Courtney reveals that Allergy Standards Ltd (ASL) is focused on innovation to create healthier products – advocating for product manufacturers to scientifically test, improve, and bring to market products which contribute to a healthy environment, free of harmful chemicals and irritants.
Through our network of laboratories and patient groups, we help manufacturers of paint, bedding, electrical appliances, toys, cleaning products, and building materials ensure that the products they are putting into the market are Certified asthma & allergy friendly•, and also provide design thinking and innovation consultancy to support responsible marketing claims. ASL was recently awarded the Research Innovation Award by the Royal Irish Academy & American Chamber of Commerce!
I’m also proud to be the Co-Director of LEAP, the Leadership & Executive Acceleration Program, which is supported by the IIBN. LEAP is a novel leadership development, mentorship and social innovation program for Irish and Irish-American women living in the New York City area. LEAP is all about women supporting women to get to the next level in their careers, while also giving back to the community by helping Irish non-profit organizations solve business challenges and create greater impact.
What are your main priorities and goals in your role?
My priority is to form new corporate partnerships with companies who are aligned in our vision to create a healthier world. As ASL’s first hire in the U.S., a new market for us at the time, I helped establish our new NYC office on Park Avenue and built out our strategic business development plan for growth. My goal is to increase our market share through awareness and relationships with key decision makers and ensure that our mission and vision is communicated effectively to our target groups.
What are your biggest challenges?
Creating awareness in such a new and large market was our biggest challenge. To achieve this, we focused on thought leadership at key trade shows and conferences where we presented our research and insights, leveraging our partnership with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and also taking advantage of support systems through Enterprise Ireland.
What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?
There continues to be a lack of awareness by the average person about the harmfulness of poor indoor air quality, and how much it can impact our health and wellbeing. On top of that, there is a lack of governmental regulation on marketing claims (such as ‘hypoallergenic’ ‘natural’ ‘eco-friendly’ and other greenwashing terms), leading to people being confused about what products they should buy and whether or not it is actually a healthier choice.
As an Ambassador to One Young World and a UN Youth Assembly Delegate, I am switched on to the broader global issues we all face, including how severely pollution and poor air quality harms health, and am working towards putting pressure on product manufacturers to take the responsibility for the health and safety of the products they put into the market. Many inspirational leaders like Paul Polman and Feike Sijbesma have proven that profit and purpose can co-exist, so my challenge is to influence leaders who have the capability to make changes to invest in doing so.
What new trends are emerging in your industry?
Young people all over the world are speaking up about the things they care about – demanding governments and companies to be more responsible about the products they’re selling and to be more caring about the impact it can have on people and planet. This trend is growing and has the potential to disrupt industries that are not thinking enough about the future. Companies that are not investing in sustainability, innovation, and inclusion will be left behind, suffering both reputational and financial losses – the cost of doing nothing is high.
Through my involvement with One Young World, I had the opportunity to meet with world leaders firsthand and discuss these issues, and they are all saying the same thing: either we invest in doing the right thing, or we will be wiped out by the competition. I’m also seeing a rise in young women leaders taking center stage in this fight for the planet, standing up for what they believe in and speaking truth to power. Young people are the inheritors of the planet and the future leaders of the world, so giving them the platform to speak up, including them in boardrooms and listening to their ideas, can help transform a traditional organization into an innovative, purpose-driven company.
Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?
I’d like to see consumer product manufacturers investing in additional health and safety testing and utilization of trusted certification marks such as asthma & allergy friendly•. I’d also like to see more regulation around use of the word hypoallergenic, which according to the FDA, is essentially a meaningless marketing term not subject to any standardized government testing. For people with medical conditions with asthma and allergies, it is unfair to market a product as being safe for them without requiring any scientific testing to back up those claims.
How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
To me, success is only possible through life satisfaction and happiness. If I do well in my career but not in my personal life, I would not consider myself successful because something would be missing, and vice versa. Success for me means working for a company that is doing good for the world, in a position where I am challenged and enjoy, while also living a healthy lifestyle, spending quality time with my family and friends, and having time for my hobbies and travels. One of the reasons why I recently relocated to Amsterdam was to follow my heart, and it was one of the best decisions I have made. Making a drastic life shift is not for everyone but, knowing yourself and what’s best for you – and having the confidence to go out and make it happen – is the key. We only have one life to live – so we need to take advantage of the opportunities we have and make the most of them. For me, being happy in all these areas is success, and I’m driven by the internal motivation to lead a happy, well-balanced life while contributing to broader issues affecting the planet.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?
One of my all-time favourite quotes is an African proverb which was shared by the late Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, at one of the One Young World Summits, and he said, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Collaboration and partnerships, the sharing of ideas, and radical inclusion are so important in business and in life, so this is a reminder to be supportive to your community, build strong relationships, and be genuine.
The best advice I would give is to stay curious and keep exploring – only you can decide what your future will look like. Over the years I have made many life-changing decisions, from moving to multiple new countries, new positions, and new cities – and it has given me great experiences that I never would have expected, many of which are highly valued in the workplace. It is easy for us to give or receive advice, but we should also keep in mind that each person is coming from their own perspective and their values and goals may not always match ours. Go out and change the world – but do it your way.
What have been your highlights in business over the past year?
I’ve been honored to become a One Young World Ambassador, a UN Youth Assembly Delegate, and to be named one of “40 Under 40” by Irish Echo within the past year, which is a reflection of my passion for health, innovation, and supporting women in leadership positions. I’ve also been happy to represent Allergy Standards at many of these events and share the impact we have made by advocating for healthier homes and products. ASL has grown tremendously and we have welcomed new clients and partners, which is very exciting.
LEAP has also had an exciting year! Together with my Co-Director Maura Kelly, we expanded the program to include more women, and were able to measure the real impact that it had by tracking leadership skill improvement and the impact of social innovation on our partner nonprofit groups. It’s great to be recognized for these accomplishments, but even better to see the impact it has had in the lives of people around me.
What’s next for your company?
Allergy Standards is now expanding internationally and is offering new services which includes innovation and design thinking to help marketers capture insights on health-conscious consumers. It is exciting to be part of a rapidly growing team that is focused on making the world a better place, while keeping science at the core.
One exciting announcement I’d like to mention is that LEAP will be accepting applications starting on November 1st for the 2020 cohort. The Program is completely free for participants and is a 6-month program for Irish and Irish-American women living in the NYC area who would like to hone their leadership skills and create an impact in the Irish community. More information about LEAP can be found at https://www.leap-program.nyc/
Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?
As I recently relocated to Amsterdam from New York, I am focused on building my network and meeting people here with similar interests: supporting women in the workplace, sustainable healthcare, and innovation. It is challenging to be in a new city, but it is exciting at the same time. I hope that by this time next year, I will have made lasting connections in and out of the workplace.