Retail companies going plastic-free – and dealing with COVID-19

Flora & Fauna, founded in 2014 by CEO Julie Mathers, is an ethical, cruelty-free beauty business which has won the Power Retail Sustainable Retailer Award.

Beauty products are often one of the hardest items to buy plastic-free, and we could be forgiven for excusing a beauty retailer from the plastic-free fight on the basis that “it’s difficult”. But Flora & Fauna is leading the way, and hoping other businesses will follow.

Julie Mathers’ vision

Flora & Fauna is an ethical, and now plastic-free, beauty retailer.

Mather says she feels it is her responsibility to drive change – something that is hard to do as an employee in the retail industry for a business that does not have purpose and ethics at its core. So Mathers combined her love of animals and the planet to create Flora & Fauna, a purpose-driven business that would make a difference.

She also says there is a lack of transparency in the beauty industry which is worrying. Customers have a right to know where their products are coming from.

The retail landscape

Julie Mathers, CEO of Flora & Fauna, has seen the way retailers work for many years.

“You can’t stand still,” says Mathers. According to her, retail is an industry where results happen quickly – and you have to be constantly moving. There is no use waiting for customers to tell you they want change – by that stage you are already a step behind. Mathers says that she “worked in private equity through the GFC in 2008/2009 and have seen the number of retailers that fell over because they sat back”. In her eyes, Australia is in the same situation now as it was then – so retailers have to keep moving and keep an eye on their cash flow in these potentially tricky times.

The challenge in plastic-free

Flora & Fauna sell their products plastic-free – including soap bars, which come wrapped in paper.

According to Mathers, going plastic-free was not a challenge for their company, because it was the right thing to do. She was initially worried about cardboard boxes becoming wet or damaged, but that has not been a problem. Because Flora & Fauna manage their own warehouse and customer experience, they can make changes quickly when they need to.

The feedback Flora & Fauna received from customers was “exceptional”, Mathers says. In addition to the positive customer experience, the company has saved over 20 tonnes of plastic heading to landfill so far.

The future of retail

Retail will be hit hard over the next twelve months, according to Mathers.

What does Mathers expect will happen to the retail industry over the next 12 months? Well, she expects we will see many retailers hit hard. With the “devastating bushfires, recessionary spending and now the Coronavirus”, she says there will be casualties. “People aren’t spending money and a lot of stock is stuck in China. It will be a very tough year where I believe retailers will focus on performance, costs and performance-based innovation.” Good delivery and performance will be prioritised, as retailers focus on the bottom line.

Sustainability in retail

Mathers gives simple suggestions for ways retailers can reduce plastic consumption.

Are retailers becoming more sustainable? Mathers says she sees innovation and initiatives happening, especially in smaller retailers. However, we need more in large retailers and Mathers hopes to see sustainability discussed seriously at board meetings – and being part of a retailer’s core DNA. She says, “customers are savvy and they can spot greenwashing a mile off!”

What are some ways Mathers suggests retailers can make a difference? She gives three things.

  1. Stop using plastic in parcels. We use too much plastic in parcels and also plastic satchels. The majority of plastic doesn’t get recycled and it goes to landfill. There are great alternatives such as boxes, compostable satchels, and compostable packing peanuts.
  2. Your internal waste management – have recycling bins and TerraCycle boxes so office waste truly gets recycled, and the team think about what they’re producing.
  3. Change to LED lights – they save you money and reduce your carbon footprint.

Retail has an opportunity to make a difference. What are they waiting for?


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To find out more about compostable alternatives to plastic, check out our products page.

Read about how your takeaway cups influence your business’s image, and about other leaders in the field of plastic-free, on our blog.


Article by Tallis Baker.

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