When Brianne West came up with a plan to launch a sustainable beauty business from her kitchen table, she believed her idea could change the world.
Her friends and family were skeptical when she planted her business in between college classes after becoming disillusioned with the amount of single-use plastic in her bathroom.
Now the 34-year-old New Zealander is walking Ethics – the world’s first zero-waste beauty company and a multi-million dollar company serving customers around the world.
She’s excited to see how much her business has grown since 2012, but told FEMAIL there’s still so much to do.
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The Ethique products are solids and contain soaps, shampoos and conditioners
“When I first started, people were skeptical, there wasn’t the pressure we see now to help protect the environment,” she said.
Brianne admitted that good timing, luck and hard work were all crucial factors in her success.
If she had started earlier, people might not have noticed, and maybe not later, and she might not have been the first zero-waste company in her field.
“I wanted to save a million pieces of landfill waste by 2020 — we’ve surpassed that by a factor of ten,” she said.
Ethique’s products are solids and include soaps, shampoos and conditioners.
Because they’re sturdy, there’s no need to wrap them in plastic – so they can use paper-based products instead.
‘But just swapping plastic for paper isn’t good enough – paper production can also come with a host of other environmental problems.’
So the company recycles and recycles their paper, meaning they only use 10-25kg of water per kilo for their packaging instead of 400kg of water.
Brianne’s vision has also prompted ‘the big boys’ to create sustainable packaging for their products as well.
“We don’t worry about more bar products because they’re not really our competition – our competition is and has always been liquid products.
The company teamed up with Bindi Irwin to create a Wombar – a limited edition shampoo here $1 AUD from each sale aimed at the Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors
She says there needs to be a shift away from single-use plastics
“There are a lot of people who believe that bar products dry out and damage them,” she said.
“This is because there has been really solid marketing for liquid products for the past 80 years.
But the form doesn’t matter, the wording doesn’t matter and we need to keep an open mind if we want to tackle this ecological emergency,” she said.
Ethique’s most recent offering is lip balm. Presented to the customer in a cardboard tube, the product can help lip balm users shake off the guilt of losing their tiny plastic tubes.
“Most people use lip balms and very few people finish them,” she said.
Instead, the tiny plastic tubes end up in landfills after they’re found in old bags or dropped into dark corners, she explained.
That or they accidentally end up in our waterways after falling from pockets and handbags.
She wants to be able to offer a sustainable alternative for every bathroom and kitchen product
‘We have finally succeeded in making a cardboard tube that is compostable and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,’ she says.
The company plans to provide a sustainable option for every product used in bathrooms and kitchens worldwide.
Brianne was young and naive when she started the business and admits she made mistakes.
But without them, she wouldn’t have the refined and ruthless business mind she has today.
Breaking straight out of college and going out alone was a good idea.
“I’m a terrible employee,” she said, admitting that she prefers to be in control.
Her range includes cleansers as well as lip gloss, moisturizer and deodorant
The brand’s largest market is the US, but they have also achieved tremendous success in Japan and are expanding their presence in Europe.
Freight is currently the most challenging aspect of the business, but this is something that many companies are dealing with after the onset of the global pandemic.
Brianne says good timing, luck and hard work were key to her company’s success.
When she started her business, people were less concerned about the environment, but the tide turned quickly and people were excited to see her zero-waste products.