ecostore Research and Development Manager Huia Iti says Malcolm and Melanie’s original vision for finding a way to clean your home and your body more safely naturally grew out of their experiences in setting up their eco-village in Northland. “There was a stream flowing through the property and they wanted the water coming out of their home to be as clean as the river water flowing in. The basic idea was around making and selling cleaning products that had no harmful or unnecessary chemicals, but without compromising on performance or value.”
Manufacturing can present environmental and sustainability challenges around areas like energy use and waste disposal, as can packaging, an area where FMCG products can come in for close scrutiny and criticism. But Iti says ecostore’s biggest challenge wasn’t sourcing its healthier ingredients or resolving packaging or manufacturing issues.
“It was about removing that stigma that eco products don’t work or cost too much. We always had great products but there was a lot of scepticism among consumers: If the bigger brands weren’t making these sorts of products, why should they change and buy eco-products? We had to really work hard to get people to open their minds to the possibilities. The emergence of conscious consumerism has really given us hope in the future and that doing the right thing is a mandatory for businesses.”
Iti says all ecostore’s ingredients are assessed against the company’s strict health and environmental criteria and suitability for septic tanks and “grey” water use. “Our products are derived from minerals and renewable plants. We follow the precautionary principle; if there is any doubt about the safety of an ingredient for people’s health or the environment, we find an alternative. Our ingredients are also GE-free and not tested on animals.
“When ecostore started, the choices for ingredients were limited, but the ‘green’ chemical industry has taken off in recent years and there are more and more options available and multiple suppliers. There are a few ingredients that still present a bit of a challenge but in time we’re sure those issues will be overcome.”
To meet the manufacturing challenges, Iti says the company moved quickly to put an environmental management system (EMS) in place and has Enviro-Mark Diamond, carboNZero and ISO14001 accreditation, in addition to its Environmental Choice New Zealand licences.
ecostore is also committed to reducing waste wherever possible and sourcing the most sustainable packaging, says Iti. “Our laundry boxes are made from 95% recycled material and our bottles are made using renewable sugar-based plastic - even our new toothbrushes are made from plant plastic. And for every kilogram of sugar plastic, 2kg of CO2 is captured from the atmosphere, helping us and consumers reduce their carbon footprint.”
All of ecostore’s packaging is 100% recyclable, he says. “Reuse of our containers or recycling are both totally viable options for consumers. We also encourage waste reduction by offering bulk sizes and refills.
“The challenge is in educating people about reusing and recycling and encouraging them to be responsible by communicating the positive benefits.”
Iti says ecostore is very clear about what is good about the company’s products but turned to Environmental Choice New Zealand to provide the all-important third-party validation of their claims. “It’s reassuring for all of us when an independent authority like Environmental Choice assesses our products and operations and comes to the same conclusion - and is happy to have their brand associated with ours.
“The ecolabel takes out any perceived marketing bias and provides a level of confidence that our products are safer for people and their environment.”
ecostore’s mission from the start was to source, then later create themselves, cleaning and bodycare products without harmful or unnecessary chemicals, putting people's health first and giving them the choice to live clean, says Iti.
“Ultimately our vision is for companies globally to design their products and supply chains with the whole lifecycle in mind and participate positively in the circular economy - and for every consumer to treat packaging as a valuable resource for continuous use.”
Created by founders Malcolm and Melanie Rands in 1993, ecostore has become a kiwi poster-child for cleaning and personal care products that harm neither the body nor the environment.
ecostore produces a wide range including cleaning, personal care, skin care and baby care products and recently added in an oral care range with toothpastes, mouthwashes and even a toothbrush made from plants. From humble beginnings in Northland, the company now manufactures in Auckland, and exports to Australia, China and other Asian markets.
ecostore’s Environmental Choice New Zealand licences currently cover three areas: Laundry Powders and Laundry Liquids; Dishwashing Liquids, Auto Dish Powders and Rinse Aids; and Hand Dishwashing Detergents.