How To Woo An Eco-Conscious Crowd
Jessica Alba is not a scientist, nor has she played one on TV. But she is a mom, and she's done a lot of research. "I read a book called Healthy Child Healthy World when I was seven-and-a-half months pregnant, and my eyes were opened to all of the toxic chemicals that are in everyday household and baby products," Alba says. "So I went to the author of that book, Christopher Gavigan, and I hounded him for a year. I said, ‘I appreciate you've given me a handbook, but you haven't given me a solution. Let's make the solution.' " Together, they developed a baby-care and household-cleaner company eco-friendly enough to calm her nerves, with a flagship product that's every new parent's largest recurring purchase. "We felt like the disposable-diaper industry was the greatest area of opportunity for innovation," Alba says.
Consumers often forgive eco-friendly products for small failings, like deodorants that fade by evening. But diapers can't leak. Honest creates absorbency with a wheat, corn, and wood-fluff mix and did independent testing--finding, it claims, that its diapers achieve up to 35% more total absorption than conventional and other eco-friendly diapers.
Eco-conscious parents are often young and hip, so you can't just sell them on an ingredient list. Honest's product design is influenced by French soap makers and designers like Alexander McQueen. "You spend more time changing your kid's bum every single day than anything else," Alba says. "Why not have it be more pleasant?"
The diaper is more than 85% biodegradable, and though Alba relies on her science-minded team for the specifics, her direction is more gut based: She cares most about cleansing the materials that touch babies' skin. "I do love the planet, but the health of my child comes first," she says. Now the company is working to green the rest, like the tab that fastens the diaper closed.
Alba's consumer expects purity of product, so her website keeps the details honest, too: Paper for fluff comes from certified sustainable forests; its baby wipes are biodegradable. "I wanted a company that's transparent," says Alba. "I was sick of people saying, ‘This is our green line, it costs a dollar more,' but it's the same stuff that's in everything else. They deleted one fragrance, but it still has tons of carcinogens. Like, really?"
Wins acting competition in Beverly Hills at age 11; signs with first agent
Makes film debut in Camp Nowhere
Wins starring role in the television remake of Flipper
Stars in James Cameron’s Fox sci-fi series Dark Angel; nominated for Golden Globe in 2001
Ranked #1 on Maxim magazine’s Hot 100 list
Plays Sue Storm in Fantastic Four
Marries Cash Warren; gives birth to first daughter Honor
Gives birth to second daughter Haven
Founds The Honest Company
Photo by Justin Coit
A version of this article appears in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company.