Grove Collaborative, the D2C company that delivers home cleaning products to people’s doorsteps, bills itself as the first “plastics-neutral” retailer. And a year after launching its ambitious Beyond Plastic initiative, it is urging other companies to change their approach to single-use plastic, too.
The San Francisco-based company first launched the Beyond Plastic push a year ago, just as the pandemic started, vowing to be plastic-free by 2025. It has made progress in its efforts, including the launch of Peach, a line of 100% plastic-free personal care products, which it says will save 100,000 pounds of plastic in its first year. It also introduced a fully plastic-free line of hand and dish soaps, which it says will prevent close to one million pounds of plastic from entering the environment.
While consumers’ obsession with cleanliness during COVID-19 has been good for Grove, the pandemic has actually been a nightmare for the planet. Managing COVID-19 led to significant increases in single-use plastic. Retailers rolled back plastic-bag bans. Shipping and takeout orders soared. And many municipalities stopped all recycling efforts to avoid contagions. Personal protective equipment also had a major impact, with some hospitals reporting up to ten times the usual medical waste.
“We did see strong demand throughout the pandemic,” says Stuart Landesberg, co-founder and CEO of Grove Collaborative, in an email. Revenues totaled $250 million for the year. “People want to make more responsible choices. More people are paying attention to their impact and want to be a part of the solution.”
Landesberg says consumers also respond to effectiveness: “Our products work.”
In addition to selling popular brands, including Method, Mrs. Meyer’s and Seventh Generation, “we are continuing our focus on clean product innovation and looking at more sustainable practices," he adds. "As soon as we know that we can deliver the superior performance and highly sustainable products that our customers are looking for, that is when we innovate and introduce new brands to our portfolio to fill white spaces in the market.”
Last year, Grove introduced the third-party Plastic Working Group, working with 63 of its partner brands, sharing best practices. The company is also working to achieve plastic neutrality by subjecting partner brands to a plastic offset “tax,” based on the amount of plastic sent to consumers. It then teams up with Plastic Bank and rePurpose Global to take the equivalent amount of ocean-bound plastic out of the waste stream. And it is boosting coastal collection efforts.
Grove is also working to increase glass recycling, which it says is only at 31% in the U.S.
The company which raised a total of $450 million in start-up funding, started with a mission “to make CPG products a positive force for human and environmental health, and this has continued to drive our passion and focus throughout the pandemic,” Landesberg says. “Sustainability is at the heart of our business and brand and has been from day one, and that never wavered. It’s not enough to succeed in health or the environment. Companies need to prioritize both.”
Landesberg tells D2C FYI that Grove’s prime audience is mostly female, “but otherwise wide and very diverse.” Top Zip codes are on both coasts, as well as cities like Chicago, Austin and Houston. “Many of our customers are currently buying conventional products at big-box retailers but want to discover eco-friendly brands,” which means education is essential. He says some 30,000 customers interact with the company's Grove Guides every week.
Through TV and digital ads -- including a growing effort on TikTok – Grove’s marketing focuses on making sustainability look easy. “Consumers are smarter than ever before,” Landesberg says, estimating that more than 80% of Grove’s users are aware of the Beyond Plastics effort. “They already know we need to move away from harmful chemicals and environmentally destructive packaging. We want to make sure that when those folks take action, Grove is top of mind.”