Next up in our Mindful Masterclass series, we’re turning our attention to Ecover, and the Footprint pillar of our Sustainability Guide. These deep dives into an individual brand allow us to shine a light on the areas of their operation where we feel as though they’re excelling in a certain element of sustainable business.
In this article, we’ll be investigating Ecover’s positioning within the eco home cleaning vertical, and how they demonstrate this through their messaging. We’ll also delve into their tech stack to take a closer look at the nuts and bolts holding their ecommerce operations together. Finally, we’ll pick out some key takeaways that offer food for thought for any eco brand looking to go greener in their online business.
Founded in the 1970s by (in their own words!) “a bunch of Belgian hippy scientists” – Ecover is on a mission to clean up the way we clean. With a firm focus on creating products that are gentle on the water systems they inevitably end up entering, Ecover have championed phosphate-free cleaning products for decades. They have an impressive track record, even being included in the Global 500 Roll of Honour for “outstanding achievements in protecting and improving the environment”. Today, the brand is a household name. They’ve proven themselves to be innovators in the world of marketing as well as product design, running a particularly daring “Steal Our Formula” campaign in the early 2000s, which challenged rivals to produce in the same way that Ecover did “for nature’s sake”.
Mindful Footprint: What is Ecover Doing Right?
Ecover’s website does a good job of breaking down the various ways Ecover is trying to minimise its footprint as a brand. They section up their efforts to reduce their impact into six core categories: plastic, manufacturing, sourcing, fragrances, design and ingredients.
When it comes to product and packaging, it’s clear that Ecover is joining the dots. They’re actively moving towards closed loop systems when it comes to plastic packaging. By championing refilling and reuse, Ecover is trying to move away from simply recycling plastic products, and offering a compelling (and practical) alternative.
While this is great, our interest was really sparked by Ecover’s approach to what they term “clean manufacturing”. Showing some serious commitment to reducing their footprint as a business, they’ve built their own ultra-sustainable factories! Their flagship factory in Belgium sounds less like a grim production base and more like a trendy Shoreditch apartment complex – created from 90% recycled or renewable materials, with “reclaimed wooden beams and strengthened European pine instead of steel and concrete.” The building was designed to let in plenty of natural sunlight (improving working conditions and the heating bill simultaneously!) and their living green roof also aids insulation and supports wildlife.
Additionally, Ecover is certified Platinum zero-waste (the highest accolade on offer) by the zero waste certification program for businesses, TRUE. Since 2021 they have ensured that 98% of their solid waste escapes landfill, incineration and the environment, thanks to reuse, recycling and reduction projects.
What about carbon footprint? Ecover is on the case, claiming to “obsessively measure carbon emissions for our footprint – ingredients, packaging, travel, utilities, manufacturing and distribution, the works.” In terms of keeping the footprint of sourcing deliveries low, Ecover also strives to source locally wherever possible, and only sources palm oil from plantations certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meaning they’re completely free from deforestation.
The Ecover website is run on Wordpress – not a platform known for its eco credentials (although a headless approach can be lower impact…) Other interesting stack additions include Lottie Files (teenie tiny lightweight animations - 600% smaller, and therefore greener, than GIFS) and Foundation, delivering a responsive front-end framework.
Digital Carbon Footprint
Ecover achieves a slightly underwhelming score on the Digital Beacon assessment – an online tool which calculates the carbon cost of loading a webpage. Your first visit to Ecover’s homepage will generate just over 1g of carbon. This earns them an “okay” - the second to lowest rating that can be awarded.
We know that Ecover cares about its digital carbon footprint, because in the past they’ve put a lot of care and effort into ensuring that it's been reduced through smart design and development decisions (check out this case study from WholeGrain Digital, a web development agency).
However, it’s encouraging to note that someone (we assume Ecover, but possibly just sustainability nerds like us!) has been regularly testing the site for the past couple of years. From the scores awarded, it seems as though the carbon footprint of Ecover’s store has increased (albeit very slightly) in recent months. We’re taking all of this as a sign that Ecover is still on the case when it comes to their digital footprint.
Takeaways from Ecover
Ecover shows that sometimes, when it comes to the perfect supporting infrastructure for Mindful Footprint, you might need to create something which doesn’t yet exist! From innovative new cleaning solutions and packaging, through to entire factories – Ecover has always pushed ahead and taken the necessary steps to reduce its impact by investing in practices and processes that the brand truly believes in.
Lowering your carbon footprint is an evolving challenge… Perfection doesn’t exist but we can all be aiming for incremental improvements. To help achieve this, regularly measure your footprint, and take tangible action to reduce in any way possible.