Inside Sustainable Startup By Humankind's Mission To Transform Personal Care
PSFK speaks to the company's founder about how it is working to curb single-use plastic waste with a hybrid approach to refillable products like deodorant, offering subscription and a la carte options all with a community-driven message
Sustainability is one of the most crucial brand values for today's customers. They want a mix of eco-friendly practices and simple convenience—a delicate balance that can be hard to find.
But a new personal care brand called by Humankind is proving that this blend of sustainability and practicality is possible. PSFK spoke with Josh Goodman, the company's cofounder and CMO, to find out how by Humankind is advancing environmentalism while developing a dedicated customer base:
PSFK: What motivated you to launch By Humankind? What gaps are you filling in the market?
Josh Goodman: I worked in marketing at a bunch of ecommerce startups including Bonobos and Outdoor Voices, but I have been looking to create something a little bit more mission-driven. Single‑use plastic had been an issue that I thought about in my personal life. Around the same time, I met my cofounder, Brian [Bushell], who had just come back from a trip to Thailand where he saw firsthand the real, horrifying impact of single‑use plastic waste. We teamed up, and over a year later, here we are today.
Why did you choose to pursue the personal care category in these particular forms—mouthwash in a tablet and refillable deodorant?
Personal care is so foundational to our daily lives. The sad reality is that nearly all of personal care is single‑use plastic. We set out to build this personal care brand that cares.
Because we're doing refillable containers, we have to create a beautiful product because we're asking our customers to keep objects in their bathrooms. Another challenge is that we have to use ingredients that are great for us and build powerful formulas that really work.
The brand is asking customers to use tablets of mouthwash and solid shampoo. How are you helping customers to make that transition?
The key is making great products that do not require a great sacrifice in convenience in order to use them. We've spent a lot of time in R&D playing with form factor and figuring out what causes the most minimal disruption to what we know as mouthwash, or shampoo, or deodorant.
What trends do you see in the personal care market today?
What we've seen is this tremendous appetite for products that are better for the planet from a single‑use plastic waste perspective, but also better for us. One of the key challenges that we have seen in the market is a lot of sustainable products out there, but a lot of them are either very hard to find, are very hard to use, cause a real disruption to our daily routines, or have “eco” tacked on them without actually being great products.
Why did you choose to be direct-to-consumer? How does that strategy support your mission to reduce plastic waste?
Launching direct-to-consumer allowed us to introduce this concept of refillable personal care products. We have a hybrid model where you can either subscribe or come back and order à la carte refills. A lot of our customers aren't subscription people.
We are about to launch the ability for our customers to buy in bulk. We will, over time, have a retailer and a wholesale strategy, but we wanted to make sure that we launched the core business and the refillable element in a way that could really be put forth first and foremost.
For the future, how do you plan to build a strong community around the brand?
Just by getting ready in the morning, we're contributing in a positive way, not only for our bodies but also to our planet. We've already seen that our community is developing around that issue. If you're a by Humankind customer, you are participating in this movement just by using our products. That's really what we're focusing on—making it easy at the individual level.
Lead image: by Humankind