Sustainable Spotlight featuring Ethique – Binks

Sustainable Spotlight featuring Ethique

Our third blog post for our sustainable spotlight series is a very special one as we have the opportunity to speak to Brooke and Brianne from Ethique. Ethique is a leader in our cosmetics industry. They specialise in creating plastic free, climate positive, cruelty free and vegan shampoo and conditioner bars which has grown in to an even wider range of sustainable cosmetics.

Not only are they planet conscious, they give back by donating 2% of sales to conservation. Ethique is partnered with many charity organisations and have 'adopted' wildlife to help fund their care. Ethique is truly an awesome brand who cares deeply for our environment. We are excited to follow their journey and to see this leading brand drive change and continue to evolve.

What does sustainability mean to your brand?
Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Ethique. How we source ingredients, how we function and operate as an office/team, how we grow our business, how we manufacture and distribute products.

How have you/do you improve on your sustainability as the sustainability movement shifts and grows?
An example is that we have recently opened warehouses in the US and UK which means we have to rely far less on air freight and can instead transport by sea - sea freight has 3% of the emissions of air freight.

What inspired you to build a sustainable brand?
Quote from Brianne: 
'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.'

What is the most challenging thing about running a sustainable business?

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.
Quote from Brianne: '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.
Quote from Brianne: '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.'

Plastic-free shipping
Logistics is extremely challenging as the use of plastic is deeply intertwined into most warehousing systems.
Quote from Brianne: '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.'

Has the pandemic accelerated or shifted your sustainability goals? If so, how?
Our sustainability goals have remained largely unaffected by the pandemic.

Do you think the niche of sustainability will break through as being mainstream? Will this affect your brand?
We hope that one day sustainable, ethically run businesses will be the norm. Naturally this will be positive for our brand as we will be in the centre of the market.

How do you ensure circularity?
All of our ingredients are responsibly and ethically sourced, with fair pay going to our suppliers. Our packaging is 100% home compostable. We source our cardboard from NZ certified sustainable forests. This means that it is a renewable and regenerated resource, that also supports an industry in some of NZ's rural communities. When the packaging has served its purpose, it can be torn up and planted in the ground to support new life in our customer's gardens.