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Ōtautahi Christchurch: home to the world’s most sustainable beauty brand

Spare time is something Brianne West doesn’t have much of – “I’m growing a global company, my life isn’t in balance at the moment, but that’s ok,” she said.

West heads up Ethique, a Christchurch-based company creating beauty products in bar form including shampoos, moisturisers, scrubs and deodorants. They sell 48 products with more to come in the next 18 months – but West’s lips are tightly sealed on what they will be – “I’d have to kill you if I told you,” she laughs.

Operating from their base in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Ethique’s team of eight office-based staff and 160 manufacturing staff around NZ, make, sell and distribute products to 2,500 stores in 14 countries.

As a certified BCorp business, Ethique is committed to exploring ways of doing business that are good for the planet and for society.

BCorp is a heavyweight international certification requiring businesses to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability, balancing profit and purpose.

“The process involves quantifying every stage of your business from how you treat your staff, how you structure your business right down to how sustainable your packaging is,” West said.

The company has a somewhat cult following, raising eyebrows across the globe. British Vogue picked up on the trend and wrote a feature article in October on Brianne and Ethique’s products.

They’re a business with a difference. Started in 2012, West was fed up with the state of the planet and our reliance on plastic. She used her biology degree to create sustainable beauty bars that are completely plastic free, with an aim to divert one million going to landfill by 2020.

She delivered on her aim, in fact she smashed the goal out of the park. By the end of 2019, Ethique expects to prevent more than 5 million bottles from going to landfill.

But it’s not just plastic West is waging a war on.

Ethique’s socially responsible approach sits at the heart of the business. They are carbon neutral, a living- wage employer and donate 20 percent of annual profits to animal and eco charities.

That’s part of the reason why Ethique is New Zealand’s highest scoring BCorp, a certification that isn’t undertaken lightly.

Christchurch has the highest concentration of BCorps in New Zealand, and when quizzed on why Brianne continued to base her global business here, her answer was simple.

“Why would I move? We’ve got everything we need here. We’ve got an international airport so I can travel easily, the quality of life is brilliant, there’s bugger-all traffic and ‘Christchurchians’ are the best people in the world.”

Brianne West - Ethique

“Why would I move? We’ve got everything we need here. We’ve got an international airport so I can travel easily, the quality of life is brilliant, there’s bugger-all traffic and ‘Christchurchians’ are the best people in the world.”

From this solid base, West wants to explore further afield, setting her sights on Asia as the next opportunity – the consumer sentiment there is aligning more and more with Ethique’s sustainability focus.

So while spare time may not feature much in her future, it doesn’t stop her dreams of fueling her other love – animals.

“One day, I’d like to set up an animal rescue centre. Christchurch has ample supply of affordable land only 20 to 30 minutes drive from the city. I’d like to buy up some land and set up an animal welfare centre,” she said.

With the drive and ambition she has dedicated to changing the world’s approach to plastic bottles, an animal rescue centre seems a comparatively easy goal.