RYAN LUPBERGER, CEO OF CLEANCULT - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
RYAN LUPBERGER, CEO OF CLEANCULT HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
"In the last year alone, Cleancult has sold more than 1,500,000 zero waste refills which removes over 1,000,000 pounds of plastic from our planet."
Passionate about bridging the gap between sustainability and excellence, Ryan Lupberger co-founded Cleancult in 2018 with Zachary Bedrosian to disrupt typical notions on zero waste living and bring ingredient transparency to the masses, changing how the cleaning industry operates. After working with numerous social ventures and the leading social impact accelerator in the USA, The Unreasonable Institute, Ryan wanted to combine his love of social impact with design and product excellence, leading to the inception of what is now Cleancult. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science from Babson College of Entrepreneurship and is an active mentor for the entrepreneurship community there. He’s been named a top Colorado Entrepreneur by NFIB, awarded Retail TouchPoints 40 Under 40 for innovation in retail, is a TEDx speaker, an author for Conscious Company, and has been a guest on American Express Changemakers.
Share with us Cleancult's mission and recognitions.
Simply put, Cleancult’s mission is to fix the cleaning industry and redefine clean - from packaging, to ingredients, to efficacy. Cleancult has raised over $25,000,000 in venture capital, is backed by the National Science Foundation, has over 16 patents pending, and has been named a top 250 consumer brand by IAB in both 2019 and 2020. Cleancult is also the only zero waste cleaning brand in nationwide retail stores. Additionally, the brand has also been named a top 20 DTC brand by Business Insider and Similar Web in 2020. I have been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fast Company, Yahoo! and more, and frequently contribute to trade publications as an industry thought leader. Cleancult is currently distributed in over 4,000 retail doors in both the U.S. and Canada, including CVS, Meijer and Kohl’s, along with digital availability through the Cleancult website and on Amazon.
Share with us some of Cleancult's recent successes.
Within the past year, the Cleancult team has worked diligently to disrupt the home cleaning category as the first zero waste, plant-based cleaning solution sold online AND on shelf. The majority of major retailers in the USA have committed to the U.S. Plastic Pact, which requires that the retailer is 100% recyclable, reusable, and refillable by 2025. Cleancult is determined to aid retailers achieve these goals and go greener, we are the first zero waste brand in the market that lives in retail. The brand can proudly say that we are now in over 4,000 stores to date, including Meijers, Kohls and CVS, along with recent expansion into the Canadian market. The company is on this trajectory to positively impact the retail industry and lead this effort to sustainable, zero-waste in-store home care options. In the last year alone, Cleancult has sold more than 1,500,000 zero waste refills which removes over 1,000,000 pounds of plastic from our planet.
In addition to leading the category within retail, in March of 2021 Cleancult also launched the world’s first ever zero-waste Foaming Hand Sanitizer in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following Cleancult’s zero waste innovative business model, each formula comes in a recyclable, paper-based milk carton, along with a stylish, shatter-resistant glass bottle to put the product in. The brand is on a mission to redefine clean for the cleaning industry and consumers alike and recently was awarded a Carbonfree® Product Certification, which means we are recognized as taking responsibility for our products’ carbon footprint while helping to hasten a market transformation to a low-carbon future. Cleancult is proud of the achievements we have made within the past year and is constantly looking ahead on how to improve and take action to better our planet.
Talk to us about innovation at Cleancult.
Cleancult was built on the basis of innovation and it is a part of everything the brand does - from formulas, to branding and packaging to new products. Our packaging is one of the most innovative on the market as we are the first company to successfully put soap into paper-based milk cartons with a resealable plant based cap. In order to also create formulas that are both safe and equally effective in cleaning up every day messes, we teamed up with PhD scientists to harness natural ingredients, leading to the development of our proprietary coconut-powered CocoClean tech, which creates a hyper-effective yet safe formula. The use of coconut oil effectively cleans surfaces through its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, without the use of harmful chemicals.
By using a refill system like Cleancult, consumers can eliminate 44 lbs. of plastic per year. Additionally, within the past year, we have worked diligently to innovate new products in response to COVID-19 and to meet the rise in consumer demand for sanitizing products that are safe for the environment, tough on germs, and gentle on hands. This resulted in Cleancult launching the world’s first zero-waste Foaming Hand Sanitizer earlier this year. We continue to keep a pulse on industry trends to consistently meet consumer needs. In fact, to date, Cleancult has helped to offset 1,200 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by partnering with Carbonfund.org, we are committed to continuing to increase this number with our refill system.
Why is Cleancult unique on the market?
