Accessible Sustainability

Public Goods

10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Public Goods is an online store that sells a variety of basic, high quality products with clean ingredients at low prices. The company has implemented a direct-to-consumer business model which reduces prices so customers end up paying much less. We interviewed Joseph Rauch, the Content Marketing Manager of Public Goods, who passionately told us about their innovative business model along with the various other ways that the company strives to create goods in a way that benefits the planet and those who live here.

Authors

Sasha Takata

Sasha Takata

Mohar Roy

Mohar Roy

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Trevor Zink

Trevor Zink

Innovation

The main focus of this story is the direct-to-consumer, membership model used by Public Goods. Their approach gives people access to high quality, ethically sourced and environmentally friendly products without the price tag that comes with most other brands with similar offerings. They actively interact with their members, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their products while reducing waste. Joseph forwarded us a blog post in which he wrote, “brands design products to stand out on shelves. They don’t think about what happens after consumers buy the goods. The aesthetics of people’s homes and the clarity of product labels do not matter to them.” As a solution to this issue, Public Goods offers a limited variety of products that have an understated, cohesive design language.

Public Goods also offers products that are inclusive of all consumers; which is why their products are non-gendered. Shampoo and other personal care products are often marketed to be gender specific with certain colors and labeling. Whereas, all of Public Goods’ products have black and white packaging and are labeled with only the product name. From our interview with Rauch, it is evident that Public Goods prides themselves on being inclusive and accessible. Rauch boasted that their “menstrual care products” are labeled as such, instead of “feminine hygiene products.” Public Goods chose to label their menstrual care products differently because they wanted to be considerate of transgender males and non-binary individuals that have periods. The company also found the term “feminine hygiene” to be offensive, as it suggests that menstruation is inherently unhygienic. This shift has helped reduce inequalities and enable Public Goods to create a shopping experience that is comfortable and enjoyable for everyone.

To encourage responsible consumption and production, Public Goods sources their products in ways that benefit and empower small producers and communities. Rauch told us about their Ayate washcloths which are made by the Otomí people, an indigenous tribe in Mexico. The tribe makes the washcloths from fibers taken from maguey plants, which are similar to agave. The Otomí people have been able to drastically improve their economic conditions by selling their washcloths through Public Goods.

Accessible Sustainability

Inspiration

Founder, Morgan Hirsh comes from a family that owned a leather manufacturing company. While he was growing up, his father hoped that Morgan would eventually carry the torch. He did so for a short amount of time until the company went under. During his time running the family business, Hirsh learned a lot about manufacturing and came to find himself appalled by the traditional supply chain and felt that it was “a sham.” Most products, after they are manufactured, travel from factory to brand to distributor to retailer. Each of these steps add significant price increases to the product, all of which the consumer ends up bearing the cost of. Joseph tells us that the idea for Public Goods came about one day when Hirsh was brushing his teeth, he looked around at all of the excessively branded and heavily packaged products in his bathroom and decided it was time for a change. His passion for simple living has been with him since he was a young boy, he always wanted to live the life that he thought a ninja would - clean, simple and modest. Hirsh was inspired by the problems he saw in the modern supply chain and the need he saw in his own home; the need for simple, non-toxic products without all the hassle that comes with traditional retailers.

Overall impact

Public Goods has impacted the lives of many by offering everyday products that are inclusive, sustainable and affordable. Rauch tells us that Public Goods has seen many similar “copycat” companies popping up over the last few years, which shows that they have a business model that works and is needed.

Business benefit

The main reason that most products are so expensive is because of their extensive journey down the supply chain. Public Goods is able to eliminate some of those costs with their business model. However, Public Goods engages in ethical sourcing, which leads them to having lower margins. For this reason, Public Goods has employed the membership model. The recurring customers that this ensures, allows them to thrive despite the lower margins. The company’s ethical practices also make it an easy choice for conscious consumers. The low prices add to the attractiveness of the company, and make it more accessible to those who normally don’t have the luxury of shopping for high quality goods. The convenience of at-home delivery not only adds to accessibility, but simply makes customers' lives easier. All of these things considered, Public Goods is an extremely viable option to a wide range of consumers. They seem to have solved the problem of high prices and high quality being bound to one another - which gives them a significantly larger market in which to sell.

Social and environmental benefit

Public Goods has made it their mission to sell products that are accessible to all and have minimal impact on the environment. Since the company began in 2016, Public Goods has had a considerable impact on its consumers and producers. Also, their eco-friendly products have replaced the use of unnatural and toxic alternatives for their customers.

The Ayate washcloth is just one example of the social impact that Public Goods has had through their promotion of responsible production. The company has sourced food products from small farms and other products from artisan makers that have helped them improve their economic conditions, just like the Otomí people of Mexico.

Public Goods offers products that are inclusive of all - despite socioeconomic class or gender identity. Their minimal branding has allowed Public Goods to lower their production costs, and therefore the costs of the finished product. This process allows for lower income individuals and families to enjoy high quality, eco-friendly products. A blog post written by a Public Goods member with a disability explains that the company’s model benefits her in two ways: cost and convenience. The author of the post writes, “For myself and many other people with disabilities, travel from one place to another can be time-consuming. When you’re busy, it can be difficult to get to the store. Having essentials delivered is something that always saves me time and allows me to focus on what’s important to me: my work and my education.” Public Goods’ social impact does not end with lower socioeconomic levels or individuals with disabilities. The decision to sell genderless products and remove the stigma around menstrual care products has allowed Public Goods to have a major impact on how transgender and non-binary individuals shop for essentials. Following our interview, Rauch sent over a blog post that explained the stress of shopping for menstrual products from a genderqueer perspective. The interviewee from the post stated, “It just sparked so much dysphoria to go to the store and have to get this box of 'feminine' care products.” Public Goods has eliminated that stress for its’ consumers and will hopefully influence other brands to follow suit.

Public Goods has made it a goal to incorporate sustainability into every aspect of their business. Most of their packaging is biodegradable, derived from sugarcane as opposed to petroleum. Also, as an attempt not to contribute to deforestation, many of their wood and paper products are made of bamboo. They even plant a tree for each new member. Many of the products that Public Goods sells are 100% biodegradable, including toothbrushes, laundry pods and menstrual pads. They also offer refills on household items, such as shampoo and conditioner. The refills enable the consumer to purchase one plastic bottle to fill and continue to reuse it. Also, all of the products offered are free of harsh chemicals and many are vegan. Public Goods is constantly working towards reducing their waste, which in a world of single use products, is desperately needed.

Interview

Joseph Rauch, Content Marketing Manager

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Public Goods

Public Goods

New York City, New York, US

Business Website: publicgoods.com

Year Founded: 2016

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

Public Goods is an online store that sells a variety of basic, high quality products with clean ingredients at low prices. The company has implemented a direct-to-consumer business model which reduces prices so customers end up paying much less.