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Going Green: Unlabelled

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Unlabelled is an Australian skincare brand with a mission to support young people and care for the planet – here's how.

Launched in Melbourne in early 2022, Unlabelled is a social enterprise that donates 100% of its profits to charities that support young people's mental health – with the goal to address youth suicide.

Its products are vegan, made from natural ingredients and produced locally.

They're also affordable, with prices ranging from $7 to $15.

Check out our review of Unlabelled body wash to find out what it's like.

We caught up with co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris Glebatsas to hear more about the origins of Unlabelled and their plans for it.

Unlabelled co-founders Chris Glebatsas and Anthony McDonough

1.Unlabelled has a really heart-warming story of how it was founded. Can you talk a bit about how it started?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasWe developed a really strong close bond with [our daughter] Grace, as gay dads can, because we're kind of like mums and dads all rolled into one.

We've always had this ability to just chat to her about everything that's going on in her life, which we think we're really lucky to have.

And then during [the Melbourne] lockdowns, she started to tell us what her friends were going through. She was talking about issues they were having in terms of mental health issues, depression and isolation, anxiety… some had developed eating disorders.

And we obviously have a background in skincare, and we were trying to decide what our next business should be.

So we've gone, "What if we were to develop another skincare brand, but instead of just setting it up as a company as we did previously, we set it up as a not-for-profit, where all the money goes back to the prevention of youth suicide?"

Obviously, this is something that hits the gay community really strongly, but also it touches pretty much every person in Australia, and even globally.

2. How did the name "Unlabelled" come about?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasWe were having this conversation with Grace about her and her friends and how they identify these days. And she goes, "I really don't want to have any labels placed on me by society."

And we thought that would take a lot of the pressure off kids, because you know, one of the biggest issues around youth suicide is the feeling of isolation. And that's a mental health issue that generally comes about because people feel that they don't fit in.

So the things that people don't fit in around their gender, sexuality, race, religion or cultural background. And so we wanted to tackle those issues on top of our brand.

It's not often you get the opportunity to create a brand from scratch that has its own sole purpose of doing good in the world.

Unlabelled co-founders Chris Glebatsas and Anthony McDonough with daughter Grace and one of the Unlabelled bottles.
3. You've partnered with charities Black Dog Institute, QLife, Headspace and Kids Helpline. Can you share a bit more about that?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasOne thing we realised was, it's not about saving the world – it's about saving your community.

So we wanted to do something that was really localised. And the reason that we said, okay, it's actually youth suicide in Australia… where we want to put our energy.

When we were looking at who we should support, there was no one organisation that did it perfectly to cover everything. And so we said, let's find the ultimate mix.

Kids Helpline has 8.5 million calls they've answered … Every 30 seconds or something, they're answering a call.

Headspace is the only body that has counsellors in metro and regional areas where kids and their parents can walk in the door and talk to somebody in person.

With QLife, it's the only national organisation that supports people with confused sexuality or gender discussions, where they can find support and talk to people within that community.

And then with Black Dog Institute, the wonderful thing it does is look at the research behind what causes mental health issues that can lead to suicide.

The bigger vision down the track is that Unlabelled can be one of those organisations that's actually out there, filling this gap in the marketplace.

Unlabelled co-founders Chris Glebatsas and Anthony McDonough
4. Both of you have successful corporate backgrounds. How has that played into decisions around Unlabelled and in particular going down the path to being a non-profit social enterprise?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasChris and I had had a business together previously… and the only focus was profit, to the point where [the investors] tried to do a hostile takeover on our business.

When we got out of that business, we never wanted to be in a business situation again where people's only focus is around them making money. Because we know a lot of really rich and unhappy people.

So when we came to structuring Unlabelled as an entity, we thought we needed some legitimacy if we're going to say we're [donating profits].

There are a lot of brands out there that say "we give 10% of our profits to charity"… but we need to take it to the highest level of transparency.

So we're a registered health promotion charity, at the same level as a Black Dog Institute or Beyond Blue, or somebody like that.

It comes with a lot of admin on the accounting side. It also means our books and records are publicly available. It was really important to have that level of transparency.

And we've never been happier working in this environment, where we're helping change the way people think about the world.

On a weekly basis, we will get Facebook, Instagram or email [messages] from parents just celebrating what we're doing. They've seen our product, they've seen our advertising and are thanking us for just doing what we're doing and celebrating difference.

5. The Unlabelled website says "being truly sustainable is as much about the environment as it is about tackling social and economic issues". Can you speak to this a bit more?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasWe have seen the world change enormously. And what we've done with the Unlabelled brand is to say, not only do we have a great social conscience, but we have a great environmental conscience as well.

It's as important in the brand as anything else that we do. And I'll give you some examples of how that comes to life.

We're selling a product at a very competitive price point. And we're competing against multinational corporations… many of [them] produce their products and their packaging in China and ship it across. It's a cheap labour source.

They're burning a lot of carbon in transportation. And they're using virgin plastic and continuing to pump plastic into the environment.

We're not going to do that. Even if it costs us money, we have to put our money where our mouth is.

We produce our bottles in Australia from 100% recycled plastic, which comes from reclaimed consumer waste.

And then everything is done – from the printing to the filling to the warehousing – all within a really small geographic [area], well only in Melbourne.

So we keep the carbon footprint, even for the creation of plastic, as low as reasonably possible.

Two bottles of Unlabelled body wash. One says
6. What are some other ethical and sustainable elements you considered in the creation of Unlabelled's products?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasIn our soap bars, we chose not to use plastic at all because there is an alternative. We've made our boxes out of 100% certifiably sustainable pulp. And this is actually off-cuts from wood chipping mills, where … it would normally be just discarded.

Every ingredient that we can source locally we do – even our essential oils. I've got to tell you, even one of the most famous brands in Australia that are famous for their essential oils and their $50 skincare products is shipping their essential oils in from China.

And you'll notice [on the packaging] that we have some fun sayings, some uplifting ones.

What we try to do is tell a story through all of the bottles, so it's not any one bottle working on its own. We like to have fun even when we're packing the bottles… So when we're doing it makes a bit of a difference to us as we're putting them in.

One of the things that we try to avoid is dwelling on the negative. And, you know, through our Instagram and social media, we try to play up the beautifulness of difference. So that people can feel good about being different.

7. Can you speak a bit more about the ingredients you've used?

Unlabelled co-founders Anthony McDonough and Chris GlebatsasPreviously, we had a luxury skincare business and we used to have a hand wash and a body wash that we sold for over $45. And we wanted our hand and body washes at the same quality level, but at a much cheaper price.

One of the things that you'll learn about skincare is most of the cost is in the marketing, not necessarily in the product ingredients.

So we chose to produce the best possible product we could, regardless of the price point.

We have aloe vera, chamomile, jojoba oils in our products.

We have no nasty ingredients in our products... no sodium lauryl sulphate, no parabens or phthalates.

We use essential oils in our fragrances as opposed to essential oil blends – essential oil blends mean they may have 0.01% of essential oil in them and the rest is just artificial fragrances.

So what we've done is we've produced products that we can really be proud of. And we know that people will buy the product initially because of the cause but that people will continue to buy the product because the product is actually beautiful to use.

If you need support in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 at any time. The Lifeline website also has a 24-hour chat service.

Want more info and tips for making greener choices? Check out the Finder Green homepage.

Images: Supplied

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