20 years of sustainable business – Pablo Kraus, ecostore

Pablo Kraus, Managing Director of ecostore, shares his family journey on sustainability, how he came to lead ecostore, and what they are doing to reduce emissions in the Climate Leaders Coalition as well as helping out with Plastic Free July.

What changes have you seen in sustainability in the last 20 years?

I was talking about sustainability with one of my staff members whose name is Tony. He’s our longest-standing staff member and he told me about 20 years ago he was talking about climate change with his wife and they were having dinner parties and people thought he was absolutely crazy. They thought they were heretics. Now people actually understand that there is a problem.

How did you get involved in sustainability?

My family has been involved in ecostore for over 15 years now and my father tells me a story about when he was younger and his mother was a school cleaner. She would come home stinking of chemicals and he said that he walked out of a supermarket down the road and walked into ecostore and he said where have these products been, these products that are safer for the environment but also safer for people. I’ve always grown up around sustainability and I think particularly in the last six, seven years, I’ve got two young children of my own and leading by example is really important to me.

How did you become the head of ecostore?

About eight years ago. I was working as a web developer and making websites and touch screen applications and I was somewhat shouldertapped by my father to come back and work in the business. And I became a director of ecostore. Two and a half years ago, the role came up to be CEO of ecostore. And initially I was a bit nervous to step in, but after six months I was convinced to take it on.

What would you like to see in the next 20 years?

Well, what’s happened in the last 20 years is people have found out about sustainability. People have found that why it’s really important. Now the awareness is coming out there and people are talking about it. People are starting to make changes, both companies and government and consumers. The next 20 years is all about action. We’ve got these goals in place now, let’s smash them out of the water. It’s about the doing now and actually really getting on. I’m an optimist, so I think we can really get there.

How has being a member of SBC helped ecostore?

It’s created that community, created that place for people in businesses to come together and be able to talk and share and also help each other. It’s about doing things collectively and starting to push real change together. Any business trying to be sustainable on their own can only do so much and if we’re not sharing some of the things that we’re able to do, then we’re not going to able to get the traction and hit some of the goals that we want to achieve.

Why is it important for ecostore to be a member of the Climate Leaders Coalition?

It was an opportunity to actually put a line in the sand and join a number of other companies together and like I said, it’s all about action in the next 20 years and if we don’t put any goals down, we’re not going to have anything to get to and we’re going to continue to dawdle.

What has ecostore achieved that people might not know about?

About five years ago we converted all of our packaging to using sugar plastic. A lot of people don’t know this, sugar plastic is not using a nasty petrochemical plastic, it’s not using an unsustainable resource and it did come at almost twice the cost of a regular petrochemical plastic. It also captures carbon from the atmosphere. So we’ve actually managed to capture over four and a half thousand tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere by switching all of our packaging into sugar plastic.

We went into a new distribution centre last year and also upgraded all of our forklifts at the same time to be using electric forklifts. Which is quite nice even walking around the factory, I’m not hearing much, but so you have to be very aware and hope that they are tooting the horn, at least

What can we do about reducing plastics use?

I find plastic is a really difficult conversation to have sometimes because not all plastic is bad and it does have a purpose, particularly hospital uses. What we need to start looking at is how we can actually close that loop and whether it’s recycling, reusing our plastic is one way to do things, but reducing it, being conscious, using different products, using products that don’t need plastic in the first place. And I think that’s where we’re going to start to see more innovation is how do we actually redesign our products to not start with plastic or how do we redesign it so that the plastic is not necessarily single use, but actually need to at least reuse it once to start making headway because then you’re going to start using it three times, four times. But if we sit here and try to be perfect, then we’re just going to continue to act in the way that we’re still behaving because we haven’t made progress.

One of the ways that we’re helping during Plastic Free July, is actually really encouraging people to use our refill stations. And we’ve got over 60 refill stations around the country now and we’re also very excited to last month, launch the first one ever to go into a supermarket, which has been an absolutely resounding success. So we’re really looking forward to rolling out more refill station, and starting to actually just change the way that we consume products because changing consumers’ behaviour is one of the hardest things to do.

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