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Best Buy Q & A: Mooncup

We caught up with Kath Clements, from our Best Buy company Mooncup Ltd. The company came top in our ethical shopping guide for Menstrual Products.

What inspired Mooncup, and how did it begin?

The business was set up by founder Su Hardy in response to a deep dissatisfaction with the feminine hygiene industry because of the waste created by throwaway products, the repeated expense of purchasing tampons and pads every month and the health issues around conventional products.

It all started in 1999, with one cyclist sharing the too-well-kept secret of a reusable menstrual cup with another, Eileen Greene, at a Critical Mass Bike Ride in the UK. Early menstrual cups were made of tough rubber, hard to come by and strictly for the adventurous.

In 2000, Eileen met Su Hardy, who was travelling around Australia with her husband, young daughter, a bucket and stash of washable nappies. Eileen shared the menstrual cup ‘secret’ with Su. The environmental & practical advantages of a reusable menstrual cup struck a perfect chord with Su. The secret had landed in the right hands. Su and Eileen found themselves in a lifelong friendship and with a purpose that they’d eventually work together for.

Apart from the fact that you produce reusable menstrual products, what sets you apart from most multinational companies?

In honesty, it feels like Mooncup Ltd occupies a different stratosphere from the big multinationals, with far more that sets us apart than we have in common. Still, to break this down a little, of course at the heart of our business’ positive impact is the game-changing nature of the Mooncup menstrual cup itself.

Thanks to Mooncup users worldwide, 2.1 billion fewer tampons and pads have ended up in landfill or in the seas since 2002…. and counting. Mooncup Ltd was the first sanitary product manufacturer in the world to be certified as an ethical business.  Pioneering, sustainability and doing things differently are at our heart, with our decision-making guided by ethical (including environmental, people and animal-friendly) values.

Here are some examples of how that looks:  The Mooncup is manufactured in the UK to the highest quality standards. We feel strongly that we’re not here to ‘accessorise’ periods. That’s why you won’t see us creating a range of colourful cups or selling unnecessary, waste-creating products such as wipes. Mooncup Ltd. has been employee-owned since 2014, and we proudly support menstrual health and environmental education programmes in the UK and worldwide. 

We also provide Mooncup users with a unique Advice Service run by medical health professionals.

There is an authentic sense of family, co-ownership and shared responsibility for one another in the business. This comes to life daily over our collective vegan lunches and in our weekly mindful meditation sessions, as well as being nurtured by monthly massages and through business practices like financial transparency, profit-related bonuses and a culture of inclusivity.

What are the benefits of using Mooncup?

There are health, convenience and environmental benefits to using Mooncup menstrual cup. On the health count, tampons absorb 65% menstrual fluid, 35% natural moisture, but because the Mooncup is non-absorbent, it won’t cause dryness.

When it comes to convenience the benefits are that you only need one which lasts for years, there are no bulky spares to carry and, holding three times more blood than a regular tampon, the Mooncup gives you longer lasting protection on heavier days!   

And of course, they're great for the environment too. Just one of us will use 11,000 tampons or pads in a lifetime. The reusable Mooncup is designed to last for many years and is a simple way to dramatically reduce the waste you produce.

That's great, you've made such an impact with this product. What has your proudest moment been whilst working at Mooncup?

That’s a tricky one to call, as working behind such a game-changing product and business has been a genuine source of pride since the start.

Still, to choose: some highlights have got be Jimmy Carr and Amy Winehouse pitching in to the conversation when they spotted our loveyourvagina campaign all over the London Underground way back in 2010, more recently, seeing our Period Drama campaign on 40D, and our work in transforming the sanitary product industry being recognised in The Guardian in October 2019…

As well as winning Best Place to Work and Employer of the Year in Brighton and Hove Business Awards for two consecutive years. I could go on forever!

Your Period Drama campaign was great! Your creative ad campaigns often make a point of moving away from the traditional 'feminine hygiene' advertising. What role do you think period positivity has in the world today?

We’ve been chipping away at the period taboo since we started, so it’s been thrilling to play our part and feel the conversation shifting. 

Moments like Kiran Gandhi free bleeding during the London Marathon and Heather Watson expressing the impact of menstruation on her tennis performance have also contributed to a growing openness around talking about vaginas as well as the full menstrual experience.

Thankfully, perimenopause and menopause have more recently been having the shame-busting treatment too.

However, it’s important to use period positivity to recognise that this is not at all the case in every culture. Many cultures around the world still practice isolation or restrictions during menstruation, with the taboo still being so acute in some countries that, for example, period shaming by a teacher was the reason for a school girl committing suicide recently in Kenya. There is clearly still a lot of work to be done….

What challenges do you face as a company and as an ethical company?

The Mooncup is a one-off purchase that lasts for years,  so we don’t rely on the repeat purchase that is so central to most business models.

In the last five years particularly, new companies and even some industry Sanpro giants, have seen the commercial opportunities in the reusable cup category. Manufacturers of menstrual cups now on the market have different motivations and values, offering products of greatly varying quality, features and ethical standards. 

Do you have any plans for the future?

We’re motivated by sustainability not exponential profit at all costs - so a great deal of our plan is to single-mindedly continue the change-making work that we’ve been doing from the outset. Clearly, as pioneers, we have a few disruptive tricks up our sleeves too... though that would be telling!

We would like to thank Kath for taking the time to talk to Ethical Consumer. For more information about Mooncup, visit our ethical shopping guide to menstrual products, or the Mooncup website.

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