The beauty industry is one of the most polluting industries on the planet, and coconut-growing families are some of the poorest people in the world. At Ethos, they are on a mission to change that. They are creating a better future for Cambodia’s poorest by fairly sourcing traditionally hand-squeezed coconut oil and turning it into 100% natural-origin products that care for the skin. 100% of Ethos profits go back into the sustainable development of poor communities in Cambodia, re-planting coconut trees in Kampot and growing Ethos so they can continue to increase their impact. Read on to learn about Hana and Gerard’s inspiring journey to help others and the planet.
The passion: What inspired you to set up your business?
Ethos is a social impact business, which means its core purpose is to do good. Its origins lie in a remote part of Cambodia where Gerard and I volunteered in 2009. Back then, Cambodia was recovering from three decades of civil war and extreme poverty was the norm. 42% of children were malnourished and infrastructure was sparse. We decided to use sustainable business to help people in rural areas, turning uniquely hand-squeezed fermented virgin coconut oil into premium skincare to increase the incomes of family coconut growers, and create local employment for women who make the coconut oil. Coconut growers are some of the poorest farmers in the world, barely sharing in the profits of the multi-billion-dollar coconut oil industry, and we wanted to change that. 100% of profits go to sustainable development in Cambodia and scaling up Ethos to increase our future impact. We also wanted to only use ingredients that are kind to the skin and the environment, so we went the extra mile to avoid using synthetic preservatives. All of our ingredients are 100% natural origin and we only use ingredients that are rated one (the safest) by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) – best for mums and babies.
The launch: How did you start out in the beginning?
Our launch was right when COVID hit so that was incredibly tough; all the expos we were booked into were cancelled, but we’ve been fortunate to regularly sell at smaller premium markets during the year. We also already had an e-commerce website set up prior to launching which has helped us gain momentum. We initially launched with moisturisers and hand-wash using our uniquely fermented coconut oil as hero ingredient, later introducing our 100% virgin coconut oil as a skin repair product as well.
The innovation: What was the biggest breakthrough for you with your business?
We have invested in R&D which has validated the benefits of our traditionally processed virgin coconut oil. Because it is fermented by hand, it has tested up to six times higher in polyphenols (which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties), than mass-produced virgin coconut oils, by independent NZ lab testing. International research also shows that fermentation produces coconut oil with higher plant active levels. Virgin coconut oil is a natural way of helping to prevent or alleviate skin irritation in mild to moderate nappy rash. Nappy rash is associated with overgrowth of pathogens, raised skin pH, permeability and inflammation, while research shows that virgin coconut oil is antibacterial and anti-fungal, enhances the skin barrier and reduces skin inflammatory markers. It can also be used for baby massage and nipple care.
Yin and Yang: How do you balance work and family?
Being a start-up in the last year, there hasn’t been much balance in work and home life yet, as so much hard work has gone into getting established but better home/life balance will definitely be a priority for our second year!