The Green Leaders Series brings you the stories of a new breed of Australian businesses that have sustainability at their core.
Big, established brands are losing market share to smaller, local companies who are ‘radically transparent’ about how their products are made.
Companies are realising their customers want more information about what’s in their products, and where they come from.
It’s a new business model that puts environmental and social impact at the heart of what their business is all about.
Koala Eco says no to chemicals
Jessica founded Koala Eco for one simple reason, she wanted household cleaning products that were safe around her kids. She wanted products that were eco-friendly, affordable and worked as well as their chemical counterparts.
“I couldn’t find it. I was watching glass-spray mist over the kid’s toothbrushes wondering if it would make them sick, so I started learning; I read all about toxic loads in households and about what certain chemicals did to our bodies.
In the end I wanted a 100% natural product that was vegan, palm-oil free, and which used Australian botanicals and essential oils, a uniquely Australian experience. I couldn’t find it, so I went about creating it.
We worked with a chemist for a year coming up with all the formulations and we launched at the end of February in 2017.”
Sustainability is an advantage, not a burden
There has long been a trade-off between a product being sustainable, and it being affordable – but it’s quickly disappearing.
As Jessica explains, people are desperate for products that are authentic, and for brands that are transparent about their products.
“Being a sustainable business is our advantage, it’s not a burden. People want to know what comes into their homes, and what’s coming into their body.
I think people want to buy from ethical companies, purchasing power is changing, and people are speaking with the choices they make in the supermarket. It’s forcing both large and small companies to really focus on their impact.
Authenticity is a big part of it. In Australia an organic product needs to be ‘certified organic’. Which is a good step forward. But words like ‘all-natural’ are widely over-used.
Quite a few of our ingredients are organic, but not all of them, so we don’t state it’s organic.
I think transparency is really shifting. Right now companies don’t have to declare what’s in their cleaning products. There are major label cleaning products on the shelves and you don’t know if they contain formaldehyde, SLS, parabens or endocrine disruptors.
If they’re not clear about what’s in it, then you probably know its nasty. And if they’re using fragrance it’s likely to be toxic. We only use essential oils for fragrance, and that really sets us apart.”
A sustainable business - giving back
“We wanted to be a company that gives back, so we signed up with 1% for the Planet. They donate funds to a whole range of environmental organisations.
Also we were one of the first companies selected to have a domain name (website name) that ends in “.eco”. There are strict restrictions on who can have that name, which we think shows our commitment to sustainability.
It was quite a process, we had to declare all of our ingredients, all of our supply chains and our fair-trade linkages - we were really excited with that.
We really like the name, there’s no mistaking the fact that we’re Australian.” Jessica explained.
Our customers are what matters most
This new breed of businesses are all defined by their sustainability credentials, but they’re still businesses and they need to remain competitive. Jessica explained that positive feedback from her customers are what keep her going.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from our customers. We received a lot of feedback asking for one-litre refills, so we’ve now added that our range. And we have an exciting development with a cardboard washing liquid package. Our bottles are all made from recyclable plastic. Plus, the plastic used was already recycled.
Plus, all of our shipping materials, local or international, are all recycled materials. Our logistics guy re-uses everything. We don’t have pretty boxes, but re-use is more important to us.”
What does a Green Future look like to you?
The big question we’ll be asking all our Green Leaders – Jessica told us:
“For both Paul and I we wanted to be part of the solution rather than the problem. If you’re going to have a business, then let’s work towards the greater good the end goal. We may just be a tiny drop in the ocean, but that’s what the ocean is made up of.
For me, a green future to me would be:
- Every country having a binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions.
- Trump would no longer be in office.
- Fish would all be from sustainable sources.
- Community gardens and urban gardens are more common. Not just a one-off here and there but a real source of food.
- Electric cars everywhere! My 5 and 7-year-old boys are obsessed with Teslas. I love that. Hopefully the majority of cars in the future will be electric.
- Energy, I’d like to think that solar and wind has replaced petroleum and coal in the future.
- And last, I hope that small businesses keep up the momentum. I feel there’s a real groundswell of grassroots work happening right work and we’re a part of it.
Head over to the Koala Eco website and check it out yourself.