Sustainable Australian brands - a round up by Beauty Independent

Sustainable Australian brands - a round up by Beauty Independent

As part of a roundup of sustainable Australian brands, Beauty Independent reached out to WØRKS to talk about our sustainability efforts. From our commitment to organics and plastic-free business model to our Australian-first sustainable refills and circular economy, here's what WØRKS co-founder Suze Raymond had to say. 

BI: Can you give some background on the brand? When did it launch what’s the inspiration behind it?

SR: WØRKS launched in 2019 with the mission to bridge the gap between sustainable Australian manufacture and authentic Danish design.

My co-founder (and husband) Christoffer had moved from Denmark to Melbourne several years prior and noticed a distinct lack of design-led homewares and accessories, which make up the backbone of Scandinavian interiors.

Meanwhile I'd been seeking truly sustainable personal care products – formulations that were organic, locally made, biodegradable and housed in plastic-free vessels. WØRKS is the result of combining these two ideals.

BI: What were you doing before launching the brand and do you now handle the company full time? 

SR: Prior to launching WØRKS I worked in broadcast and digital media and Christoffer was in high-performance sports coaching and management. A move into the personal care category was a complete about-face for both of us, which worked to our advantage in a lot of ways as we came into this space with completely fresh eyes and ideals.

Both of us now work full time at WØRKS. I oversee the marketing and communications while Christoffer heads up our logistics and operations. We are equally involved in product development.  

BI: How many SKUs do you have and what makes your products different from others already on the market?

SR: We currently have 38 SKUS across the categories of hand, body, home and gift. Our products are most notably differentiated by their strong sustainability credentials. Our formulations are made with certified organic raw materials that have been grown and harvested sustainably, which protects both human health and the long-term sustainability of farming land. 

All of our liquid hand and body soap bases are certified organic castile soaps – not synthetic hand and body washes. Our liquid soaps are made in the centuries-old tradition of master soapmakers in small batches from organic olive and coconut oils. 

Our fragrances are 100% natural aromatic blends of essential oils and botanicals made by a Master Perfumer in Sydney. We don’t use any synthetic fragrance in our personal care products or aromatic candles.

All of our products – including refills – are housed in reusable glass vessels. We are dedicated to creating a circular economy where reuse is prioritised over recycling. However, should our glass vessels enter the recycling system they are recyclable in perpetuity as opposed to plastic, which has a limited recycling lifespan and reuse application. 

All of our products are developed, tested and manufactured in Melbourne. Keeping our supply chain short reduces the carbon associated with transporting raw materials. We offset the carbon associated with shipping our products Australia-wide.

 

BI: What’s your bestselling product? 

SR: Our ØDENSE Balancing Body Balm is a cult favourite. The formulation contains certified organic almond and macadamia oils infused with iris root and carrot oil, which gives a beautiful skin feel, quick absorption and deep hydration. The aromatic profile shows top notes of earth and red fruit, heart notes of lavandin and cedar, and base notes of amber and spice.  

BI: Would you consider your brand distinctly Australian and if so in what way?

SR: WØRKS is proudly Australian owned, our products are manufactured in Australia and our HQ is based in Melbourne, so in that sense we are a distinctly Australian company. But we have a strong Danish connection and commitment to Danish design – in fact our designer is based in Aarhus, Denmark. With that in mind, I’d say we are a unique hybrid of Australian manufacture and Danish design.  

BI: Why is sustainability important to you and your brand?

SR: Sustainability is our why. The reason we created WØRKS was because there were simply no brands taking sustainable product manufacture as far as we wanted to take it, while also focussing heavily on design and aesthetics. 

From the outset it was essential to us to prioritise end-to-end environmental integrity and put purpose before profit. Everything we do must pass through a rigorous sustainability protocol, which has certainly created some challenges, but our commitment to environmental ethics is something we will never compromise on.  

BI: What do you think the beauty industry could be doing better when it comes to sustainability?

SR: Stop greenwashing. Be accountable. Operate with transparency.  

Stop using buzz words like ‘clean beauty’ and ‘naturally derived’ to mislead consumers.

The beauty industry in Australia is largely unregulated, which makes it easy for brands to capitalise on marketing that deflects attention away from unsustainable formulations and practices and confuses consumers to the point that it’s very difficult to make informed choices.

If the beauty industry was serious about sustainability there would be tighter controls on brand and product claims and an emphasis on showing transparency in supply chain, manufacture and ingredients. I think moving away from self-regulation and towards tighter industry protocols is the only way to create impactful change.  

BI: Do you think Australia has a different/better/distinct outlook on sustainability than other countries? Why or why not? 

SR: I think Australia is on par with the UK and USA; sustainability in the beauty industry is aspirational, but not prioritised by many brands in any tangible or impactful way. The consumer demand for sustainable goods is there, but the education around what constitutes true sustainability is lacking.

Many brands are capitalising on and contributing to the problem. The purposeful noise-making employed by marketers has created a tricky landscape for consumers to navigate. 

Australian consumers are certainly getting savvier, so with more time, education and transparency I think consumers voting with their wallets can create discernible change towards a more sustainable future.  

BI: How do you approach wholesale partnerships? What’s your distribution strategy? 

SR: We hand select our retail partners. We spend a lot of time ensuring that a brand partnership is the right fit for both parties, as we are interested in creating long-term mutually beneficial relationships. 

Once we sign a new stockist we run brand and product training so that their team is able to successfully communicate our values, USPs and sustainability credentials to their customers. We know that when a retail partner takes the time to onboard WØRKS and invest in staff training the conversion rate with their customers is high, because there really is no other brand in Australia doing what we’re doing in this very crowded category.  

BI: How did your brand fare during the pandemic? Are there any productive pivots you made that you think were essential to the success of your company?

SR: The pandemic and resulting lockdowns were certainly challenging, especially for an emerging brand like ours. But we were fortunate in that we’re a husband-and-wife team in lockdown together, so we had nothing else to do except work.

We spent that time strategising about product and packaging development, creating our training program, rebuilding our ecommerce website, and goal setting for the forthcoming year. As soon as the lockdowns lifted and retail reopened, we were able to hit the ground running and roll out a full new collection to the retail partners we had created relationships with during lockdown.

It felt like a struggle at the time and we’re still feeling the economic effects of it now. But in retrospect that time in lockdown was game changing for us as it allowed us to slow down, reflect on what we were doing, identify how we could improve our offering and processes, and start to build WØRKS into the company we had always intended it to be.   

BI: What are some future short-term and long-term goals that you have for the brand?

SR: We have just opened our own showroom on Collins Street in Melbourne, so our short-term goal is to build a customer base. We’ve spent a lot of time in the ecommerce and wholesale space, so having the chance to meet our customers face to face is an exciting development.

We’re also starting to work with fine dining restaurants who are focusing on sustainable menu offerings and looking for sensory products that align with their environmental ethos.

Our long-term goals include expanding our collection and gaining more brand recognition in Australia before looking into overseas markets.  

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