Christchurch based Ethique (pronounced Eh-tique) began life as a young, fledgling business looking to provide healthier, more sustainable soaps and shampoos to the people of New Zealand. After some development and a highly successful campaign on Pledgeme.com, these low-waste, eco-friendly, cruelty-free bars have taken the country by storm.
Dunedin born Brianne West started Ethique while she was studying science at University. She has always been passionate about sustainability and conservation and was horrified to discover the amount of waste we produce each year (including the fact that we send 80 billion plastic bottles to the landfill each year just from shampoo and conditioner alone) – and this drove her to build a business for purpose, not just profit. When she learnt that water makes up up to 75% of shampoo and up to 90% of conditioner, she realised that she could remove the problem of plastic packaging by simply removing water as an ingredient in shampoos.
Brianne set about teaching herself cosmetic chemistry from scratch, researching what each ingredient does best and experimenting with combining ingredients without the use of water. The majority of shampoo bars on the market are soap, which has a high ph, leaves a residue, and roughs up the hair cuticle. Brianne wanted to create something much closer to a typical salon quality shampoo, but solid. After some more research and feedback from her guinea pigs (human ones!), Brianne was happy with her formula and branched out into conditioners and then started replacing many other things in her bathroom with solid versions.
Everything Ethique does is considered from two angles. Firstly, how it will benefit the business - (they feel that without a sustainable, functioning business, they won’t be able to create change), and how it aligns with their values which are something they won’t compromise on.
If something makes commercial sense, but doesn’t align with their values e.g. if an ingredient can’t guarantee a cruelty free supply chain, then Ethique will say no. And if something aligns with their values, but isn’t commercially viable, they assess whether or not it might work from a charitable angle and go from there.
Brianne believes that ‘Business’ in its original form thousands of years ago was about providing people with what they needed in a way that benefited everyone but that now, businesses are often run in a way that treats their shareholders first with a 'profit at all costs' mentality. Customers come second and the environment, suppliers and staff a distant third. Not only does she believe this to be unsustainable long term, she also feels that it’s unethical and an unkind way to live. By being one of many examples showing that an ethical business can be sustainable and profitable, Ethique hope to create change in the way people think about running a business, as well as contributing to less plastic and less waste. As Brianne says – “It’s simply the right thing to do and I couldn’t imagine running a business any other way.”
This pioneering, compassionate company have made a commitment to donate 20% of profit (or 2% of sales, whichever is higher) to charitable causes. Due to their rapid growth – they are looking forward to developing some partnerships with some non-profits around the world.
Ethique is also expanding internationally, already in the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and launching in Japan later this year. A new range of products is coming later this year too. Other than that, they are excited to grow the brand as fast as sustainably possible so that they can help more people #giveupthebottle!