Join us for an inspiring conversation with Archana, a former lawyer turned human rights activist. Discover her journey, overcoming imposter syndrome, and making a difference in the world.
Get ready for an inspiring conversation with a remarkable individual who has overcome imposter syndrome and made a profound impact in the world. Meet Archana, a former corporate lawyer turned human rights activist. For seven years, she worked tirelessly at the UN refugee agency Liberty Shared in Hong Kong. But her journey didn’t end there. Archana went on to establish her own social enterprise called The Remedy Project, which focuses on ensuring the rights and well-being of migrant workers in global supply chains. In this captivating interview, we delve deep into the challenges Archana faced when starting her business, including her personal experience of sexual harassment. Discover how she broke through the barriers of imposter syndrome and embraced her own power. We also explore critical social issues in Asia, gaining insights from Archana’s frontline work with large organisations. From discussing the importance of ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) issues to shedding light on the often overlooked “S” in ESG, this interview is a treasure trove of knowledge. Get ready for a truly transformative interview with Archana. Let’s dive in!
In this conversation, we learnt…
– Archana’s background and the trigger for building The Remedy Project (03:55 – 07:52)
– Her experience with imposter syndrome and sexual harassment (08:10- 10:10)
– What The Remedy Project does (10:33 – 12:58)
– Why the S in ESG is often overlooked (13:15 – 17:14)
– How the State and companies can work together to overcome social issues (17:41 – 25:21)
– Why she’s optimistic about the future (25:51- 27:51)
– What Archana is hoping to achieve in the next 5 years (28:08- 30:43)
“I was really discovering inside of me the strength, the confidence, and the trust in myself to deal with this.”
Despite her accolades and years of experience, Archana found it difficult to detach herself from her previous organisation, Liberty Shared. From worrying about the time commitment, her obligations to her family and also her own career path, it was not an easy decision. There were two key contributing factors; her imposter syndrome and the sexual harassment she’s faced in the workplace. So it was a combination of those two things that constantly led her to doubt herself and to worry about whether she could do the right thing. Through her journey, she has been able to find the strength and courage to accomplish her goals by setting up The Remedy Project.
“When it comes to social issues, the first thing people will tell you is it’s so nebulous, you know, it’s so difficult to measure and it’s so difficult to report on it.”
When discussing why the S of ESG has been lagging behind the other movements Archana shared that the reason the environmental movement is way ahead, is that there is a lot of data and facts to back it up. Plus with easy ways to measure progress, be it carbon emissions or beaches cleaned. But with social issues, it is much harder, especially when comparing the complexities and nuances of what the issue looks like across districts, countries and sectors. Moreover, the S in ESG has been attached to diversity and inclusion. In Hong Kong, it essentially means supporting women in corporations who are struggling with gender pay gap issues or getting a seat at the same table as their male counterparts. However, the issue is so much bigger than that. For Archana, inclusion means inclusion of communities that are the fringes, inclusion of communities who we don’t see, but who touch our lives everyday because they’re involved in the production and harvesting of things that surround us every single day.
“The first thing to remember is that E, S and G are so intimately linked to each other, making the separation is not the right way to think about it.”
For example, climate change in Indonesia leads to the loss of livelihoods, causing some to illegally migrate to Malaysia and work as undocumented labourers on palm oil plantations. These workers are vulnerable and receive lower wages due to governance failures. This situation highlights the interconnectedness of environmental and social issues. Addressing these challenges requires a holistic approach that considers the overlap between climate change, migration, labour exploitation, and governance. Collaboration among governments, businesses, and civil society is essential to develop comprehensive solutions that protect vulnerable populations, mitigate climate change impacts, and promote sustainable development.
“It matters a lot to me that my team comes on this journey with me.”
For Archana, as a small business owner, when she reaches crossroads and needs to plan for growth, she ensures her team is involved in the decision-making process. She values the collective input and wants their employees to join them on the journey. This approach should extend to larger companies as well. It is crucial to seek the perspectives of workers and stakeholders when designing policies and processes that affect a significant number of people. Engaging in conversations and understanding different viewpoints is key to finding common ground and meeting halfway. While private sector actors and worker communities have their roles, the state should play an active role in regulating and leading the ecosystem.
“Am I optimistic? Yes, I choose to be optimistic.”
