Ethique has been named 'New Zealand's most sustainable business', and deservedly so. They're the world's first zero-waste full range beauty brand, and they've prevented over 1 million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of.
Considering 80 billion plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles are thrown out globally each year, and only 12% of plastic worldwide is recycled - every Ethique bar is making an incredibly positive impact.
We share Ethique's values, and we share their waste-minimising goals too, which is why we've partnered with them for The Fashion Advocate's 2019 IDENTITY runway. They'll be popping sustainable goodies in our VIP bags, and you'll love them. They're plastic free, plant-based, cruelty-free, sustainable and revolutionary, plus they smell divine too.
Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher are among their global fans, and Ethique's founder, Brianne West, couldn't be prouder...
Tell us a bit about the journey from start-up to now?
Ethique came about as a combination of my passion for the environment, knowledge of cosmetic chemistry (and the waste the industry creates), and the desire to create a business that had far more at its core than just making a profit. Years ago, while I was studying at university, I taught myself cosmetic chemistry from scratch, with loads of research into what each ingredient does, and how to build a product from the ground up.
Up to 75% of shampoo and 90% of conditioner can be water, which just seemed crazy to me. Obviously, water is an important part of the product, but I was interested in what happened if you simply combined the ingredients without water. Shampoo bars aren’t particularly unusual, but the majority of them are soap. Soap has a very high pH level that leaves a residue and roughs up the hair cuticle, leaving some people with a result less than desired. I wanted to create something much closer to a typical salon quality shampoo, but solid, of course! After some fabulous feedback from my guinea-pigs (human ones, of course), I branched out into conditioners, then started replacing everything in my bathroom with solid versions.
A couple of our newer products do contain a little water, such as The Perfector, our solid face cream, and Bombshell, our self-tanning bar. This is necessary to get some of the ingredients in there, but the majority are completely water-free.
What does ‘ethical beauty’ mean to you?
In a nutshell, being ethical is about operating in a way which does as little harm as possible to people, the planet and all its inhabitants. That is a lot to say in one sentence. To be a truly ethical company, you must consider everything. I daresay, there is likely something we haven’t considered that we will need to address one day. I say ‘as little’ rather than ‘none’ because sometimes, even with the best intentions, you can cause a side effect you didn’t consider. For example, the boycott of palm oil is putting pressure on much less efficient oils, which may cause an even larger environmental disaster in a few years. I get really irritated with the rubbish the marketing machines spin, and everyone involved with Ethique knows better than to use the words ‘natural’ or ‘chemical free’ without strict controls. Our ingredients are naturally derived and free from preservatives, formaldehyde, sodium lauryl sulphate and other undesirable ingredients.
There is a social media trend among beauty influencers to share their myriad of '#empties'; proudly displaying all the plastic-homed products they've been through. How do you tackle this and encourage sustainability and zero-waste in an industry with a huge rubbish problem?
Leading from the front! Lots of companies are working toward having 100% recyclable packaging, but frankly, that ship has sailed. 9% of all plastic ever made, has been recycled. Recycling simply is not the answer as it’s just not working. We need to stop making virgin plastic with urgency and start repurposing what we have already made, along with creating innovative and genuinely compostable alternatives.
Your ingredients are natural and certified organic, cruelty-free and fair-trade. Where do you source your ingredients from?
Every Ethique bar is made with 100% naturally derived ingredients, and some are certified organic, though it is not a hugely important label to us. All of our ingredients are sustainably sourced. Our coconut oil, for example, is sourced directly through our partnership with a women’s cooperative in Samoa. Our cocoa butter comes from a variety of different sources, and it's an ingredient we are working on operating directly with producers for. One of these sources is the CONACADO cooperative in the Dominican Republic, who are fair-trade certified.
What would you say to someone feeling hesitant about changing from traditional liquid-form products to solid bars?
As much as they look like soap, they are far from it. Our shampoo bars (which people are the most hesitant of) are completely soap-free and pH balanced. It’s exactly like a natural, salon quality liquid shampoo, simply without the water (or preservatives.) We have a huge repurchase rate; 70% of people who try a sampler pack go on to purchase a full-size product within three months, so sampling is a big part of it because when you try it, you love it.
What was Ethique's first product and what's your favourite product now?
The first product I created as Ethique (or Sorbet, as it was once called) was the Damage Control shampoo bar. Back in those days, we hand wrapped each product in a water-soluble paper. My favourite bar now? This changes pretty frequently, but at the moment it would be the Pinkalicious shampoo, Lime & Ginger body-polish and our new delicious Butter Block (a solid body lotion) which is creamier and more hydrating than the previous ones! A new range we’re bringing out soon is going to be a favourite too.
The Fashion Advocate x