What started out of a garage in Port Moody, British Columbia in 2019 has since turned into a global movement of millions of customers across 80 countries committed to making small lifestyle changes for the betterment of the planet.
I recently spoke with Brad Liski, co-founder and CEO of Tru Earth, a B Corp certified household cleaning products organization, who is on a mission to arm consumers with easy, effective solutions that don’t require single-use or short-lived plastics. Brad and his team own the laundry eco-strip® patent, an innovative technology that delivers laundry detergent in a strip format packaged in a compostable envelope, rather than liquid in a plastic container.
Tru Earth’s environmental business model also serves the bottom line – a balance of that’s resulted in a 944% growth rate since its inception. A key aspect of this model is giving back to the community, which has resulted in the donation of over 33 million laundry eco-strips® to individuals in need around the world.
To learn more about Tru Earth and the timely need to continue pushing the envelope on eco-conscious innovation , read more in my interview with Brad below.
Christopher Marquis: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to create Tru Earth?
Brad Liski: Thank you for having me. My co-founders and I started Tru Earth because we wanted to tackle the very serious, and growing, issue of plastic pollution. We founded Tru Earth in 2019 as an organization built around a critical cause: to make true lasting change that helps save the planet. We do that by helping customers move beyond single-use plastics and by educating and inspiring them to make choices that are better for the environment. Single-use and short-lived plastics are everywhere, and they are harming the environment—and our health—at every stage of the plastics life cycle, from production that creates hazardous emissions to disposal in landfills and waterways.
For so long, cleaning your home or doing a load of laundry also meant polluting the planet. Traditional cleaning products contain toxic ingredients, use unnecessary amounts of water and come in single-use plastic containers. We thought: There has to be a better way.
As it turns out, we found that laundry is one of the most hated household chores—and an industry that hasn’t seen change in decades. This was rife territory for eco-innovation. We patented the laundry eco-strip®, which is an ultra-concentrated sheet of liquidless detergent that dissolves in water and haven’t looked back. Since then, we have expanded into other areas of the home with our strip technology with each innovation focused on helping save the planet.
An important part of our business model is that we give back to the community. For every $25 of Tru Earth products purchased anywhere in the world, online or in-store, Tru Earth will donate laundry detergent for 1 person in need for an entire month. Every time you run a load of laundry, you have helped eliminate plastic waste and you helped someone in need have access to clean clothes. We believe having clean clothes is a human right. That’s powerful stuff.
Marquis: Tru Earth has been growing a lot since then. How are you managing the transition from entrepreneurial startup to midsize enterprise?
Liski: There is no one-size-fits-all model, but to take your business to the next level, you must make sure to have the right, committed people on your team and the infrastructure to grow. We established a strong executive and senior management team and staff to include individuals with experience in CPG marketing, operations, manufacturing and distribution, as well as experts and advisors in ESG and innovation. Our management team is not just good at what they do. They create an environment where team members feel heard, taken care of and encouraged to be bold and stretch their thinking.
To support our rapid growth, we also secured committed, impact-oriented investors who believed in our business model and built a strong infrastructure that supported our critical cause through partnerships.
Marquis: How do you balance rapid growth while also staying true to your mission and the critical cause you focus on? Do you have advice for other B Corps about this issue?
Liski: From the beginning, we decided that we would operate as an organization, not a company, and that we would center ourselves around a critical cause, not a mission.
Let me explain: We call ourselves an organization, purposefully, because we’re a group of like-minded people working toward the same purpose, including our millions of customers who are also a part of our movement. Without them, there is nothing. Likewise, a mission is a goal, a target or a hope to be something in the future. There is no time for hope. We are taking action. Our critical cause helps us stay grounded in the fact that we exist for more than just building a company. There is time, pressure and purpose to what we do.
We also have initiated several board-ratified mandates to align with this critical cause, including attaining B Corp certification, establishing a dedicated ESG department that reports directly to me and implementing Climate Smart Audits and a Materiality Assessment.
My advice to other B Corps would be to have your ESG and CSR teams report directly into the C-Suite. While there are plenty of corporate ESG teams, and more cropping up every day, there still is not enough investment in sustainability from CEOs.
Marquis: How have you converted customers who are loyal to liquid laundry detergents to eco-strips? How will this strategy play out in other areas of the home?
Liski: The name of the game is innovation, innovation and more innovation. I believe that environmentalism cannot succeed without capitalism, because we need bold, disruptive ideas and timely action to make change.
In general, when it comes to eco-alternatives, the key is not to “sell” to anyone. Develop innovative solutions that are better for the planet, are effective, and are easy to use while educating people who want to make a change–and do not shame anyone if they don’t make a change. You want people to really understand the why behind your brand, and as a result, buy the product, try it out, and then hopefully continue to try other offerings.
We also invested a lot in social media early on so that we could market directly to consumers, starting with early adopters. From there, we built not just a customer base, but a community—we call our customers #TruChangeMakers—and maintained an evolving product line by prioritizing their feedback.