Five years ago, Archana was far less optimistic than she is today. While the change in Asia may be lacking, especially as mindset shifts are occurring at a slower pace. Compared to Europe, Asian leadership and engagement regarding human rights due diligence and related matters appeared limited. However, change is gradually emerging as European laws have a ripple effect on businesses in the region, compelling local governments to step up their efforts. Notably, some governments, like Thailand, are beginning to take proactive measures and assuming a more proactive role in driving change. This indicates a positive shift toward greater engagement and leadership in addressing these issues within the region. But, the successes are so few in the work that she does, that you have to cling on to every bit of positive news in order to keep going!
Chris Edwards (03:45)
Archana thank you so much for joining me today. You have a phenomenal background. Maybe you could just share with my listeners a little bit about the remedy project and how you got here.
Archana Kotecha (03:55)
Sure. So thanks for having me, Chris. I grew up in a tiny island in Mauritius. And I guess ever since the time I was a little girl, I always knew that destiny was going to be beyond Mauritius. I left Mauritius at age 18 to go to uni in London. I was at the LSE and wanted a big shiny corporate career, which is exactly what I went on in and did. And I guess at the end of eight years of a corporate career, I felt like I was looking for something else. And I stumbled upon an opportunity at the UN Refugee Agency in London. And that was my first brush with human rights work, which was incredibly fulfilling, intellectually challenging, and just presented a challenge in a different way and lawyering in a different way. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in human rights. And that was the beginning of the journey for me. I met the first ever victim of trafficking, who I worked with in London. And that really spurred me on to focus on this particular human rights issue. I moved to Hong Kong about 14 years ago, I spent almost eight years is as the head of legal for an anti trafficking organisation based in Hong Kong, called Liberty shared but working across the region. In that time I worked with governments in the region, I worked with victims that have worked with migrant workers, and worked with NGOs and really developed a whole sort of, you know, repertoire of experience around this issue. And as you would in the middle of COVID, I felt like I wanted to explore what the next challenge would look like, in particular was the sort of, you know, the frustration of not reaching enough people and wanting to do more. And I decided to set up a social enterprise called the remedy project, and to really take my sort of repertoire of work to the next level by focusing on access to remedy, in particular for migrant workers in supply chains. So these are basically people who travelled from all over the world seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families, and who work in work you and I would know as garment factories, or internet canning factories, to work towards producing and harvesting the goods that we get to enjoy. So that’s how the remedy project that came about.
Chris Edwards (06:13)
And was there a moment or a trigger that made you go, I need to set up my own thing, the remedy project, or like, I need to go deeper on this issue?
Archana Kotecha (06:22)
Sure. So you know, I was coasting along, I was very comfortable at Liberty shared by it really enjoyed my work. And but I wasn’t as challenged as I could be. I’ve always enjoyed a good challenge. And I’ve always been fiercely ambitious when it comes to my mission and my vision to change the world and to make things better for those who need support. And my boss came to me at the time and said, Look, you know, what do you think I want to take this in this direction. And he said to me, I think you’re ready, you’re at crossroads, and you’re ready to take the jump. And I said to him, What do you mean? I don’t know, I’m not sure. And I think I understand now that my fear primarily came from the fact that I have two young children. And I was scared about what it meant for detaching myself from an organisation and setting up another organisation, that time commitment, would I be able to do right by my family, would I be able to do right by my career, and everything else. And somehow, you know, it felt right, I went back to my closest mentors and advisors. And the advice was that we support you because of the work that you do and will continue to support you whether you’re at Liberty shared or not. So it gave me the added sort of boost that I needed, and the trust and confidence that I needed within myself to go ahead and launch into this venture.
Chris Edwards (07:52)
That’s so interesting, because I would have also thought someone with your experience and ability that having that faith wouldn’t be hard to find, but to go out and do your own thing. But it’s interesting that even someone of your capability could have those concerns.
