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Ellana GES© Case Study

Philippines: Ellana

Sustainably produced mineral cosmetics retailer in the Philippines


Established in 2008 by Theresa Buenaflor, Ellana Mineral Cosmetics (“Ellana”) is a leading mineral cosmetics brand in the Philippines that formulates and distributes non-toxic, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic products that specifically cater to Filipina and Southeast Asian skin types. Ellana has successfully established its own niche in the clean beauty industry in the Philippines, traditionally dominated by international incumbents, through developing quality products, serving the growing demands for health benefit-themed cosmetics, and adopting agile go-to-market strategies. Ellana offers career-oriented women in the Philippines over 200 clean makeup products for eyes, faces, lips, skin, body and hair. Recently launched products include sanitizers, masks, and beauty balms.

The name Ellana means “illuminate” in Greek, conveying its founder’s conviction that makeup should be light and easy on the skin, giving its users a sheer and natural glow. Theresa has built the brand with a vision of “a world where the pursuit of beauty goes hand in hand with healthy skin” and a business mission “to be recognized as a high-quality natural makeup brand preferred by young, career-oriented Southeast Asian women.” Product formulations include skin protection qualities such as natural sun protection and anti-inflammatory properties for sensitive and acne-prone skin.

In addition to the use of clean ingredients in its products, Ellana has actively promoted the refilling practice whereby its clients only buy products-in-jar for the first time and re-use the jars to refill in subsequent purchases. Packaging materials used are environmentally friendly, consciously using the least plastic required and only if necessary.

Ellana has created a strong following among young consumers in their 30s that dominate the middle to high-income group with higher discretionary spending. Ellana has adopted an omni-channel sales approach and digital marketing strategies to effectively create a seamless customer experience. With effective interaction with their customers, new product introductions are quickly rolled out and rapid customer response used as a feedback mechanism for product development.

Ellana is distributed nationwide in 61 retail outlets and kiosks, e-commerce partners and through its company-owned website Ellana is widely distributed in Watsons, a leading health and beauty retailer in the Philippines.

Key Facts

Current Activities

Ellana is a woman-founded and –led business with a culture of women’s empowerment: Founder and President Theresa Buenaflor launched Ellana as a single mother. The Company fills an unmet need for Southeast Asian (SEA) men and women. SEA women have limited color cosmetic options and contend with “close enough” shades catered towards Caucasian and East Asian skin tones.

Ellana invests in the training and development of its largely women workforce: Ellana currently employs 182 full-time employees, of which 58% are Beauty Consultants and 87% are women. Management strongly emphasizes providing employees with training and support for professional and personal development as well as excellent employee benefits. Beauty Consultants undergo the “4 Es of Ellana Training – Establish, Equip, Engage and Empower”, which entails providing employees with product and soft skills training and empowering them through incentives and recognition. Beauty Consultants who exhibit high potential also receive training on skills mastery, selling strategy, and personality development.

Ellana supports employees who wish to pursue self-initiated and continuous education through its Educational Assistance Program and allows them to adjust their work schedules to enroll in courses. Some employees have taken advantage of this benefit to pursue concurrent studies in pharmacy, music technology, and more.

Beauty Consultants and other employees participate in outreach programs such as a workshop held at the Jeremiah Foundation (Home for Abused Women) and wellness campaigns around mental health, occupational health, and stress management. Ellana’s Girl Boss Campaign also aims to develop Store Team Leaders into confident entrepreneurs.

Kyna’s SEAF Gender Equality Score©

Philippines Gender Demographics

  • WEF’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Report ranks Philippines 16th out of 153 countries and 2nd in East Asia and the Pacific in gender equality, having closed 78% of its gender gap.
  • However, the labor force participation of women in the Philippines reached a new all-time low in 2018, dropping to 46% —the lowest in South East Asia—from 49 – 50% in recent years. Such a low rate could eventually hurt economic development and hold back the progress of women’s rights in the Philippines.
  • Contractualization is a practice rampantly used in the retail, manufacturing and construction sectors. Under the scheme, a worker is hired for five months, fired, and rehired for another five months by a subcontractor, who then avoids paying the social and health benefits that regular employees are entitled to. Regularizing workers will result to an increase in the labor cost within the range of US$4-10 per month to cover the statutory mandated benefits.

Women Economic Empowerment Highlights

Pay Equity

  • The Company demonstrates equitable compensation and variable based compensation for its Beauty Consultants
  • There is strong representation of women in the top 10% of the company’s highest compensated
  • SEAF WEE Team is working with the Company on establishing employee surveys to assess  employees’ feedback, motivation, attitude, and satisfaction

Benefits & Professional Development

  • The Company provides benefits better than those mandated by the government
  • The Company delivers regular training programs to its Beauty Consultants around product knowledge and customer engagement. There are also training programs provided to employees who are not Beauty Consultants
  • SEAF’s WEE Team will work closely with Ellana to ensure benefits are communicated regularly to employees and that the benefits & professional development policies are reviewed based on employee surveys, check-ins and exit interviews

Workforce Participation

  • High levels of women participation due to the nature of the business. The Company directly employs Beauty Consultants in contrast to its competitors that use employment agencies to avoid regularization and payment of government-mandated benefits
  • The Company conducts regular check-ins with employees to understand issues and addresses them immediately. Exit interviews are conducted to improve employee retention
  • Beauty Consultants are allowed to work in the head office after their sixth month of pregnancy as department stores do not allow them to work on the retail floor

Workplace Environment

  • The management has created a culture of open communication among its employees. The Company has made its culture one where employees feel they have an extended family at Ellana
  • The SEAF WEE Team will work with the Company to improve the Workplace Environment as there needs to be a better implementation of policies around occupational health and safety policies and practices

Leadership & Governance

  • Women occupy important management positions in the organization such as heads of operations, finance, research and development acting as role models for its employees to strive for more senior positions within the Company

Women Powered Value Chains

  • Women are leading initiatives on marketing and product development, demonstrating the importance of women’s perspectives on the development of their products and how the Company is communicating and connecting with their customers
  • As women manage the research and development, they have also taken a leading role in procurement