Green business flourishing despite recession – Ecover CEO

By John Parnell

Consumers still want environmentally friendly products despite the recession making household budgets tighter than ever, according to the CEO of eco-friendly cleaning products manufacturer Ecover.

Philip Malmberg says the company experienced 20% growth last year, as consumers continued to hold onto their desire to make environmentally friendly choices at the supermarket, even when there is a small premium to be paid.

“The appetite is absolutely there. There is always the balance about what premium people will be able to pay or are willing to pay. It’s something we try to monitor closely and keep at the minimum level,” Malmberg told RTCC.

The company makes a range of cleaning products from oven cleaner to baby wipes. All claim to use natural ingredients and are produced and distributed in the most sustainable way possible. The factory has a solar roof and it offers refills for  some of its products.

Low prices typically have a greater effect on people’s shopping habits during a recession. That can impact sales of ethically sourced or sustainable products that can often come with a higher price tag.

“We have been really affected by the recession, mostly in the early years. It was a big hit for us. At the same time, we had 20% growth last year and the recession was still going on,” he added.

RTCC Video: Philip Malmberg, CEO, Ecover on plastic soup, the recession and ditching fossil fuels

This growth is particularly impressive given that the bulk of its sales are in Europe, where the economy flat lined in 2012.

Malmberg was in London to launch the latest stage in the company’s packaging overhaul.

Having already switched to all non-fossil fuel plastics, the company will now add recycled material to its bio-based packaging and will launch an ambitious scheme to reclaim plastic from the ocean.

“We want to raise awareness about the plastic soup in our seas and oceans. It’s already affecting sea life and ending up in the food chain.”

The company plans to incentivise fisherman to bring plastic from their catches back to land and will also have a dedicated boat to trawl for plastic in soup hotspots.

The plastic will then be incorporated into the packaging for some of the company’s 35 million bottles that it produces annually.

A Sperm Whale that was washed up earlier this year was found to have 35 square metres of plastic inside its stomach including flower pots, coat hangers, a bottle of washing up liquid and a hose pipe.

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