Archana Kotecha (08:10)
I mean, there’s two points I’d like to make here, which are actually very common points shared by a lot of, I’m sure a lot of your audience. One is I suffer from impostor syndrome, and quite badly as well. So you know, every now and then I’ll wake up and think, Oh, my God, everybody’s going to find out that I know nothing about what I do. And it has taken years of self discipline, self belief, affirmations, and sort of listening to people saying to me, thank you, we value your contribution in order to attempt to internalise some of that to address the difficulties of dealing with impostor syndrome and being scared and being held back because of that. And the second thing is that throughout my corporate career, I experienced sexual harassment in different workplaces. And what that did was over a period of time, it really undermined my confidence, and my self esteem. And I think that took me a really long time to work back from and to work upfront. So it was a combination of those two things that constantly led me to doubt myself and to worry about whether I could do the right thing. And the thing that brought it all together was being in this career. And being a leader in this space is very demanding. It’s intellectually challenging. It’s logistically challenging often, and it requires giving a lot of yourself which I’ve always done and continue to do. But when you’re juggling the demands of you know, a young family at the same time and of running a household and being the primary caregiver. It’s not always easy and fear insecurity, so many things constantly rear their heads along the journey. And I guess for me part of growing up and when During this space was really discovering inside of me the strength, the confidence and the trust in myself to deal with a lot of this.
Chris Edwards (10:10)
Wow, thank you for sharing that. And I’m sorry that you’ve had that journey, particularly with the sexual abuse. And I’m sure that a lot of our listeners can relate to things in their journey that are holding them back, too. So I think it’s wonderful for you to share that. I want to switch gears a little bit, let’s talk about what is the remedy project do day to day.
Archana Kotecha (10:33)
So day to day the remedy project works with governments in Southeast Asia, it works with companies, very large multinationals, who have operations across Southeast Asia. And it works with NGOs and worker groups in order to primarily mainstream the understanding and application of human rights through supply chains. So a very simple example of that would be one of our focal areas is advising on grievance mechanisms. grievance mechanisms is essentially, the system through which an employer or a company can help a worker, a migrant worker, for example, address issues they might have. This could relate to sexual harassment, it could relate to unpaid wages, it could be related to living in working conditions. So we help them to design, build and run the infrastructure, so that it does justice to the workers, they have a safe space to bring their grievances and their human rights issues. And at the same time, it provides the company the opportunity to address these issues, before they become a major legal and reputational risk. And it also allows the company to learn and to improve their corporate governance procedures in order to prevent these issues from happening.
Chris Edwards (11:52)
And do companies come to you when something blows up? Or do they come to you, before something blows up going, I want to make sure that we’ve got our ducks in line and that we’re doing the right thing by our team?
Archana Kotecha (12:04)
It really depends. So previously, it used to be very reactive. So something had to happen for someone to come and seek assistance. However, now there’s a lot of new laws coming up in the big buyer markets like Europe, for example, the United States, Australia, Canada, much of which are requiring companies to put in place various systems around human rights, due diligence and management, etc. And a lot of that has led to suppliers in Southeast Asia saying, Oh, well, if our buyers are being affected by these laws, we need to start thinking about how this will affect us over the next few years. So now we’re in a sort of a preparation mood for what will this legislation look like for me as a supplier in Southeast Asia? So now it’s a bit more proactive? It’s a little bit more dynamic. And actually, it’s a very interesting time to be doing this work.
Chris Edwards (12:58)
There’s a lot of conversation about the environment and climate change. But the S of ESG is less talked about. Why do you think that is? And what can we do to help us emphasise and highlight these issues and talk about them more?
Archana Kotecha (13:15)
Yeah. So you know, the environmental movement has been way ahead of the social movement. And there’s been, it hasn’t been difficult to garner support to build momentum. A lot of it is science based, there are facts there is, you know, there is data to back it up. The data makes sense, there is a way to sort of, you know, to address carbon emissions, there is a way to measure it. When it comes to social issues. You know, the first thing people will tell you is it’s so nebulous, you know, it’s so difficult to measure, it’s so difficult to report on it either. And the complexity and nuances of what the issue looks like varies from one district to another from one country to another from one sector to another. And that has contributed to datasets that are not comparable, when you look at the E when you look at the s and when you look at the G and for the longest period of time, the s in ESG has been attached to diversity and inclusion. And if you look at what that means, in Hong Kong, it essentially means women in corporations who are struggling with gender pay gap issues or getting a seat at the same table as their male counterparts. However, the issue is so much bigger than that. And even if you narrowly construe it as diversity and inclusion, for me, inclusion means inclusion of communities that are the fringes, inclusion of communities who we don’t see, but who touch our lives everyday because they’re involved in the production and harvesting of things that surround us every single day. So when it comes to the conversation, the first thing to remember is E, S and G are so intimately linked to each other, making the separation is not the right way to think about it. If you think about climate change the impact on let’s say, populations in Indonesia who lose their livelihood, who then have to migrate very often illegally to Malaysia, in order to further their livelihoods, then they end up working on a palm oil plantation as undocumented workers, as undocumented workers, they’re never paid the same wages as a documented worker, they’re really vulnerable. Think about how the environmental issue is so intimately linked with the social issues. And why does a company employ undocumented workers because of lacks governance, lacks reporting, etc. So that kicks in the governance. So really, this is an ecosystem. And we can’t keep separating and working in silos, because actually, the overlap is significant. And what’s interesting is that change in laws at European level, are actually bringing together the environmental and the social piece. And what that means for me, where I’m sitting is that now when companies approached us, they’re like, well, could you look at the social and the environmental piece for us. So that means I have to go find an environmental expert, who can sit alongside me and work with me. So we are having to reimagine the way we have looked at these issues, or even looked at our work previously. And what can we do to highlight the issue, I think this is personal. Everybody has a personal investment in this, whether it’s from a human rights perspective, whether it’s from the perspective of wanting to be more included in the workplace. And for me, as a mother, and as a parent, I’m totally invested into this, because I do want my daughter to have equal opportunities to what my son would have. And at the same time, I do want them to live and flourish in a safe environment. So this is something that needs to be raised at every level on every platform, cop 27, all of those need to stop headlining the environment. And they really need to be looking at this more holistically.
