Welcome to our Black & POC-owned sustainability business index – a resource to help you discover planet and people friendly businesses to shop with – in South Africa and around the continent.
Many important conversations about racial inequality have taken place in the past few weeks and will continue to, as we all seek to learn (and unlearn) what’s necessary to fight racism and its violent and unjust outcomes. One key takeaway from these conversations has been how necessary it is to embrace and act upon an actively anti-racist mindset. There are many ways to do that, and one involves your wallet.
Racism manifests in different ways that don’t just give many people of colour a harder start but can also follow them into every corner of life, work and business. When you add the challenges of living and working and selling while putting sustainable principles first, the problem grows. This is why being actively anti-racist even in how we spend our money is important.
There are many similar resources being shared online to help more people discover and shop with Black & POC-owned businesses but few focus on sustainability. Those businesses are what we will be trying to shine a light on with this index.
We plan to keep updating it with great new businesses as we find them so you can keep coming back to it. If your favourite brand isn’t here, don’t worry — it won’t be long before they are!
For this first selection, we’ve tried to highlight brands you may not have seen on other lists , and include other African businesses a little further from home.
This is Us – Nigeria
Black-owned with a focus on slow fashion, local sourcing and production, low waste, care and repair service, circular model, community empowerment and craft preservation.
This Is Us educates consumers about Funtua, a locally grown cotton named for its region of origin that is the basis of their collections, and about the traditional low-waste indigo dyeing at the 522-year old Kofar Mata dyeing pits in Kano, Nigeria. You can send clothes back for patching and redyeing, and return them for recycling at the end of their life cycle. For more info visit their website.
Lemlem – Ethiopia-US
Black-owned with a focus on recycled fabric (repreve, made from plastic bottles), ethical labour, community empowerment and craft preservation.
Lemlem’s core collection is handwoven by artisans preserving craft in Ethiopia, while other parts of the range employ artisans in Kenya, Rwanda and Madagascar with a focus on employing women. While the core collection is natural cotton, they also use polycotton blends and natural fibres like Tencel. Repreve, a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, makes up most of their swimwear offering. Lemlem gives 5% of sales to their foundation, an NPO that connects women artisans in Africa to healthcare, education and ethical work. For more info visit their website.
Research Unit – South Africa
POC-owned with a focus on slow fashion, ethical sourcing, care and repair service, ethical labour and community empowerment.
Research Unit’s collections are made by disadvantaged communities. They’re focussed on innovation, design and craft, and spent time in research and development to learn and apply these values to their products and share these learnings and skills with staff. Materials are carefully selected, as are suppliers and collaborators, who are also invested in community empowerment. For more info visit their website.
Boujee Dunusa – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on retro pre-owned and slow fashion.
This Instagram store is based in Polokwane and run by two friends. Look out for eclectic ’80s printed blouses and track tops, a fun selection of midi and maxi skirts, and some unique dresses. Visit their Instagram page to see what they have in stock.
Denim Palace – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on upcycled fabric, retro and vintage pre-owned and slow fashion.
Durban’s Denim Palace is a specialist vintage and secondhand spot. Look out for updated spins on classic jeans, trucker jackets and maybe a once in a lifetime vintage pair of creamy leather Chanel toe cap slingbacks (they might still be online when you read this). For more info visit their website.
Shekudo – Nigeria
Black-owned with a focus on recycled materials, local sourcing, slow fashion, community empowerment and craft preservation.
This accessories brand sources and produces the majority of its raw materials locally – shoe heels, recycled insoles, lining fabric and aso-oke and akwete fabric shoe uppers. Nigerian artisans and craftsmen combine these local fabrics with local leather for most styles, using local cotton for the dust bags, as well as wood, brass and silver for the earrings. For more info visit their website.
Sole Rebels – Ethiopia
Back-owned with a focus on local sourcing and production, ethical labour, community empowerment and recycled materials.
Inspired by Ethiopia’s traditional ‘barabasso’ (recycled tyre) shoe, Sole Rebels footwear is hand-crafted in Addis Ababa using recycled tyres, Abyssinian pure leather, Koba plant fibres and hand-spun, hand-loomed cotton. Sole Rebels fully employs its artisans – providing full medical benefits and education funds for them and their families, and offers wages three times the industry average. Visit their website for more info.
Galago – South Africa-Kenya
Black-owned with a focus on local sourcing and production, ethical labour and community empowerment.
Inspired by the African continent, Galago designs shoes made to bridge the style and price gap with 100% locally sourced and produced shoes. Their range is split into a selection of ready-to-wear styles and ‘design your own,’ where customers can mix and match bases and uppers for unique pairs. Visit their website for more info.
Groomed by Earth – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on small batches, natural ingredients and mostly glass and paper recyclable packaging.
Groomed by Earth keeps care simple by offering nature’s best. Explore the oil range for affordable black castor, avocado and hemp seed oils. Visit their website for more info.
Hanahana Beauty – Ghana
Black-owned with a focus on supply chain transparency, clean beauty, ethical sourcing, natural ingredients, fair trade and community empowerment.
Hanahana works with the Katariga Women’s Shea Cooperative to produce its shea butter-based line in Ghana. Sourcing directly from Tamale, Ghana, the brand pays twice the fair trade rate for its shea butter. Its Circle of Care initiative further supports the women who produce the shea butter by improving their economic health, their chances at sustaining themselves and their families, and their access to healthcare and health education. For more info visit their website.
O’live – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on recycled and plastic-free packaging, natural organic ingredients and local sourcing.
