We’re here to put a bar in every shower and revolutionise the cosmetics industry
“I started Ethique out of frustration for the abhorrent amount of waste created by the cosmetics industry, and in particular, the amount of plastic and waste created by our bathroom essentials. I figured out that up to 95% of your bottle of conditioner is made up of water – which is just ridiculous considering you have water in your bathroom! I have always been deeply passionate about the environment and science and so I set about learning cosmetic chemistry (I was completing my Bachelor of Science at university at the time), and looked to formulate a solid shampoo. I figured that switching to a solid product would be the answer not only to the water waste issue, but also plastic waste”.
Challenges in creating the world’s most sustainable lifestyle and beauty brand:
Plastic free packaging:
Growing a plastic free business has not been without challenges, many unique to us. Growing any business at the pace we have grown is tough, but encouraging people to get behind an unusual product was at first, very difficult.
“In the early days, I went through four packaging providers, all who told me that what I wanted wouldn’t work. The boxes would break down on the shelves, they wouldn’t survive shipment and that it was impossible to guarantee sustainable stock. It was apparent they didn’t understand the need for boxes that were free of laminates, coatings and chlorines and weren’t prepared to experiment. Now we work with two incredible New Zealand packaging providers who exceed my requirements.”
Producing solid bars:
Producing solid bars is limiting for obvious reasons and as we’re essentially creating products from scratch that don’t exist, formulation is hard.
“I was on my own for many years figuring out how to invent solid face creams and self-tanners. Now, whilst I do most of the initial concepting and formulation still, I have a team of very clever chemists and engineers who figure out how to scale a product that is difficult to make. They have had to invent and build new machinery and processes to keep up with the demand, which was particularly challenging during our periods of biggest growth.”
Logistics is extremely challenging as the use of plastic is deeply intertwined into most warehousing systems.
“Working with logistics facilities and retailers who don’t get it is extremely frustrating. We have had retailers shrink wrap bars or stick plastic labels on them. We’ve had logistics facilities promise to ship plastic free only to fill boxes with bubble wrap and polystyrene. What has worked for us, has been getting our partners to understand why we require our products to be plastic free in every way. Because when they get it, they then look to change the way they do business and expand their environmental actions beyond just our products.”
Our bars are proudly shipped plastic free by New Zealand Post from our warehouse in New Zealand. In 2020, we launched a new plastic-free warehouse in the USA which ships completely plastic free and will also significantly reduce the carbon footprint of our bars.
Where are we now?
In 2012, the first Ethique solid shampoo bar, Mintasy, was made as an alternative to the 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles thrown out globally every year. Since then, so much has changed, but sustainability is still at the heart of everything we do. Our ingredients remain: cruelty free and vegan, palm oil free, ethically and fairly sourced, we still pay staff a living wage, donate 2% of sales to charity and are 100% plastic-free.
We don’t just make shampoo bars now either. We’ve ventured into skincare and products for your home and pets, with plenty more exciting products in the pipeline. All with the goal of preventing plastic bottles from being made and disposed of in landfills around the world.
So far we’ve saved over 11 million plastic bottles from entering landfill, and we’re just getting started: our next goal is half a billion by 2030.
Super Soap Project
Soap and water is the single best defence we have against COVID-19 (alongside physical distancing). In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and the more than 2 billion people who do not have access to soap around the world, we launched our Super Soap Project on April 21st 2020. Donating more than 10,000 bars of hand soap to these vulnerable communities, across New Zealand and the South Pacific. We initially pledged 10,000 bars and matched every bar purchased by our customers from ethique.com with a ‘Super Soap’ bar donation to these vulnerable communities.
As of 21 May 2020, we have donated over 26,700 bars of ‘Super Soap’.
1 tree planted per order
In honour of Earth Day 2020, the day that globally, we recognise the importance of our planet, and reflect on the damage we are doing and what we need to do to protect it, we launched our tree planting initiative. For every order placed on our website starting on April 22 2020 until forever more, we will plant a tree (or mangrove), with our partner Offset Earth, a gold standard accredited carbon credit provider.
As of 15 May 2021, our customers have planted over 212,500 trees and offset over 1,167 tonnes of carbon dioxide! Our goal is to plant 400,000 trees by the end of 2021.
Where are we going?
Well, we’re not stopping there. Our main goal is to save the world from plastic bottles and this means we are constantly looking at ways we can increase our impact. Here’s some of what we have planned:
Save half a billion plastic bottles from being manufactured and disposed of in landfill by 2030.
Increase the reach of our Super Soap Project.
Plant 400,000 trees by the end of 2021.
Product launches – yep, you read that right! We have a lot of these planned.
We are climate positive
We are officially climate positive! As of March 2021, we are proud to offset 120% of our net carbon emissions. Our carbon footprint is measured every year by EKOS who run a robust, independent assessment process. We then work with various organisations, such as Ecologi, to offset this footprint.
Minimising our carbon footprint
Plastic free, solid bars
Because our product is plastic free and displaces products in a very waste heavy industry, we are doing good simply by selling bars! One of our shampoo bars has just 8% of the carbon footprint of the equivalent liquid product. The large footprint of bottled products comes primarily from the plastic packaging (150g of carbon dioxide released just to make one 25g plastic bottle!) Versus just 9g for our largest product box. Then there is the transport costs of getting the empty bottle to the cosmetic factory, then that product, which is mostly very heavy water, to the store in which you buy it.
Our office is powered by 100% renewable energy
Our office is powered by the wonderful team at Ecotricity, who are themselves a 100% carbon neutral certified power provider and to top it off, community owned! So all our energy generation is 100% renewable.
Staff Travel and Team Emissions
Our biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are international freight and staff travel. We only travel internationally when necessary and when we do, we make sure to offset our travel emissions not once, but twice.
We offset all of our team air travel, with either the airline we are flying with (such as Air New Zealand) or through apps such as Sustainabletravel.org.
All team emissions
Going beyond what a typical business may consider, we have partnered with Ecologi to offset all our team’s personal lives and personal travel, as well as those directly attributable to Ethique (this means that all our travel is double offset).
International Freight and Staff Travel
Our biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions are international freight and staff travel.
We have opened a regional warehouse in the USA and UK to service all orders from the UK, Europe and the United States. This means instead of airfreighting e-commerce orders everywhere, we can bulk sea freight to the warehouse (which lowers emissions to just 3% that of airfreight!), then get parcels to your door with as minimal air travel as possible. We will open further warehouses too in other countries.
By expanding into further retail doors around the world, we are able to bulk sea freight to their warehouses too, meaning no airfreight needed at all!
And yes, we are exploring manufacturing closer to our larger markets too in either the United States or the UK, as locally made is even better. But we will always manufacture products in New Zealand!
One tree for every order
One tree or mangrove is planted for every order you make. Yep, you read that right! Ecologi choose where the need is greatest and work with NGOS, indigenous people and locals to plant seedlings in places such as Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Check out our forest here!
Our goal is to plant 400,000 trees by the end of 2021. This would offset over 26,000 ton of carbon dioxide*, which is over double our current footprint. This is what we mean by being climate positive. We pay to draw carbon emissions that we have not produced out of the atmosphere.
*It is the globally accepted standard that 15 trees will offset one ton of carbon over twenty years of growth (accounting for variables such as temperature, species of tree, rate of growth, climate and so on).