Chris Edwards (17:14)
I really think that’s really valuable. Just to point out how interconnected it all is. It’s not the way the world looks at it right now. It is quite divided. And I think you’re right, that the environment has statistics and figures, and the social issues are harder to measure. What in Asia, do you think are the biggest social issues right now that businesses are creating?
Archana Kotecha (17:41)
I’m not sure saying businesses are creating is the right way to look at it. Because a lot of the times when we see issues manifest in businesses, it’s because there are underlying root causes. And the root causes are not necessarily always within the control of business. How business chooses to deal with the vulnerabilities created by the root causes is something else. So for example, lack of schooling that might be available for children could lead children into the workplace, at a very early age, lack of economic opportunities and support for lower income families could lead people to work in very precarious and unsafe conditions. And so there is a very important role for the state to play in acknowledging responsibility for looking at these root causes. what companies need to be looking at is how can they put in safeguards to ensure for example, that populations that are discriminated against do not experience discrimination in the workplace? What did that look like in terms of policies and processes? So discrimination is a big issue. Migrant workers are treated very differently to local workers. And even when migration is internal, so for example, people are moving within the country, interstate migrants, even their interstate migrants are often treated very differently to the way locals are treated. That’s a form of discrimination. And then you have you know, enhanced vulnerabilities, women in the informal sector will get paid a lot less for the work that they do. There are systems in the way workers are paid that are inherently discriminatory, for example, piece rate payment is very common on palm oil plantations.Piece rate essentially means you’re paid by the bunches of fruit that you pick. It’s a hazardous job. And sometimes after multiple hours of work, you could end up with not very much. This results in two things, people getting paid below minimum wage, and people bringing their children to work with them so that they can actually pick enough so you can see how one practice of the way wage payment is calculated, could really serve to make people even more vulnerable. So discrimination is taught, I think sexual harassment in the workplace is an issue. And it worries me a lot, because this is an issue that is kept bottled up everywhere you go. Whether you look at the garment industry, whether you look at electronics, it’s something nobody’s comfortable talking about, I think there is a culture of silence around and stigma around sexual harassment and violence, which leads to it being very difficult for people to talk about it, unless they are empowered to do so. The third thing I’d say is the lack of a living wage, the cost of living has gone up so much. But workers are not seeing a corresponding rise in their wages. And it does make it very difficult. In many cases, people are working crazy amounts of overtime, in order to even make up or get up to the level of basic living. And it really is time that living wage becomes the norm as opposed to the exception. And you know, just the final point would be freedom of association, the ability to be part of a trade union, that is able to represent workers freely, and that is able to engage with workers. And that’s something that we see happens with a lot of difficulty, if at all across the region.
Chris Edwards (21:28)
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Chris Edwards (21:51)
If you could wave your magic wand and fix one or two of these problems, how do you see these problems being solved? Is it going to be top down from governments bringing in international standards and allowing trade unions to form or as an individual or lots of my listeners or small business owners? What’s the future look like? And how can they play a part in driving the change?