This natural organic soap range has extended to include serums, body balms, beard care and a soap-making workshop. Their core product, handmade cold-processed oil soaps infused with teas, herbs, clays and even fynbos honey, ships to fans all over the world. Visit their website for more info.
ANiM Naturals – South Africa-Ghana
Black-owned with a focus on ethical sourcing, local sourcing, craft preservation, natural ingredients and ethical labour.
ANiM is a member of the Global Shea Alliance, giving them access to a network of Ghana-based cooperatives harvesting and processing shea in age old tradition and being paid farily to do it. Excluding harmful chemicals is a priority as is supporting the handiwork and supply chains that traditional products like Shea Butter and African black soap depend on. Visit their website for more info.
Lola & Co Organics – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on indigenous ingredients, natural ingredients and small batches.
Indigenous oils, butters, and botanical hydrosols are the core of Lola & Co’s range, made for pampering sensitive skin. They are certified organic harvested and processed slowly and in small batches, and cruelty free. For more info visit their website.
Food & Drink
Yo Coco – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on plant-based and local sourcing.
Yo Coco uses as many locally sourced ingredients as possible to make their coconut cream based dairy-free ice cream range. Their artisanal, small batch approach to serving ‘scoops of love’ churns out 8 flavours, 7 of which are chakra inspired. Visit their website for more info.
Sunshine Food Co. – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on plant-based, locally grown and small batches.
Locally grown, carefully tended microgreens are the specialty at Sunshine Food Co. – alongside organic fruit and veg across a range of smoothies and juices. The menu’s star is their unique veggie burger. For more info visit their Instagram page.
Local Village foods – South Africa-Africa
Black-owned with a focus on local sourcing and community empowerment. Mostly plant-based.
90% of Local Village Food’s raw ingredients come from small-scale farmers in African countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Malawi and Benin. The brand seeks to grow the African agripreneur scene and popularise indigenous foods like tigernut flour and sorghum grain. Visit their website for more info.
Organic Kitchen Gardens – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on locally grown, seasonal focus, small batches and community empowerment.
Organic Kitchen Gardens provides an interesting service: the design, installation and maintenance (or education on maintenance) of small, organic herb and vegetable gardens for chefs, home cooks and busy foodies, even if all the space you have for one is your apartment balcony. This business teaches people how to grow their own food sustainably. Visit their website for more info.
Setšong tea crafters – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on locally grown, indigenous ingredients, community upliftment and 100% recyclable packaging options.
Not only does Setšong make beautiful blends from the herbs and roots of Limpopo’s rural landscape, they also offer tours of their origins, hosted by the community that makes them. Recipes are based on plants traditionally favoured by the Bapedi people and are processed by hand the way they’ve always been, providing employment and cultural preservation. For more info visit their website.
Modern Traditions – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on plant-based, local sourcing and sustainable farming.
This range of African indigenous grains, oils and butters is available through package orders on Instagram and a select network of stockists. It’s worth the hunt for prizes like honey and marula nut butter, Baobab powder, and Malie’s Ice Cream, a plant-based dairy-free ice cream range which uses African indigenous ingredients. Visit their Instagram page for more info.
Home & Lifestyle
Native Décor – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on slow production (made to order) and sustainable timber.
This hobby-turned-business sells popular home items available on Superbalist and Yuppiechef and uses a low-impact business model powered by the speed of programmable CNC wood-cutting. For more info website their website.
Mo’s Crib – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on recycled PVC and upcycled paper.
This family-owned sustainable handmade decor brand carries two original lines of products: upcycled paperware and recycled PVC waterpipe products. Find their planters, laundry baskets, and origami swan sculpture bowls at Builder’s Warehouse, Woolworths, and in 2021, Lowes USA. Visit their website for more info.
The Nest Space – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on zero-waste and vegan.
This vegan and low/zero-waste lifestyle centre in Johannesburg is home to a yoga practice, cafe and online lifestyle store. For more info visit their website.
Rosa Handmade – South Africa
Black-owned with a focus on recycled materials, slow production and community empowerment.
This range of soft furnishings is hand crocheted from recycled cotton, yet maintains a contemporary look. The main source is local clothing factories – the brand collects and upcycles their waste. In just 2 years they’ve become a team of six with plans to keep growing in a direction that supports and employs women. For more info follow them on Instagram.
Zoma Museum – Ethiopia
Black-owned with a focus on ecological architecture and natural materials.
Opened in 2019, Zoma museum is home to a gallery, library, children center, edible garden, elementary school, art and vernacular school, amphitheatre and a store. Its building materials include mud, straw, stone, wood and cement, and ancient techniques were used to put them together. The museum is an environmentally conscious institution that seeks to bridge the tradition with cutting edge art and architecture. Visit their website for more info.
Compiled by Modupe Oloruntoba, with assistance from Masego Morgan. Masego is a sustainable fashion and lifestyle advocate, currently doing her BA in visual communications. She is also the co-creator of cnscs_– a platform that aims to inspire an inclusive approach to sustainable living – and Swap Social, a clothes swapping event whose proceeds go to supporting NGOs. For sustainable fashion advice follow Masego on Instagram.
Right, it’s time for some self-care. And a lot of your favourite products might not be around right now… so it’s the perfect opportunity to try these DIY masks
This is a round-up of my favourite sustainable beauty brands and, of course, ones you can get your hands on in South Africa.
Shopping for beauty products when you are worried about what’s in them can be overwhelming.