I always scan the supermarket shelves to find brands that do good, work good and make me feel good. Which is why the sustainable and organic eco store brand was an obvious choice as it stood out as a brand with purpose.
While its understated black and white packaging caught my eye so did its promise of being plant and mineral based with no nasty chemicals. True to its word it had no ammonia, no benzyl alcohol, no parfum, no phosphates, no sodium chloride. Feeling satisfied I took it home for one final test – could it work? Four loads later and the answer was a very happy YES!
I rapidly became a big eco store fan scanning the supermarket shelves for more and more products – I was on a high knowing I was using a product that was good and doing good at the same time. After I had an impressive collection of eco store laundry detergents, hair and beauty products I wanted to learn more about the brand’s altruistic journey and who was behind it.
One phone call later and I discovered his name was – Malcolm Rands – and he was on a mission to get business to change the world. Rands developed eco store as a principles-based company that isn’t just about maximizing profits but also about maximizing the benefit to people and the planet. It makes a very genuine promise that does not endanger our health or the environment.
Malcolm Rands started eco store with his wife Melanie in the basement of their home in an eco-village in New Zealand in 1993. It was his passion for using sustainable and organic gardening practices that led him to question the amount of toxins used in cleaning products.
“When we created eco store we had the eco village’s pristine natural environment in mind and wanted to help preserve it. We challenged ourselves to create a range of cleaning products where the water coming out from the laundry was as clear as when it went in. Before this no one tested or even questioned what ingredients were used in most laundry products. It was a real awakening when we discovered how toxic these ingredients were.”
Ecostore uses the precautionary-principle when selecting ingredients – “if there’s a risk they may harm then they’re out,” says Rands. They are also assessed using the Environmental Group’s Database – an environmental organization that tests toxic chemicals. “Eco store gave consumers a choice of products that worked and were better for your health and the wider environment. My aim was to have good money going to good causes,” says Rands.
A percentage of eco store profits and resources go to The Fairground Foundation that Rands founded. Its purpose is to create projects that make a difference in people’s lives and to the communities they live in, particularly in the areas of health, culture and sustainability. “Fairground puts organic gardens in schools one day a week and is the only provider of solar power in New Zealand.”
Eco store practices the ‘elegant chemistry’ approach where as few ingredients as possible are used in their products. “We don’t listen to environmental judging and don’t want to make anyone feel guilty about the impact they are having on the environment. All we want to do is give customers a better choice. We believe small changes make a huge difference.”
When Rands founded eco store two decades ago, it was a humble mail-order business. Today it is stocked in more than 2,000 Australian stores, including nationally in both Coles and Woolworths. Plus outlets in Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and supermarket chains in the United States of America including 150 stores in New York city and have a turnover of around $33 million. The business has grown exponentially since it began in a small permaculture ecovillage where Rands still spends a lot of time.
The formula that makes the eco store STAND OUT & stand for something:
- Transparency – they offer full disclosure on all their ingredients. A complete list of every single ingredient is listed on the packaging and eco store website
- Authenticity – they are completely transparent and authentic about who they are and how they operate. They reject 50% of the natural eco-chemicals for their products because they are concerned they will affect people’s health
- Vision – when Malcolm and Melanie Rands started eco store they stood for something, they had a vision to ‘create a healthier more sustainable world’ with their products and every business decision honours that vision
- Leadership – Malcolm is visible in promoting and educating people about environmental issues. He has been awarded The Green Ribbon Award from the Ministry for Environment and was the NZ ‘Sustainable Business of The Year’ in 2010
- Sustainable business practices – they use post-consumer recycled plastic packaging. Their team of scientists and chemists evaluate the implications of their business at every step of the way. They also exclude any ingredient they believe are toxic
- Support a cause – they donate a percentage of money raised from sales to the Fairground Foundation, which they set up to focus on creating a healthier, more sustainable world
- Visible – Malcom is visible in the media. He made weekly appearances as ‘ecoman’ on NZ’s Good Morning Show offering expert advice to ‘green up’ your life. He is also a frequent media commentator and regular radio guest
- Storytelling – they use real customer stories to show brand leadership. They believe the world is awash with boring facts and figures and instead use powerful narratives to get their message across. They also know people buy-into stories that bring to life brand ethics to stand out in a commoditised market like dishwashing liquid