Archana Kotecha (22:16)
I think it’s a combination of things, it’s top down and bottom up. I think we really need to stop creating policies and processes where workers are passive absorbers of those, it creates a disconnect in the workplace. For example, I have a small business. And whenever I feel like I’m at a crossroads, it’s the next level, we need to do some business planning to think about growth, etc. I bring my team around and table and we talk about it. Because I don’t see myself as being the leader and alone in this process. It matters a lot to me that they come on this journey with me. And then we think about it collectively. extrapolate that to accompany companies, don’t seek the views of workers, at least not the ecosystem that we work in. It’s really important when you’re designing policies and processes that affect a large number of people, workers, your stakeholders that you engage them in conversation, you engage them in understanding, what could this look like from your perspective? And how can we meet halfway? I think there needs to be a bit of that the state has for the longest time taken a backseat, because they’ve let companies pretty much become these, you know, you need to go and lay the law and manage your workers and manage the world that you work in. No, that is not correct. The ecosystem still needs to be regulated and led and driven by the state. And yes, private sector actors, worker communities and various others have their own roles to play and their own contribution to make, there needs to be very clear regulation, which not only sets out people’s rights, but also sets out behaviours that are acceptable, and they need to be clear consequences for not doing the right thing, and for not toeing the line. So the carrot must come with a stick. So if you look at the regulations in Europe, at the moment around human rights due diligence is all about building processes, understanding risk, analysing the risk and managing risk. But at the same time, there is also talk about the trade based sanction, which essentially means that if you’re not going to put in place those systems, then there will be consequences for your business. So a combination of all of those things, but fundamentally a change in mindset, that we need to think about sustainability. We need to think long term, we need to think about legacy. When I look at the work that I do, you know, I don’t do it to generate profits. I do it because I have a vision to make things better. And for me, that is my legacy to my children and If I can disrupt change the way people think about their employees and to change the way that they think about what rights migrants should have, and how they can, you know, enforce these in practice, using systems that exist at company level and at state level, then you know, I’ll have done something, right.
Chris Edwards (25:21)
Yeah, I suppose the challenge I have, and I’d love you to help me with this. One is the corruption that happens in government and the greed that happens in the large businesses that are wildly profitable, and the people that run those companies and own those, and I suppose the capitalist model, if you look at the whole thing, it’s difficult to see, particularly in Asia, how this is going to change to you see a path of how you can see this is going to change,
Archana Kotecha (25:51)
you know, I perhaps wasn’t as optimistic five years ago, I think changing Asia will be slow, because the mindset change is going to come a lot slower. Because we’re not seeing the level of leadership and engagement in Asia, around human rights, due diligence, and etc, that we have seen at European level. But it will come because the European laws will have a knock on effect on businesses in this region, and government in this region will have to step up. Having said that, you know, we are seeing some governments in the region begin to react to this and sort of really get into the driving seat. Thailand is an example. So you know, they will be looking to pass a mandatory human rights due diligence law. Currently, they have some form of regulation in in that manner that applies to listed companies anyway, we are seeing the government in Japan recently announced human rights due diligence guidelines as a response to much of what is going on in Europe. So slowly, but surely the regulation is pushing people to really grapple with this issue. And to put it on the agenda. So human rights was not a boardroom conversation a few years ago, but it is now. And that’s largely down to the change in the regulatory framework in via countries, but also because the US Customs and Border Protection have been issuing a lot of sanctions against companies based in Asia. And this has led to it becoming a boardroom conversation. And to be honest, this is an example of how a stick is leading to a change in mindset and no change in response. Am I optimistic? Yes, I choose to be optimistic, because you know, the successes are so few in the work that we do, that you have to cling on to every bit of positive news in order to keep going into keep challenging.
Chris Edwards (27:51)
That’s good to hear. And it’s really lovely to hear that there is change happening. And I think you’re right, I think a big problem like this is going to need a stick as opposed to a carrot. So tell me more about the remedy project. What do you see you moving to in the next five years?
