When my daughter Gracie was born, she would cry for hours and get huge rashes. Nothing was helping until one day, I was bathing her, and she started crying right after. Then it clicked — maybe something in the bath products was irritating her.
I started to research the products that I was using for my daughter, and that’s when I learned about the harsh chemicals that are in these everyday items. I learned how few regulations exist in the cosmetics industry and about the incentives for many companies to place profits over the well-being of customers.
I also learned about the lengths they would go to “greenwash” their products — not only ingredients-wise but also waste-wise. Companies will often say their products are recyclable when, in reality, only 9% worldwide truly get recycled.
That moment was a huge turning point for me. I was angry at all the harm these products were causing people and the environment. It sparked a fire in my belly, and I knew I wanted to do something with that. So I founded Go For Zero to make it easier for consumers in Australia to shop for non-toxic, waste-free alternatives for everyday essentials.
We launched a successful brand that is transparent, good for people and the planet, and values what's right over what's easy. Here’s how we’re successfully prioritizing sustainability as a startup.
We stick to our core values to guide our decision-making and show customers that we’re serious about sustainability.
For us, this means being fully plastic-free and waste-free. We’re telling people, “When an order comes to you, it’s carbon-neutral and packed with zero plastic. You can do whatever you want with the box — you can even put it in your garden! You won’t create waste.” But we have to make sure we can deliver on that, even if it costs us more to create.
We have to be pickier about shipping partners to make sure we’re living up to our carbon-neutral promise. We’ve also had to spend more time sourcing truly sustainable packaging since everything — including the shipping labels — needs to be home compostable. But these are the options that support our values and make our mission possible.
We apply those same values across all of our business operations — often in smaller, easily achievable ways. We’ll ask employees to work from home a few days a week so that they’re not on the road and contributing to carbon emissions. And we’ve started composting food waste at our warehouse.
As a startup, it’s already hard to be profitable. As a sustainable startup, in particular, you need a lot of determination, as you not only have to understand your financials really well but you also have to know whether each product you sell fully aligns with your values.
Every day in the business, we actively look for ways to increase our profit margins to support our mission and growth. And early on, we struggled to find brands that fully aligned with our values. So we decided to find a creative solution.
One of the main things we implemented very fast was creating our own line of products and launching our own Go For Zero brand so that we could live up to our mission and as an added bonus, our profit margin would be higher. Originally, we started out as a pop-up store where Australians could shop for toxin-free items like cosmetics. But when I took a closer look at the numbers, I realised I could only raise my profit margin so much when selling another brand’s products. So we started to develop some of our own products and launched our own brand.
I listened extensively to customer feedback throughout the process, so we could make sure we developed products that would help us become financially stable. We developed sustainable options for items that we knew would be in high demand and would sell in our target market — like pens, for example. But we also tried to be innovative by asking our customers what new products would make an impact on their lives.
Now, 10 of the top 15 best-selling items in our store are Go For Zero-branded products. There are real business benefits to focusing on sustainability alongside your profits. For us, it’s created a deeper sense of customer loyalty. And we’ve gotten out ahead of the market in a lot of these areas. Other businesses are always reaching out to ask how we do things because they want to replicate it.
We involve our customers in our sustainability mission and help them feel that they’re making a positive change by using our products.
There’s a lot of anxiety around climate change for consumers. People sometimes feel like they don’t know where to start or what to do anymore. They want to help turn things around, but it’s so daunting that they feel like they can’t. That’s a very frightening feeling. But I think that’s why we’re so good at what we do and why there’s a place for us in the market. Go For Zero brings positivity to an otherwise daunting conversation and gives people the tools to make a difference.
We’ve done this primarily by making it really easy for our customers to buy sustainable products. Instead of hunting down products that are plastic-free, toxin-free, and carbon-neutral on their own, customers can trust they’re getting all of that when they buy from us. More importantly, they can trust that their purchase is making a difference.
Customer education has also been really important and is one of our biggest strengths as a company. From day one, I knew that some people would be confused about why sustainable products are even important. After all, I needed to do a ton of research to understand how many products on the market are filled with toxins and create plastic waste. From the day we opened our first pop-up store, we had customers asking, “Why is this better? Why wouldn’t recycling be the solution to everything?”
We talked to those early customers one on one about why sustainability is important and why our products are making a real difference in reducing waste. Now, we’ve continued that dialogue over social media to build an awesome community with our customers. They’ll ask us a question about a product, and we’ll respond with a video. We’ll also ask them for tips or input on how they’re using our products and re-share so others can see.
Don’t feel overwhelmed or daunted by trying to make too many changes at once. Just start with one thing you can do differently to drive sustainability.
Take an audit of your warehouse or your headquarters and figure out the biggest way you can make an immediate impact. Do you throw out a million pens? That’s a really easy swap; you can stop buying plastic pens and order pens with 85% less plastic instead. Do you offer plastic water bottles to customers when they visit? Put in a water cooler and offer them a glass instead. Start with one simple thing, and you’ll create a ripple effect across your brand.
Go For Zero is one of thousands of eCommerce startups that has accelerated growth in their market, thanks to support from Wayflyer. Book a call now to learn more about tailored funding options for your company.