When Niccii Kugler’s sons ask her what she’s doing to make the world a better place, she wants to have a good answer. So in an effort to be a mindful consumer and raise awareness around brands who are doing their bit, she decided to make it a bit easier by collecting together brands making a positive impact, and putting them all in one place.
That place is Nash + Banks, an online lifestyle marketplace championing brands and products whose values align with hers. While the website came out of her personal experience trying to be a more conscious consumer, it’s ultimately inspired by her two boys, Nash and Banks.
“The stories I was telling my eldest about the natural world, and the whales, and the incredible creatures of our planet – he’s a David Attenborough fan – made me a bit sad inside, knowing the reality of what we’ve been doing [to the environment],” she tells Broadsheet.
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This, and a stint working with a rainforest protection NGO in Costa Rica, kickstarted a personal process around making better choices as a consumer, researching ethical brands and “spending a lot of time in ‘about’ pages”.
As she learned more about those brands, it became clear that they needed a way to reach a wider audience, so Kugler put the writing and publicity skills she gained from working in media and marketing to good use.
What began as a project working with the brands on storytelling and bespoke copywriting eventually morphed into an online marketplace aimed at helping consumers make more informed purchasing decisions, and making it easy for them by putting everything they need to know in one place.
“I wanted to create a place where I could champion brands that were doing great work in the ethical, sustainable space,” she says. “And I wanted to make it really easy for people to find well-designed, purpose-driven products they could support and fall in love with the same way I first did.”
Every item Nash + Banks carries is carefully chosen, and Kugler makes sure they adhere to at least one of the site’s eight core values: ethical, sustainable, minimal waste, vegan, upcycled, giving back, organic and artisan.
“Artisan is an interesting one because people sometimes wonder why that’s included. But I think by virtue of artisans producing things by hand – with skill, slowly, in small batches – in many ways, it’s a sustainable and ethical form of production,” Kugler explains.
One of the first brands to inspire the project was sunglasses company W R Yuma. Founder Sebastiaan De Neubourg worked in the circular economy space (where recycled materials are used to make new items), and demonstrated its benefits himself when he began using plastic waste from water bottles and car dashboards and turning them into 3D-printed shades.
Then there’s Swell, a chewing gum brand from a Sydney couple who realised conventional gum largely contains plastic and rubber. Their alternative is entirely plant-based and vegan, packaged in recycled paper and biodegradable zip-locks.
There’s also a mother-daughter duo empowering women in India; a luxury accessories label making handbags out of Piñatex (upcycled pineapple leather); and a range of zero-waste personal care products including shampoo bars and coffee scrubs.
Nash + Banks is a partner of i=Change, a platform for retailers to support NGO projects around the world. One dollar from every sale on the website is donated: customers can choose between supporting bushfire recovery, restoring the Great Barrier Reef or providing menstrual products for girls so they can keep going to school.
What started as a passion project dedicated to her two sons has grown into something bigger, but it’s definitely made an impact at home, too.
“My eldest is so passionate about the environment. He’s very against palm oil and pulls products out of friends’ pantries if there’s palm oil in them,” Kugler says with a laugh. “When they ask what I’m doing to help, I want to show them this – I’m empowering change, in the best way I can.”