Ecostore is making moves and Asuwere member Pablo Kraus is at the helm empowering his team to make the world a safer place, a mission we can certainly get behind! Ecostore has been at the forefront of sustainability and making things better since they started on New Zealand's Northland coast in 1993. Since 2003 Pablo and his family have turned it into an internationally recognised brand, leading the way with their new products and showing multinationals how things should be done.
Since your family got involved in 2003, the company has continued to go from strength to strength, including global expansion. What has the journey looked like?
Pretty much the year we got involved, ecostore launched into New Zealand supermarkets and it’s been an exciting growth journey since then. Soon after that, we launched into Australia kicking off our export business. We’re now in over twelve markets and have products across 10 categories. ecostore has always been ahead of its time, however, now more than ever the green space is starting to become the main space. Consumers are demanding products that are safer for them, and our world.
How long have you been CEO? What does that entail?
I joined the board of directors seven and half years ago and stepped in as CEO for ecostore over three years ago. At ecostore, our purpose is to make the world a safer place, one person, one home at a time and we do that by making products that are safer for you and our world. In my role, my purpose is to empower others. To empower people to make better choices with the products they need. To empower our team to make better products. It’s about taking that purpose and leading by example.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced since you have been at the helm?
Ecostore has always been focused on being leaders in sustainability. But doing that means you have to be confident and bold. Leading is always more difficult than following. When we launched our plastic return programme a few weeks ago for example, we knew it was bold to talk about recalling our plastic bottles. But it was necessary to start the conversation about the very serious problem of plastic waste in Aotearoa – and to drive people to action. This reinforced to me that there are times you need to be comfortable being uncomfortable. That meaningful change does not come from always doing the same that has always been done and playing it safe. Having the nerve to go through that was harder than I thought, but these are the decisions you have to make and commit to when you are a CEO.
Plastic pollution is a huge problem around the world and it is great to see the likes of ecostore leading the way with a closed-loop system and recycling your own production. Tell us a little bit about this.
Plastic waste is one of the biggest environmental problems across the globe. New Zealanders also recognise that it’s a very serious problem right here in Aotearoa, and they expect businesses to step up and address the problems we face. So that's what we are doing with our Plastic Return Program. We have over 100 bottle drop locations across NZ (people can find these at recall.ecostore.com). We will ensure that all the bottles we get back are remade into new ones - right here in NZ. That means they don't end up in landfill, in our environment or shipped overseas.
Is it something you think we will see more of with bigger multinationals?
Certainly, and in my view, any multi-national not addressing environmental or social concerns will no longer be relevant in the very near future. The big multinationals have the ability to make change at scale. At ecostore, what we can do is lead by example and prove what’s possible. And the plan is that one day we will be one of those big multinationals ourselves and leading the way.
You’ve recently released some shampoo and conditioner in block form. Would the goal be plastic-free at any stage?
Tackling the plastic problem takes more than one approach. I certainly see a place for plastic in this world, however, not under the current broken system. For starters, it’s about using sustainable plastic (for example like the sugar plastic we use in our bottles) and using circular systems so that there is no waste or end of life for that plastic. It is super exciting to see future formats and innovations that design waste out from the beginning. Just like our shampoo/conditioner bars. At ecostore we are constantly seeking out the best ways to do things better or in this instance tackle the plastic challenge.
Have you seen any trends in the way consumers are purchasing with the impact of COVID-19 in NZ or in your overseas markets?
We have seen a couple of changes in how and what people purchase (aside from the panic buying!). This has been a health crisis - it has made people more conscious and cautious of what products they use. They are looking for safer products for themselves and their families. People have also spent more time connecting with nature during lock downs. So we've seen a heightened desire for products that are safe and gentle, for both people and the environment. And this is exactly what we've been making for over 27 years. It’s great to be able to provide the types of products that consumers are looking for right now.
How does Asuwere suit your lifestyle?
I love the simplicity of Asuwere. In my lifestyle it shouldn’t be difficult to dress well. Keep it simple. Don’t wear anything too jazzy. If you buy quality, it will last, and I find that Asuwere is a good base for anything else in my wardrobe. I love getting a new and seasonal piece every month without having to think about it. Simple and easy. Keep it up!