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Going green – going clean

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At a time when the total cleaning market never thought a second about sustainable cleaning solutions, Ecover went one step ahead and opted for a new way of cleaning. In 1979, the entrepreneur Frans Bogaerts founded Ecover in the Belgium town of Malle, introducing sustainable cleaning and care products.

“The original focus was on powdered washing detergent without phosphates,” says CEO Philip Malmberg, who has been working at the head of the global company since 2011.

Mr. Malmberg already worked for Ecover as its finance operations director some years ago. He is glad to be back and accompanying the company in its attempts to go green. In the late 1980s, the first environmental hype for sustainable and ecological products boosted the company’s sales volume, and in 1992, Ecover decided to open the first ecological factory of its kind worldwide, implementing responsible green manufacturing operations.

“We have always been committed to sustainable best practices throughout our entire organization and our business,” points out Mr. Malmberg. The reward for setting up its ecological factory followed one year later when Ecover was awarded the environmental UNEP award by the United Nations.

In the years to come, the cleaning company secured the ownership of a Swiss company that manufactured and distributed ecological washing agents. In 2007, the first factory in France started its production.

“We have never stood still throughout our history, and we have always worked hard to introduce new ecological products,” adds Mr. Malmberg. Today, Ecover has established four main categories that are developed to the highest standards possible.

Apart from dish care and fabric care, a focus is on home care, including all-purpose cleaners, and hand care. A major breakthrough was achieved in 2011 when Ecover launched the Eco-surfactant range.

“Our household product portfolio consists of all-purpose cleaners for most house cleaning chores, a bathroom cleaner, a glass and surface cleaner, as well as a lime-scale remover, hand soap and a heavy-duty hand cleaner,” states Mr. Malmberg. “The household area is unique, and we took on the challenge in this market segment. We developed our own Eco-surfactant products. They were developed in-house and launched in 2011.”

The Eco-surfactant cleaners have become quite a success recently. The active ingredient, or Eco-Surfactant, in these products is manufactured using all-natural raw materials, for example rapeseed oil and glucose.

“We use a unique fermentation process that is carefully monitored for quality,” adds Mr. Malmberg. “The making of this active ingredient has a low environmental impact because the manufacturing process is done in a purely biological way. All our products in the household have also achieved one of the highest performance ratings in this particular industry.”

In 2012, Ecover realized a major project that will have a long-term effect on its future as a pioneer in green cleaning by acquiring the California-based green cleaning company Method. This move catapulted the two brands’ leaders in environmentally friendly home, fabric and personal care products to the top-end of the green market.

“We have benefited greatly from the merger by combining our know-how and expertise with our sales and distribution networks most efficiently,” says Mr. Malmberg. “We have both continued as individual brands, but we are eager to attract new environmentally minded customers who appreciate products that are in line with ecological viewpoints.” This particular acquisition ended up in doubling Ecover’s business scale, and it provided access to the huge American market.

Today, America is the biggest market for Ecover with a 50% share in Ecover’s total turnover, followed by Europe with the UK as its key market.

“The UK generates 20% of our turnover of 200 million EUR, while Germany and France each realize 10%,” states Mr. Malmberg. Ecover firmly believes that it can clean the world by using less toxic products that are sustainable with a low carbon footprint, also known as the 360° approach from cradle to grave.

The process starts with a clean manufacturing process of non-toxic material through to renewable packaging made of natural materials such as sugar cane. Ecover’s green cleaning products, made from plant-based and mineral ingredients, are refreshingly effective for every corner of the house. All products are fully biodegradable and renewable. They are easily and quickly absorbed by nature.

“While average cleaning products need 15,000 l of water to be neutralized, which causes harmful effects to the environments, our products only require between 2,000 and 2,200 l,” points out Mr. Malmberg. Ecover’s current product portfolio includes 35 different products, ranging from dishwashing to laundry to hand products such as soaps and cleaners. “We build on what we have created so far and continue to concentrate on our two major brands Ecover and Method,” stresses Mr. Malmberg.

The company is going to target expansion in America and Europe, as well as in Asia and South America. Ecover will do everything to bring forward a sustainable and healthy lifestyle all over the world.

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