Archana Kotecha (28:08)
Yeah, you know that the next five years, I really would like to be able to experiment and to innovate. So one of the key drivers for setting up the remedy project was that I’d be developing this alternative dispute resolution mechanism, which is a supply chain sort of solution, to provide access to remedy to migrant workers across a whole supply chain. So that means it begins with the buyer, and it goes all the way through to the Sub Sub Sub supplier. And it crosses different countries, it crosses different areas, etc. And the idea was that if everybody rallies around a piece of infrastructure and engages collectively, in looking at this, they can share responsibility, they can share costs, and they can make systems and processes more accessible to small and medium sized enterprises, who currently find it very, very difficult to be upgrading their operations because of the cost. It’s not cheap to run a grievance system. It’s not cheap to you know, constantly do capacity building with your staff on how to manage, let’s say, sexual harassment, etc, etc. So, you know, I set up the remedy project, feeling that okay, if it’s my shot, I can try and if it fails, fair enough, it’s my failure, I can deal with it. And, and that’s what I want to do over the next five years, I think we’ve tried and we’ve tested the same solutions over and over again, we’ve seen with the advent of technology and blockchain, everybody jump up and down about worker apps, while failing to consider the fact that many workers still don’t have access to the internet. Many of them, you know, don’t have the kind of of data packages that are needed to run apps etc. So the idea is to really Listen to the needs of vulnerable people, and to continue to innovate and to find ways of disrupting the normal course of things. So that we do things most efficiently. We do things more sustainably. And that we really are listening and reflecting to what the needs of people and businesses are. There are some fantastic examples of this having been done in different parts of the world, where, for example, worker driven social responsibility, has given workers a real engagement and voice into systems that were previously designed to actually, you know, manage, in a sense.
Chris Edwards (30:43)
So interesting. I love the way you’re really using listening to people as the real I suppose Northstar of what you’re doing. I would love to keep chatting. But I want to ask you a few rapid fire questions before we close out the interview. I want to know do you have any business mantras or advice that roll around in your head and you keep coming back to?
Archana Kotecha (31:04)
If you don’t build your own dreams, you’ll have to be paid by someone else to build this.
Chris Edwards (31:11)
Oh, wow. I love that. I love that. When did you first hear that? Do you remember?
Archana Kotecha (31:17)
I think I read that in Roxie Neff, Lucy’s book manifest dive deeper, which I read very recently. And it really struck me because I think we often wait because we’re scared, we’re fearful of launching into the unknown, and therefore someone else comes along and pays you to be a part of their dream.
Chris Edwards (31:36)
It’s very true, you do need to be very brave as an entrepreneur changes, the only constant in business, what do you think entrepreneurs and the business world that has Their Eyes Wide Shut to right now,
Archana Kotecha (31:48)
For me, you know, it has to be that people are not listening enough. And people are not attentive enough, it’s much easier to keep going with what you’ve been doing, or what you know, stepping out of your world and stepping out of your comfort zone and being open to a different perspective is so important. And you know, for the companies out there, and you know, just go spend some time with your workers, listen to what they’re telling you, listen to how they are experiencing the labour market, because actually, that really affects your policies. But unless you’re seeing it from their side of the fence, you’re never going to understand how the labour market works.
Chris Edwards (32:29)
I love that. And I think you’re absolutely right, it’s much easier to make assumptions than to actually go and listen and learn. And people are all moving so fast. Right? I think that’s also about moving slowly. If there was an industry that you could disrupt right now, what would it be and why
Archana Kotecha (32:48)
it would be the ESG data industry, because it frustrates me that the data sets that exist under the s element in particular, including all the ratings, etc, are very much based on material that companies put out about themselves, or on a little bit of adverse media, who is doing worker interviews, who is engaging with workers to make sure that their side of the story is being told, the reason why it frustrates me terribly is because whenever we talk about being able to engage with workers to get their stories told to let’s say, an ESG investor, so then he has the other side, he knows their lived life, they lived reality. And the risk that that carries to the investors, you know, investment, people always say to me, but you can’t pay workers for their information. It’s unethical. So everybody can get paid for information except workers. I mean, that is unbelievable. And the fact that these datasets are so one dimensional in what they represent is also one of the biggest drawbacks of the s movement. So I really like to disrupt that and to hear more stories and more engagement and more ownership of workers in the ESG movement.
Chris Edwards (34:06)
Yeah, I love that. And are there any certification bodies or certifications that you think had doing an okay job? Or do you think there’s just a big gap between what’s happening and what should be happening?
Archana Kotecha (34:19)
We work with a lot of certification bodies. So this is a very loaded question. I’m not going to pick one over the other. But all I’ll say is that certifications are an attempt to bring consistency and to bring our standards and to play by rules and to bring clarity and transparency. In practice. It’s very complicated to get to that level. And there are always gaps that are being identified and that need to be addressed. So they have an important role to play in the ecosystem. But sometimes some of the fundamental mechanisms that certification bodies rely on are flawed. For example, social audits, social or Less people have come to rely on them as the word of God. However, social audits are but a snapshot of something that is happening at a moment in time. It doesn’t really represent, you know, a very engaged and in depth and iterative view of risk. Unfortunately, people treat it as such. And therefore, this leads to being blinkered around problems that are occurring and recurring. So they have their good, they have their positives, and they have their negatives, I think the smarter ones are much better at including procedural safeguards to make sure that they are able to identify gaps, and then to find ways of addressing those.
