An SDG Pioneer for Advancing Sustainability through Community Engagement

The beauty services business developed by Martha Tilaar does far more than sell cosmetics and creams from its headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Martha, founder and Chairwoman of the Martha Tilaar Group, has demonstrated how to run a successful business with global reach while seamlessly integrating its operations into the local community. Nearly five decades after opening her first beauty salon, Martha is heading a comprehensive beauty services business that provides jobs for young women and supports local farmers and their communities while advancing many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One of the company’s four operating pillars — Empowering Women — aims to counter poverty and human trafficking. Martha set up the Martha Tilaar Training Center in 2000 to support the company’s spa business and franchise operations. She recruits disadvantaged women in small cities and offers scholarships for three to six-month training sessions. The center provides a consistent stream of professional and skilled spa therapists. It also advances Goal 5 on Gender Equality and Goal 10 on Reduced Inequalities by helping the women secure jobs and become financially independent. About 5,600 women have passed through the center and now work within and outside Indonesia. Some have evolved into successful entrepreneurs with their own businesses.

By involving farmers as suppliers of the raw plant materials used in the Tilaar Group’s beauty and health products, Martha is helping farmers and their communities live better lives. She is advancing Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well Being), Goal 15 (Life on Land) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). She also ensures top-quality raw materials for her products and meets Goal 12 on Responsible Consumption and Production. By teaching farmers about organic farming methods, the company meets the targets of Goal 4 on Quality Education and farmers use sustainable farming techniques that don’t harm their health, the land or their communities.

The Tilaar Group has trained about 117 farmer groups throughout this Southeast Asian nation and in 2004 created an organic garden — Kampoeng Djamoe Organik Martha Tilaar — as a place for education and preservation of Indonesian plants. The garden now has 600 species of the 8,000 medicinal, cosmetic and aromatic plants that grow in Indonesia.

Martha regularly collaborates with business associations to gain and share information about government rules and global business trends. She works with civil society groups, such as WWF-Indonesia and the Indonesia Biodiversity Foundation, part of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and Government. For example, the company is a member of the National Waste Management Steering Committee, coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The company works with all its stakeholders and business partners along the supply chain, from farmers to distributors, to ensure sustainable business practices are upheld. A vendor evaluation system helps the Group review the operations of its vendors.

The company holds regular meetings with its customers, distributors and retail outlets. A vital component for these meetings is delivering the message of the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact. Martha has integrated the Principles into the company’s business strategy, which includes four pillars: Beauty Green, Beauty Culture, Beauty Education and Empowering Women. Proper labour practices are followed and the group always collaborates with labour organizations.

The company has been participating in the UN Global Compact since 2003. As a founding participant of the Compact, Martha shares the Ten Principles with colleagues at the Indonesia Marketing Association and helped establish the Global Compact Network Indonesia in 2006. Martha is a board member of the Network and supports all of its events and programmes, such as the Water Mandate Working Group, the Business and Human Rights Working Group and the Call to Action for Sustainable Business.

Born in Central Java, Martha is married and has four children.

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