Ecostore is a leading brand in sustainability that offers a range of products from skin and body care, to baby and home care. The company was founded in 1993 by Malcolm and Melanie Rands and had humble beginnings as a mail-order business based in an eco-village in New Zealand’s North Island.
Fast forward to today, Ecostore now operates in more than a dozen markets, including Japan, Korea, China, and Singapore, in addition to its home markets of New Zealand and Australia.
Since its inception and overseas expansion, the company has seen an uptick in consumer adoption of eco-friendly alternatives.
“We’ve seen the growth of refills, particularly in places with markets that were slow to adopt broader sustainability trends. The adoption of things like refills and the concern of single-use plastics have been remarkable. So yes, we are quite hopeful and there’s a lot to look forward to,” said Hamish McCarroll, export manager of Ecostore.
Just in September, the sustainability leader attained B Corporation Certification for its Australasian operations, a feat which took over two years to achieve.
“The beautiful thing about B-Corp is that it's not a matter of attaining something, it's incrementally getting better and better every year,” said McCarroll.
Closing the loop
As part of its mission to close the loop, the company is placing emphasis on promoting its refill and plastic recycling initiatives.
The company began its plastic return programme last year as a “solution to the problem of a broken recycling system in New Zealand” and one of its priorities next year is to expand it.
“We became increasingly aware over the last two or three years that our recycling system here isn't quite as good as we thought it was. In fact, a lot of it was shipped to China and then subsequently to places like Malaysia and Indonesia,” said McCarroll.
The company set up a programme where consumers could return their used ecostore packaging. The returned bottles are broken down and blended back into ecostore’s mix of sugar-based and recycled plastic to create new bottles.
The programme is also conducted on a smaller scale in Hong Kong when similar problems with its recycling system emerged. Returned bottles, which had previously been shipped by ecostore’s Distributor to a reputable Indonesian processor, are now returned to New Zealand and incorporated into ecostore’s plastic return program, thereby closing the loop on that packaging.
Internationally, the company has been expanding its refill and reuse programme, which started in Japan three to four years ago. Today, Ecostore boasts more than 200 refill stations globally, with half of them situated across Asia.
“We started the refill stations more than a decade ago in New Zealand. We recently celebrated launching more than 200 refill stations globally, which was a really cool milestone for the business. A hundred of those are in New Zealand, but really excitingly, another 100 is across Asia and they're growing very quickly,” said McCarroll.
The company has observed that the refill movement has been accelerating in the past couple of years and is especially heartened given that it was not an effortless endeavour.
“It's a huge amount of work in terms of the infrastructure. We're very lucky; we've got some very committed partners in different parts of the world and they're committed to what we're trying to achieve,” said McCarroll.
Reducing water use
In addition to its refill and recycling initiatives, Ecostore is working on developing new product formats that can reduce plastic use.
In particular, the company has been focusing on reducing the use of water in formulations with concentrated formulas and solid product formats.
“[Reducing water in formulations] just makes sense if you’re shipping products anywhere. It definitely reduces the environmental footprint of the product, even where international logistics aren’t necessarily the largest part of a product’s environmental footprint,” said McCarroll.
The company now has this year released a range of concentrated cleaning refills in 50ml glass bottles, reducing the need to repurchase a 500ml plastic bottle, and another spray trigger, which can be reused again up to 24 times.
This not only allows the company to reduce its reliance on plastic but also reduce the impact through shipping and use less water as well.
For similar reasons, the company has recently launched a range of solid shampoo and conditioner bars in the New Zealand market, which are due to launch in Japan shortly.