Chris Edwards (35:43)
So interesting. It’s just a whole different universe in which you’re operating in and yeah, it’s intriguing to dive into it. I wanted to know, have you ever had a really good business partnership or collaboration that’s really helped you.
Archana Kotecha (35:59)
There have been several, you know, I can’t name them private sector clients that we have, but they have been such, I mean, they took a leap of faith because I literally set up the remedy project, one of the largest electronics companies in the world was one of our first clients. And it was a leap of faith because, you know, we were new, I’m not new in this space. So the new meet, but the outfit was new. And they took a leap of faith with us. And then you know, we collaborate with a lot of UN bodies, for example, the International Organisation, on migration, we collaborate with the International Labour Organisation, and those have been fantastic collaborations where we’ve really been able to bring together our different sort of areas of expertise, and pull that together to build tools to build knowledge repositories for other actors working in this space.
Chris Edwards (36:49)
Wow. I’m not surprised they took the leap of faith. You know, it might be a different outfit but I think if anyone had worked with you before, I’m sure they would have understood what you stand for and what you’re capable of. I want to ask you one final question at launchpad. And my personal belief is that a rising tide floats all boats. I know that you probably know a lot of remarkable entrepreneurs that are doing or creating good businesses. But if you had to recommend one to come on this podcast, who would it be?
Archana Kotecha (37:20)
It would be my longtime coach and mentor Sally Dello, runs a company called dramatic difference that offers coaching and support to individuals. I first approached Sally saying that, look, I can’t afford your rates. Because I work pretty much in the not for profit sector. Sally has been supporting my work and me personally, and in my growth in this journey to be an entrepreneur. And she does absolutely fantastic work with vulnerable communities in places like Thailand. But she has also transformed the journey of many men and women who have been working with her over the years, and I think she would really have something very valuable to contribute.
Chris Edwards (38:03)
Oh, fantastic. I will hunt Sally down. Thank you so much for your time today. This has been just an amazing conversation and very inspiring, and one in which a world I don’t get to dive into very often. So I really appreciate your honesty and your vulnerability and sharing your journey with us.
Archana Kotecha (38:21)
Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to be here.
Chris Edwards (38:24)
Three things I learned from this conversation today. Firstly, how intertwined environment, social and governance issues are known as ESG. But how we shouldn’t really be considering the environmental changes and challenges we have without thinking about the social and governance impact as well, and how they really are very, very intertwined. I also loved our conversation about where we’re seeing change in Southeast Asia when it comes to governance and around social issues and workers. And probably the third thing that I really am going to take away from me today is just how someone like Archana can be so successful and so smart and intelligent but suffer from imposter syndrome and actually even have a sexual harassment experience hold her back personally and cause her to have a lot of self doubt, and really make her have this unreasonable fear to jump into running her own business. I just loved this chat so much today. So it was interesting. We turned off the recording button and Archana and I chatted for another half an hour. And she has agreed to come and speak at a launchpad event in Hong Kong because we’re both wildly passionate about helping entrepreneurs, particularly women step into their power and shake off any experiences that they might have in life. that are holding them back or causing them to have impostor syndrome. So stay tuned for that one. I hope you found this chat today, as inspiring as I did to create your own good business. Thank you for listening to good business.
Chris Edwards (40:15)
Okay, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. Selfishly, I created this podcast for my own personal growth. So I could go deep with entrepreneurs that truly inspire me. Of course, I also wanted a wider listenership to think about having impact, and our wonderful community at Launchpad, where we’re all aspiring to create better businesses together. If you have enjoyed this episode, I’d love you to leave a review, or perhaps share this podcast episode with a friend. That’s how podcast episodes get discovered. And I would love more entrepreneurs to think more deeply about their business and about creating a Heartland business with a bigger impact than just profit. And I’m sure you would too. So go ahead and post something on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook and spread the word I will be forever grateful. Thanks again for listening and I hope that you feel as inspired as I am to create your own good business.