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Product, Service & Design Innovation
S’well’s New Sustainability-as-a-Service Platform Riding GroundS’well of Demand for Circular Products

Best known for its fashionable reusable bottles and hydration accessories, S’well recently launched GroundS’well — a sustainability-as-a-service platform that aims to help brands improve consumer habits while decreasing single-use plastic waste.

Ask any circular economy expert and they’ll tell you that cheap design often works out to be more expensive in the long run. But the reality is, many products are still being designed with little or no thought as to what happens to them once they are no longer required or deemed useful.

This disconnect — between end-of-life and start-of-life considerations — means many brands continue to struggle when it comes to making genuine progress against pledges to eliminate single-use plastics or reduce waste and pollution.

It’s an opportunity that companies such as New York-based S’well are keen to tap into. Best known for its fashionable reusable bottles and hydration accessories, S’well recently launched GroundS’well — a sustainability-as-a-service platform, as it looks to diversify its business proposition to create a bigger impact.

“While we’re proud that S’well has helped displace more than four billion single-use plastic bottles over the last 10 years, there is so much more we can do if we help brands reach their own goals,” S’well founder and chair Sarah Kauss told Sustainable Brands™ in a recent interview.

The first GroundS’well collaboration has seen S’well team up with natural vitamin brand New Chapter to design and launch a reusable vitamin case, released last month. The aim behind the co-branded container is to help improve wellness habits for consumers while decreasing single-use plastic waste.

Image credit: S'well

“With this in mind, we developed a vitamin case using some of S’well’s best-selling styles, like Teakwood; and then designed product elements to offer convenience, including a daily organizer that could hold up to eight vitamins and a lid that could also act as a tray,” Kauss says.

The rationale behind the new launch stems partly from a survey of 500 New Chapter consumers — which indicated strong demand for the convenience of a quality reusable vitamin case, especially when managing a supplement regimen on the go.

With many consumers still relying on single-use plastic bags for their supplements if they are away from home, New Chapter estimates replacing those with a reusable case could eliminate nearly a half-million single-use plastic bags from the waste cycle in its first year alone.

Like S’well, New Chapter is a certified B Corp and claims to be the first major vitamin and supplement company to achieve this certification.

“We believe in the importance of promoting optimal health while actively reducing our carbon footprint,” says Blaine Streisand, the company’s president and chief commercial officer. “Partnering with S’well just made sense.”

Asked if S’well was actively looking to diversify towards a service-based model before the New Chapter collaboration came about, Kauss says that her company had been exploring the opportunity for some time.

“Over the years, brands have reached out to S’well for assistance in meeting corporate goals tied to waste and helping shift consumer awareness. So, as we’ve helped green company spaces, advance more sustainable operations or develop projects that shift certain single-use plastic habits; we've seen the impact S’well can create by being a partner to organizations that may not have the resources, experience or time to move certain programs forward alone.”

Kauss says these conversations and programs have helped S’well not only better understand market needs, but apply its expertise and experience to drive change at scale — especially when it comes to putting sustainability at the heart of design. She asserts:

“As product designers, companies really need to take a step back and think about the consumer journey with their products: How can they design new products or systems that help consume more with less? What messaging can they include to educate consumers and encourage action? What programs can they develop to raise awareness about the steps they are taking to minimize waste and footprints?”

The benefits of collaboration also mean that brands can go to market faster with transformative products and programs, reaching more consumers in the process, Kauss adds.

“Quite frankly, we see a need to help produce more impact, faster. Consumers are demanding that we all do more. We can innovate with speed, execute a wide range of programs with precision and collaborate in meaningful ways to lead behavioral change together.”

S’well has a range of services it can offer, from design and new product development to greening spaces and impact programming. Going forward, Kauss says that, while the company is open to various opportunities, it is looking to target growth for its GroundS’well platform from an advocacy perspective — that means looking for and targeting where the main waste challenges are in relation to society and consumer habits, and partnering with brands that have the ability to affect behavioral change in those areas for the better.

“Design and performance are integral parts of behavioral change,” Kauss maintains. “When individuals covet the thing you make because of how beautiful it is or because it functions so well; they will use it, show it off and tell others about it.”

She adds that the beauty of design is also its ability to start a conversation.

“We’ve started millions of conversations that lead to action at S’well; and our plan is to start even more impactful ones for other brands through GroundS’well.”