New Zealand-based beauty brand Ethique was founded on the principles of driving down plastic waste yielded by the cosmetics industry. We spoke to Brianne West, the creative brain behind this sustainable operation, on the beauty of bar form and how customers can #giveupthebottle.
Parvati Magazine: Ethique is making the case to ditch the bottle in favour of the bar. What are the benefits of making the switch, and how do you convince skeptics?
Brianne West: Every year, over 80 billion plastic bottles are disposed of from just shampoo and conditioner alone. We use and discard eight million tonnes of plastic into the ocean every year due to improper disposal and wash off from the landfill. That is absolutely unacceptable, and it is easy to reduce a lot of our plastic usage if we just think a little more about what we use and buy every day.
These numbers are staggering, and the damage we are causing to the planet is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Ethique is encouraging customers to #giveupthebottle in order to curb the issue of plastic waste with our 100% naturally derived bars packed in compostable cardboard packaging. Making the switch is easy as we provide over 48 different options across our range of hair, face, body, and home products, and we are expanding the range rapidly. We even have a dog shampoo bar!
Parvati Magazine: Brianne, you started Ethique in your New Zealand kitchen, and it is now sought after internationally. Did you predict this success? What do you think fuels the demand for this kind of product?
Brianne West: Absolutely not. I don’t think too many people start a business from their home and expect it to actually succeed. I didn’t think it would fail, but I certainly didn’t think we’d be in 14 countries by the end of the sixth year.
People are becoming increasingly educated on the issue of plastic consumption and waste around the world. They are looking for easy but effective ways to effect change, which is what Ethique has set out to do. Most people won’t buy a product because it is eco-friendly if the product doesn’t work. So I had to create a product that people loved, which had some eco credentials on the side.
The products are high-quality, vegan and cruelty-free, palm oil-free, 100% biodegradable, and in 100% compostable packaging. This list ticks so many boxes that other companies cannot, so we please a lot of people.
Parvati Magazine: Your ethos goes beyond beauty to charity involvement, transparent trade, environmental stewardship, and cruelty-free practices. Why are these key to your brand?
Brianne West: It comes down to what I believe business should be. We should not be the outlier. Every business should think of its entire supply chain as its team, and should be responsible for the entire life cycle of its products—including the wasted packaging at the end of the product’s life.
Ethique is run as sustainably as possible, in every sense of the word. Our team is all paid well above a living wage, our ingredients are sustainably sourced and free of troublesome ingredients (like palm oil), and we donate 20% of our profits to charity. But we are also financially sustainable. We brought on board 352 shareholders in two equity crowdfunding rounds in 2015 and 2017. So it’s exceedingly important that we also think of them and run the business in a financially responsible manner.
If we can do it, it shows other businesses that we can look after people and the planet, and create economic growth at the same time.
Parvati Magazine: For first-timers, what is a good bar to start with?
Brianne West: Definitely a shampoo and conditioner. My favourite is the Pinkalicious shampoo bar (with Wonderbar conditioner). It’s sweet smelling and lathers and cleanses hair perfectly, and it looks beautiful on a bathroom shelf!
Parvati Magazine: What is next for Ethique? Do you have another candidate in mind to replace with a bar form?
Brianne West: We have about 28 products slated for release within the next 12 to 18 months. A couple of ranges are completely new, and I’m very excited about them. We are, of course, continuing to expand into new countries and new retail channels to try and make a plastic-free bathroom (and house) more accessible.
Brianne West, founder and CEO of Ethique Beauty, started her company in 2012 to address excessive packaging produced by the cosmetics industry. She is committed to ridding the world of (cosmetic) plastic bottles, one bar at a time. She is the scientific mind behind Ethique, and she formulates the products, too.