It's a tough job to stop plastic at its source, but Ellie Degraeve, the founder of Go for Zero, has it under wraps. We had a chat with the sustainability superstar to discuss her journey as a retailer, and why sustainability is more important than some businesses may realise.
Ellie Degraeve has plenty of experience in the retail scene. Working in the International Retail Strategy for one of Europe’s largest retail chains, she had plenty to focus on, but sustainability didn’t hit her radar.
That was until her daughter, Grace, was born. Often breaking out into rashes when using over-the-counter products, she would cry ‘for hours’. After discovering what was used in said products, Degraeve became a ‘person possessed’, collecting all products in her home and leading her down the ‘research rabbit hole’.
“I learned about the lack of government regulation, the unethical manufacturing practices of many companies, and the lengths to which some companies will go to ‘greenwash’ their products,” she tells Power Retail. “Learning about the billions of tons of waste and toxins generated by the most common retail purchases lit a fire in my belly to make a change.”
Using her background in retail strategy and the belief that businesses can be used for a force of good, she explains that she was ‘determined’ to launch a company that aligned with her views. “It had to be an honest, transparent company that gives back to the community,” she says. “A company that helped others make better-informed choices for themselves and our planet. A company that chooses right over easy. Go For Zero was born.”
Go for Zero today is a retail platform that provides sustainable products. All of the business’ listed products are free from toxins, rely on recycled and sustainable packaging from the first click to the last mile, and use carbon neutral delivery methods. Moreover, their products are sourced from local Australian brands and businesses.
Sustainable retailing is a topic that Power Retail has not shied away from in the last few years. In a recent report from Power Retail, 40 percent of shoppers say that the retail industry creates too much waste. Furthermore, one third (33 percent) of Aussie shoppers sat that they prefer shopping with retailers that are open about their sustainability practices.
This is a sentiment backed by Go for Zero. “Not only does our planet need transformational change, the consumers are also increasingly demanding it,” Degraeve tells us. “Australians are becoming more and more concerned with the health of our planet, and are looking for products and brands that are aligned with their values.”
In Degraeve’s eyes, this gives businesses the ‘huge potential’ to create long-term relations with consumers, which will be based on aligned values.
“Being an authentic, sustainable business will be the only acceptable way of doing business. It will be the norm, not the exception,” Degraeve says. “We have the opportunity in this country to become a world leader in sustainability but we need business leaders to take the step to do Great Things, think bold and act big.”
What advice would Degraeve give retailers that are trying to make a more sustainable future for their business?
“Rome wasn’t built in a day… Every incredible journey starts with a single step,” she tells us. “As cliche as these sound, it is the absolute truth.” Moreover, she says that perfection isn’t the goal; change is.
“Transitioning from plastic to sustainable pens, for example. Or from bottled water to an under sink purifier and glasses for your customers. Starting with something simple can create a ripple effect across your staff, workplace, customers and communities,” she explains.
So, where do retailers start from here? Start with a bin audit of your office or warehouse, she tells us. From there, determine how much waste has been created, and then find an alternative and see how much rubbish you are reducing.
“While one change may not seem like much, it might just be the challenge you need to start your sustainable business journey,” she says.
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