Say no to plastic bottles with our handcrafted solid shampoos, conditioners, face and body, solid beauty bars. Full of natural goodness. Cruelty-free and vegan.
Tell us about the business—what’s your elevator pitch?
Ethique is the world’s most sustainable lifestyle brand and we’re on a mission to rid the world of plastic waste. I started Ethique (French for ‘ethical’) in 2012 when I began making natural beauty bars in my kitchen as an alternative to the 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles thrown out globally each year. Since then, Ethique has grown into a fully-fledged, award-winning international beauty brand that maintains its strong commitments to the environment, animals and people.
The range consists of over 40 products (and growing!) exported in over 14 countries all over the world. All products are plastic-free, proudly made in New Zealand, certified palm oil-free by the Orangutan Alliance, certified cruelty-free and vegan and all packaging is certified compostable. Ethique donates 20% of profits, is ranked in the top 10% of B Corps globally and is living wage accredited.
What was the inspiration for the business?
I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial and wanted to build a business that was environmentally-friendly and based on solid values.
After learning about how much waste the cosmetics industry produces, I taught myself cosmetic chemistry while studying biology at the University of Canterbury. Between 75-90% of shampoo and conditioners are made from water – which is ridiculous as we have water already in our bathrooms!
So, I began formulating solid beauty bars that delivered the same results but without the need for any plastic packaging. All our packaging is certified compostable and collectively, Ethique customers have stopped over 4.4 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of into landfills and are aiming to stop 50 million by 2025.
How has technology helped?
The technology needed to make the bars in the first stages of the business was not complex, I began in my kitchen and simply started to use bigger equipment. However, with Ethique’s rapid growth, scaling such as unusual product was not without its challenges for manufacturing the bars, compostable packaging and plastic free distribution also. With this, our manufacturers and warehouses have utilised new technologies to keep up with demand without compromising any of our environmental values. Technological developments have also helped us immensely in the space of e-commerce, social media and digital marketing.
What’s been key to the business success so far?
Our story has played a key role in the success of Ethique. We have a robust purpose, to rid the world of plastic bottles and be an inspiration to other businesses, which people can understand and get behind, which is why they love our brand. Ethique is built on having a purpose, not just about making money.
I am the company’s spokesperson, as most CEOs and founders are, because people buy from people, not companies – they want to know more about the people behind a brand. We have 350 shareholders that helped us through two crowdfunding raises – allowing to fuel Ethique’s growth. Equal to this of course is our amazing team who work day in day out to ensure that everything is working seamlessly.
What’s been the most exciting part of the journey so far?
When I began Ethique, I had a goal of saving one million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of in landfills. I can now proudly say we have saved over 4.4 million plastic bottles which to me represents a collective global movement to eliminate single use plastics.
How Important has the Icehouse Ventures Showcase been to your business?
The first showcase I spoke at, we’d saved 200,000 bottles from being made and disposed of. The last one I spoke at saw us save 4.1 million bottles so the support of Icehouse Ventures has been very important with introductions to investors and contacts throughout New Zealand and anyone in business knows that contacts and networks make all the difference!
How has the Icehouse Ventures Showcase helped you as a founder?
The networking opportunities have been extremely helpful, especially for further investments and international contacts that have allowed us to continue growing and working towards our mission.
What drives you personally?
I am deeply passionate about animals and the environment, it’s the reason why I created Ethique and why I am still so committed, seven years on, to continue to use the business as a platform that allows us to help alleviate environmental crises, educate, and work with charities.
What is your vision of the future?
A fairer world for all, where ecocide and environmental degradation for the sake of economic growth is not accepted by anyone. Right now, despite huge consumer pressure, the plastic industry is gearing up to produce 30% more product by 2025. There is more than enough plastic to go around, so let’s stop making more. Ethique is proof businesses can eliminate plastic, consider the entire lifecycle of their product and still be profitable. We must just think outside the bottle.