*This feature is not sponsored or paid for in any way by Ethique or any other invested party
Personal care products are one of the biggest sources of plastic waste in households everywhere. Just thinking about how many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, face wash, etc. we’ve used over the years gives you an idea of the enormity of the problem. The world produces about 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year but only 9% of it ever gets recycled. That translates to about 8 million tonnes of plastic that end up in the ocean every year. The problem is overwhelming and daunting but one company decided there’s something that could be done about it.
In 2012, Brianne West decided to make natural personal care bars as an alternative to products that need to be sold in plastic packaging. Since then, her small project has grown into Ethique - New Zealand’s highest-scoring B Corp certified company making over 40 different products and selling them all over the world. To learn more about this innovative brand and the company behind it, we reached out to an Ethique brand representative.
Ethique has no parent company. It was started by founder Brianne West, an entrepreneur from New Zealand. The company started with equity crowdfunding via PledgeMe in 2015. The pledges in the campaign have translated to over 350 shareholders of Ethique.
INGREDIENTS & RAW MATERIALS
Any ingredient that will be used in any Ethique product must meet these four criteria:
No health risks associated with their use (when used in the expected concentration in a cosmetic product)
Must be sustainably produced and biodegradable
Cruelty-free and plant-based (Ethique products are certified cruelty-free (by three independent organisations: CCF, PETA, and SAFE) and vegan
Most of their bars do not need preservatives because a lack of water means the product cannot support microbial life. Their products that need preserving contain a small concentration of benzyl alcohol and dehydroacetic acid, which is a safe preservation system based on natural sources.
You can find more information about the ingredients they use here and a list of ingredients for each of their products and variants are on the respective product pages on their website.
Their in-shower containers for their bars are also plastic-free. They are made mainly from bamboo and cornstarch so they are actually compostable.
Ethique products are not organic.
SOURCING & PRODUCTION
Ethique advocates for direct trade, which is similar to fair trade, except without an intermediary.
They have direct relationships with their suppliers and are responsible for paying them fair prices and ensuring that working conditions are safe. Ethique believes in paying fair prices to suppliers who share their commitment to protecting the environment. Br paying local growers fair prices, reliable income, and good working conditions, Ethique are able to empower them to plan for their future, send their children to school, and hire local people in their businesses.
They provide some information about some of their direct trade partners on their website.
All Ethique bars are made in New Zealand.
PACKAGING & RECYCLING OPTIONS
All of Ethique’s packaging is compostable. They only use New Zealand made cardboard boxes made from PEFC-certified paper stock from sustainably sourced forestry. Their packaging is also free of chlorine and acid so the water that is used to make the paper is clean.
All orders placed on their website are also shipped plastic-free: packed in a cardboard box with paper protection (instead of bubble wrap) and sealed with paper tape. They call all be chucked into compost and will disappear in a few months. In 2020, they launched a new plastic-free warehouse in the USA which ships completely plastic-free, just like their New Zealand warehouse.
GIVING BACK & ADVOCACY
Ethique has partnered with Offset.Earth to plant a tree or mangrove for every order placed. Offset.Earth chooses where the need is greatest, then works with NGOs, indigenous communities, and locals to plant seedlings in places like Madagascar and Sri Lanka. You can have a look at their forest and how much carbon they have offset so far here. Their goal is to plant 200,000 trees by the end of 2020 which would offset over 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide - is over double their current footprint. Being carbon neutral is a priority for Ethique and they hope to go a step further by working to become carbon positive by the end of 2020. A step towards this is powering their office via Ecotricity, a community-owned, 100% carbon neutral certified power provider.
Ethique also launched its Super Soap Project on April 21st 2020 in response to COVID-19. The project was launched to donate bars of soap to vulnerable communities with limited to no access to soap across New Zealand and the South Pacific. They initially pledged 10,000 bars and matched every bar purchased by customers via their website with a Super Soap bar donation. As of 21 May 2020, they have donated over 26,700 bars of Super Soap in collaboration with the following partners: Oxfam, the Fono, The Community Builders, Manurewa Marae, Manukau Urban Māori Authority, Káute Pasifika, Failoa Famili, and Porirua Union and Community Health.
One of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions for Ethique are international freight. To minimise this, they opened a regional warehouse in the USA to service all orders from the UK, Europe, and the USA. They now send products in bulk via sea freight to this warehouse instead of sending all orders from New Zealand. This lowers their emissions to just 3% to that of airfreight. They are also looking at opening more warehouses in other countries and expanding manufacturing closer to larger markets to further reduce emissions.
Another priority for Ethique is their financial sustainability. They pay a living wage instead of the minimum, have done since the very beginning, and are proudly certified by Living Wage Aotearoa.
Aside from all of these, 20% of Ethique’s profits also go to charities that are working to protect the planet.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSIVITY
Ethique did not give us any data regarding workforce diversity at this time.
Small changes like switching to bars instead of bottles for the products we use can really stack up and make a difference in how much waste leaves our homes. With their array of bars to use from your hair to your laundry to your pets, Ethique offers conscious consumers the option to do just that and have a pleasant experience doing it. Also, by choosing to purchase from them, you are supporting a company that supports fair labour practices, helps out their local community, and funds projects to plant trees around the world, all while being carbon neutral.
So, if you’ve been looking to reduce waste at home by making changes in the personal care products you buy, maybe consider joining Ethique in their campaign to #giveupthebottle and stopping 50 million plastic bottles from ending up in landfills by 2025. And if you’re still not convinced, each bar lasts anywhere from 2 to 5 times longer than bottled products. Plus, if for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, you can send it back within 14 days for a refund. Risk-free, and everyone (including the planet) wins!
If you’ve tried Ethique products, let us know what you think in the comments below!
Ethique ships to Australia, New Zealand, select countries in Asia, the United Kingdom, 26 countries across the European Union, and selected countries in North, Central, and South America via their website. You can also find stockists on their website.