We talked to Kim Graham-Nye of gDiapers about why the diaper industry needs to change, and COVID-19.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Kim Graham-Nye: We are based in Sydney, