Trading Plastic for Sustainability

Grove Collaborative

12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Grove Collaborative aims to eliminate the use of plastics in everyday household items. Instead of using the typical plastic packaging found with most name brands, they opted for aluminum, glass, bamboo, and silicon, all products that reduce society's plastic debt and are easily recyclable for use over and over gain. Their product line helps improve the UN SDG #12 Responsible Production and Consumption. Discussed later in the story, Grove actively pursues projects that promote environmental justice through various product lines.

Authors

Shaina Greenberg

Shaina Greenberg

Olivia Le Penske

Olivia Le Penske

Antiana Cuevas

Antiana Cuevas

Aljoharah Alabdullah

Aljoharah Alabdullah

Eva Peterson

Eva Peterson

School

Loyola Marymount University

Loyola Marymount University

Professor

Jeff Thies

Jeff Thies

Innovation

Grove Collaborative as an organization is innovative because it uses sustainability as an asset rather than a tradeoff. A lot of companies claim sustainability as one of their values, for Grove Co. it is integrated to their core. They are the first plastic neutral retailer, and have launched 57 plastic free products in the past year with their initiative “Beyond Plastic”. The goal of the beyond plastic initiative is to remove all plastics from Grove Collaborative by 2025 and solve the problem of single use plastics within the home care industry. Within the organization, Grove has created many unique products and containers plastic free, without compromising quality or requiring people to do their daily chores differently. Grove’s purpose was to ensure that customers could clean the same way they were used to, but without using plastics. One of their main innovations to reach this goal is their aluminum bottle refills for products like dish soap and cleaners that they sell in tandem with their glass bottle + aluminum pump. Expanding out of just home care, Grove Collaborative launched Peach: a plastic free personal care brand. Peaches' popular products include their plastic free shampoo and conditioner bars, lotions, and facial skin care. Alex Crane, the director of innovation at Grove Co, worked for 6 years with manufacturers, chemists, fragrance houses, designers for packaging, and consumer researchers to create products that did not compromise quality or effectiveness, and were easy to use. Grove listens to customer feedback and desires to craft innovative products that change the way consumers think about sustainable home and personal care, and change the industry standard for plastic use.

Trading Plastic for Sustainability

Inspiration

Grove Collaborative was inspired by the idea of cleaning concentrates, but wasn’t sure how to bring that idea to life. Specifically, Grove focused on the concept of being plastic neutral and was inspired to be plastic free by the year 2025. They want their products to have the same function as any current market cleaning product, but with different sustainable concentrates and materials. The small company is inspired by the idea of evolving the everyday cleaning routine. For example, Tesla doesn’t drive differently than a regular car, but they managed to create a car that doesn’t use gas. This modern innovation that has bettered the environment inspires Grove Collaborative to create similar techniques for household cleaning products. In addition, Grove constantly analyzes their competitors and is inspired by the concept of a smaller sustainability debt, which a lot of big brands are struggling with. They are inspired and motivated by the sustainably conscious direction society is moving towards. More people are aware of the fact that there are alternatives to what is out there today that don’t require you to do a lot of change. It is extremely possible to make an impact as a consumer without a big commitment regardless of demographics and Grove Collaborative wants to capitalize on these societal changes to create more sustainable products. At Grove, they know that you’re never too small to lead an industry and they are inspired by the changes their customers have made, and even demanded this year. The company’s hope is that Grove has inspired/challenged the business community, especially in consumer packaged goods, to take a more aggressive stand against plastic.

Overall impact

The overall impact of Grove Collaborative can be measured in pounds of plastic (over 4.5 million), pounds of plastic replaced (over 6 million), and all the positive cascading effects that this implies. Plastic has been found at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, so anything that reduces and recovers plastic from the environment is a net positive. Besides actively removing plastic from the environment Grove Collaborative is also leading the way in showing other businesses just what is possible. By focusing on reduction and recovery of plastic all over the world Grove has shown what true commitment to sustainability goals means. Though the company is still small, the fact that it has made so much progress in such a short time demonstrates that a company committed to reduction and recovery can have an economically viable impact on one of the world’s most intractable problems. That is the key to Grove: it is productive and profitable (though it’s a not-for-profit). From a start of 6 employees Grove collaborative have grown very quickly to over 300. That would not be possible if they were not as committed to their mission and values as they are. Not only are they talking about replacing and reducing plastic, they are actively doing it profitably. This is an impact that goes beyond numbers. It speaks to other companies and their business practices. The biggest producers of plastic can be shown that it is not only environmentally friendly to reduce and replace, but it also makes good business sense. In this way the mission and values that are baked into Grove’s DNA can spread. It is not the product or services that will have the greatest impact: it is the example.

Business benefit

Grove Collaborative is a small company making big impacts in the household supplies and personal products industries. While plastic is seen as a more cost-effective material for goods in the short-term profit, the long-term costs of using plastic go beyond just the financials. By using aluminum, glass, and silicone, Grove Co. produces quality products that consumers are willing to pay for. In maintaining its purpose to keep cleaning products effective while eliminating the use of plastic, the company actively challenges the business community (especially those in consumer packaged goods) to take a more aggressive stand against plastic. With their rise in popularity, Grove is gaining more customers that are willing to make the switch to sustainable products. Furthermore, they are challenging other big companies to move forward without plastics. P&G and Johnson and Johnson thrived on making open-ended promises about their sustainability efforts without having to follow through. Now these companies are sticking to their commitments and making tangible changes to their products. Grove Collaborative is able to compete with big corporations because they are willing to learn from the mistakes that have already been made. Large companies are not agile enough to create sustainable products in house, so they usually acquire small brands which can be quite costly. Furthermore, these same companies already have a large sustainability debt whereas Grove can start from scratch. Finally, Grove’s main focus is not on competing with big brands, rather they want to initiate change in the market quickly and lead with their competitive advantages.

Social and environmental benefit

In just a single day, 76 million pounds of plastic packaging are consumed with only 9% being recycled. Grove Co’s innovation is meant to combat this scary statistic by lessening the amount of plastic that is consumed from the packaging of products. Their innovation has positively impacted the environment by redesigning packaging to avoid plastic. Since the start of their business, they have replaced 4,636,021 pounds of plastic packaging with alternatives such as glass or cardboard. Nonetheless, this company also practices plastic neutrality, meaning they collect the same amount of weight in plastic that is used in any of their products. In their sustainability report, they have stated that they have collected 6,174,082 pounds of plastic mainly from the Philippines, Indonesia, and India. Not only does Grove Co. have this innovation that allows them to be plastic-free by 2025, but they also are spreading awareness of this global issue to all of their consumers worldwide. They are making this switch to a plastic-free world without consumers changing their lifestyle in any way, but nonetheless, they are still contributing to the rehabilitation of the planet. This company continues to show consumers that making a positive impact on the planet does not necessarily mean committing to living their life differently.

Interview

Jon Silverman, Senior Vice President/GM, Physical Products

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Grove Collaborative

Grove Collaborative

San Francisco, CA, US

Business Website: https://www.grove.co

Year Founded: 2016

Number of Employees: 1001 to 5000

Grove Collaborative is a consumer packaged goods business aiming to make everyday, household products sustainable and safe. By creating and curating products that avoid the use of plastic, the company is streamlining sustainability in homes everywhere!