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Exemplar: ecostore

This case study highlights how product-based businesses can take practical steps to reduce the environmental impact of their products downstream and the importance of bringing customers on the journey.

ecostore was started by Malcolm Rands and his wife Melanie out of their home in 1993. They wanted to source healthier products, with no toxic or unnecessary chemicals. They also made a commitment that their products would work just as well as mainstream brands.

ecostore is now New Zealand's leading manufacturer and retailer of sustainable household cleaning and personal care products, with a range of over 100 products manufactured locally to the highest environmental and sustainability standards, and sold in more than seven countries worldwide. The company's factory in Auckland has ISO14001, Diamond Enviromark and carboNZero certifications.

ecostore has spent a lot of time developing products and packaging that reduce its downstream impacts. It is focusing on reducing the impact of the products it makes,but also educating consumers about how they can improve what they buy, how they use cleaning products and how to minimise their own waste.

Focus on upstream and downstream

For its products, as well as being made from sustainably-sourced plant and mineral based ingredients, it ensures all ingredients are assessed for sustainability,biodegradability and suitability for septic tanks and grey water systems.

Minimising packaging is the company's biggest ongoing challenge and, while reducing waste wherever it can, it uses a mix of recycled and recyclable materials for its packaging.

Figure 1.  ecostore's value chain

ecostore's value chain

The company provides more sustainable packaging options through offering refills and bulk sizes, using clear packaging and labels to reduce the use of printing inks, and using water-based adhesives to apply labels.

Aside from providing consumers with a more sustainable alternative to cleaning products, ecostore also provides full disclosure on all the ingredients in its products so consumers can make informed decisions on what products they chose to buy.

ecostore also educates consumers through its website, where it provides more information about its ingredients, including the health and environmental impacts. While the general perception is that sustainable products will be much more expensive, ecostore continues to remain competitive for many of its products against market leaders.

Opportunities Risks

Using products as a platform to educate consumers about health and environmental sustainability.

Encourage disclosure to become a "norm" for producers (possibility to enhance legal requirements?).

Consumers can make fully informed decisions.

Business niche for a growing number of conscious consumers.

Have to compete with "green washing" claims made by competitors.

Third-party certification to verify green claims can be costly.

Can result in a higher price-point for consumers.

Challenges Key Success Factors

Being fully transparent can also highlight flaws in a product.

Educating the consumers on why a green claim is better or different then a rival products.

Transparency.

Independent certification.

Showing how environmental effects are being considered at important aspects of the value chain rather than just one.