Ideas with vision

Since 2006, Cartier's Women's Initiative has been supporting women with business ideas that will change the future.

If we were to ask older generations about the inventions that have changed their lives the most, many would probably speak of one thing: Plastics. Because suddenly it was possible to package things in a durable way. In a packaging that is light and malleable, but can also be bone-hard – a true all-rounder. And this invention has gone much further than just transporting soup to family celebrations. Every area of our society, one might say, is interwoven with plastic: cool boxes for organ transport of medical transplants, petri dishes, beverage cans, mobility, components and accessories. The invention seems to have become indispensable.

But today we know that plastic is a huge problem. Every year, about eight million tons of plastic end up in the sea, where it is estimated that two-thirds of the world’s fish absorb it. So it’s time for new inventions that could be spoken of centuries from now. To promote these inventions, Cartier launched the Women’s Initiative in 2006. An annual international programme for women-owned companies that want to drive change.

One such woman is Joanne Howarth, who is one of the seven laureates of this year’s Cartier’s Women’s Initiative. In 2015, the entrepreneur launched the Planet Protector Packaging project to offer a sustainable alternative to polystyrene by using waste wool. The wool is scrubbed in hot water, then felted and cut. The result is an insulating material called Woolpack, which offers similar advantages to plastic. But compared to polystyrene, wool is compostable and biodegradable. It is therefore an invention that could be told about for generations to come, but without having to bear the burden of the environmental consequences that plastic will have on future generations.