Influencers & Profiles

Green at heart: How Malcolm Rands created a pioneering eco brand

Kirsten Robb /

Name: Malcolm Rands

Company: ecostore

Based: Auckland, NZ

When Malcolm Rands returned to New Zealand from an overseas trip at the age of 26, he was far from a tree-hugging hippy. But after deciding to do something nice and make his mum a veggie patch, it was perfect happenstance that the book he pulled from the shelf was titled Organic Gardening.

It set Malcolm and his wife Melanie on a path that led to them creating their own fully sustainable eco village in rural New Zealand and to the creation of their internationally successful range of eco-friendly household cleaning products.

These days, ecostore generates an annual turnover of $30 million and, if you cut Rands open, he might just bleed green. If he’s not walking to work, then you’ll find him in his environmentally friendly Prius or competing with his staff to see who can cook the greenest meal. Or he might just be working on his plans for ecostore, which are nothing short of world domination.

Mornings

Rands is up and at them by 6.30am, downing a liquid breakfast fit for Rocky.

“I’ll put a raw egg in there,” says Rands. “I’m a big fan of protein.”

Then he’s off on his walk to the local café, a place he’s been visiting loyally for 16 years.

After reading the newspapers and planning the day ahead, he walks to the office or hits the road in his petrol-saving Prius.

“It has a little robot,” he says of his new favourite toy. “It’s very cool, it’s a radar that pings the car in front of you and then sets your top speed, so when the car speeds, you speed up, and when it slows down, you slow down. It saves up to 30% on petrol.”

Daily life

Rands gets to the office before his staff so he can get stuck into work without any appointments.

“I try to get my 350 emails down to a respectable number,” he says.

As chief executive, his day is busied and varied. He will bounce between strategy, product development, research, media work and managing his 60 or so staff.

“My traditional job as chief executive sounds like a cliché, but I’m here to make my management team be best they possibly can be and then they’ll just do their job.

“It’s so easy to dwell on what your team is doing badly. Instead of trying make the bad good, [I like to] think about what they’re brilliant at and nurture that.”

Rands spends three days of the week in his eco-village in the north of Auckland and says, surrounded by the tranquil organic gardens, his days there are the most relaxed and productive of the week.

Rands says the eco village was the inspiration for ecostore’s cleaning products.

“The water that runs into the property is some of the purest in the world; it comes from the national park. So when we started the village, we challenged ourselves to see if we could make water leaving the village just clean going out as it was coming in.”

“We started thinking about all the laundry detergents, shampoos, soaps and the toxic products in our homes. At the time, thinking organically meant thinking about your garden, not about what was in your home.”

“When we started 21 years ago, not many people were into eco products. They thought it was all too hard, too much bloody trouble. They assumed you had to wear a hemp shirt.

“It was our mission then, and it still is now, to make it easy and pleasurable to make a difference.”

Leisure time

Rands says he likes to integrate his work and his leisure time, and thinks the idea of a work-life balance paradigm is “bullsh*t”.

“The underlying thought behind it is that work is a bad thing. If you think your work is bad, you’re doing it wrong.

“If you work in the evening or on the weekends, or you look at your phone or your emails, don’t beat yourself up, you shouldn’t be ashamed. Just take a couple of hours off during the normal work day to balance it out.”

Rands says one of his greatest joys is taking on new projects and loves being involved with several festivals he started in Auckland, including the International Buskers Festival.

Future

When asked about future plans for ecostore, Rands doesn’t miss a beat: “Wold domination,” he says. “Why shouldn’t it be? Why shouldn’t someone from Australasia take over the ethical market and the world?”

And he does truly believe the ethical market is the way of the future.

“A shift in perception is coming,” he says. “Once people realise global warming is not slowing down, at one stage they’re going to say stop, and suddenly these trillion dollar companies will collapse.”

While Rands says global warming deniers are “nutters”, he doesn’t want to talk about politics – not because he’s afraid to say something out of line.

“Business is the solution to climate change, not politicians,” he says. “If you look at all the amazing changes around the world, it’s business doing it.”

“People will realise you can be ethical and be profitable.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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