me. Vital Voices had created such a safe space of trust that we did not fear asking for help, sharing our deepest anxieties and negative experiences. These moments were so intense and full of strength that I often think back and feel their support when I feel weak.

When COVID-19 hit Europe in March 2020, borders were closed and the world was in lockdown almost overnight. ABURY was not able to produce for four months as our artisans were not allowed to leave their homes. Our online sales suffered because we did not have a huge inventory ready to sell.

What else could we do? I thought about other competencies we have apart from our beautiful fair trade products line, and something came to mind.

Since 2017, ABURY has been a certified B Corporation business, or, “B Corp,” which means it meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

Since our certification I already was a big fan and supporter of the movement as it is the first certification that works at the corporate level and empowers and inspires leaders to transform their business model toward a positive impact business model. The certification itself is only the beginning of the journey of transformation.

This past summer, with lots of time on my hands during the pandemic, I joined the B Leader Summer School to become a certified B Leader. It’s a training programme to empower people who want to lead organisations through the B Corp certification process and to work with businesses on measuring what matters.

The tool we use is the B Impact Assessment, freely accessible online and you don’t have to certify to use it as an inspiration and set of guidelines for your business. It offers 200 questions in five sectors: Governance, Environment, Community, Workers and Customers.

We have worked with fashion companies, consultancies and now the company of a fellow GAP mentee, Aida Bakri, on her sustainability policies and B Corp certification. So ABURY partly pivoted from being a fairtrade fashion company to a purpose consultancy. This has helped us keep our artisans working toward the creation of a new collection for next year.

The Vital Voices community is filled with purpose companies. If you are curious and would like to learn more about the B Corp movement or about the B Impact Assessment and how to use it for your company I would be happy to talk to you. I strongly believe that it is in our hands to change the world and each little step can have a huge impact.

Feel free to message me on LinkedIn and we can start a conversation.