Cleancult is unique compared to other cleaning brands through our mission, zero-waste attributes, product formulation, packaging and also our overall branding. Cleancult continues to lead the industry in plant-based and sustainable innovation, and with a 360 degree refill system like ours where the recyclable refills and plastic-free glass bottles are delivered straight to doorsteps, consumers can eliminate approximately 44 lbs. of plastic per year. Our products are formulated with the cleanest, biodegradable ingredients.
Unlike competitors that use petroleum-based ingredients, Cleancult teamed up with PhD scientists to harness natural ingredients, leading to the development of our proprietary coconut-powered CocoClean Technology, which creates a hyper-effective yet safe formula. Coconut oil has been studied to have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, without all of the harmful chemicals. We never uses enzymes, any artificial preservatives, or artificial scents, and instead utilize essential oils as stabilizers, scents, and preservatives. All Cleancult products are tested by third party labs and are either as good or better than the efficacy ratings of leading natural household cleaners.
Please share some of the social responsibility initiatives at Cleancult.
Responsibility and sustainability are two pillars Cleancult has truly been built around. Our brand is on a mission to redefine clean in an industry that is filled with harmful plastic and harsh chemicals, and takes this mission seriously. From biodegradable ingredients, to 100% recyclable packaging made in the USA, and a carbon-neutral shipping model, Cleancult is dedicated to giving consumers a new, sustainable way to clean their homes with their 360-degree refill system from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
Cleancult is the first and only company in the world to successfully put soap in recyclable milk cartons, with a resealable plant-based cap and also offers shatter-proof glass dispenser bottles that can be reused for a variety of products, which ultimately helps eliminate plastic by 90%. In addition to the innovative packaging, plant-based formulas and carbon-neutral shipping, Cleancult also partakes in a variety of CSR and sustainability programs, such as a free mail-back recycling program where our company will take care of consumer’s finished cartons with our partners at Memphis Recycles. I have also already mentioned our partnership with Carbonfund.org, in which our brand vigorously assesses our shipping carbon footprint to invest in carbon reduction projects and plant trees to undo the shipping carbon we emit. The result is our official carbon-neutral status, a significantly reduced footprint, and a happier earth.
How is Cleancult overcoming obstacles in the industry?
In addition to Cleancult’s thriving direct-to-consumer channel, we developed a hybrid business model to work with retailers on lowering their carbon footprint and catering to a fast-growing consumer demand for sustainable cleaning products that actually work. In Cleancult’s view, retailers hold just as much responsibility as the brands they sell, and are actively committed to supporting retailers in going green. By offering Cleancult’s zero waste, plant-based products in retailers across the country (over 4,000 stores to-date) and now into Canada, we are helping major chains - such as CVS, Kohls and Meijers - take steps towards greener business plans while showing consumers a new, greener way to clean their home. Because of Cleancult's leadership and determination to change the cleaning industry, we are pioneering the way retailers can lower their own carbon footprint.
By 2025, almost all retailers in the USA have committed to the U.S. Plastic Pact, which requires that the retailer is 100% recyclable, 100% refillable and 50% compostable. While these goals are aggressive, Cleancult is one of the only brands successfully operating under these zero waste-free principals that can help them achieve these objectives as there’s not a single zero waste brand in the market that lives on retail shelves. In terms of other areas the industry needs to improve on: one of the cleaning industry’s dirtiest secrets is the amount of single-use plastic that is discarded.
In fact, 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging and that’s why we created 100% recyclable packaging with paper-based carton refills, topped with a resealable paper-based cap, along with stylish glass bottles to put the formulas in. Cleancult’s refillable system was designed in an effort to reduce plastic-use and allows consumers to eliminate approximately 44 pounds of plastic per year. Cleancult hopes to lead the cleaning industry to continue eliminating plastic waste from our planet.
What are the pillars of great leadership?
Great leadership breaks down to three main pillars. The first pillar is kindness. I am a leader who prioritizes kindness with my team and ensures that kindness permeates every part of the operation. If kindness truly becomes a cultural trait, it also radiates to additional partners, vendors and the community. Kind leaders are often underrated, however are crucial for world businesses to really grow, succeed and actually affect change in their communities. The second pillar is transparency. I am fully and completely transparent with the entire company on financials, growth, challenges and organizational structure.
I believe that people need true buy-in and they should understand what the company is really going through. If the leadership shows true and radical transparency, there’s no reason that the broader team would not as well. The last pillar is the true pursuit of perfection. From day one, everyone on the Cleancult team has believed in iteration and optimization. Throughout the year within each quarter, every product, formula, process and brand message are reviewed. How can we optimize this? How can we iterate on this? While our team is on a continuous pursuit of perfection, we do acknowledge that nothing will ever be absolutely perfect, including leaders, but ultimately this makes the organization and its members truly effective at continuously bettering themselves.
For more information about Cleancult, visit: www.cleancult.com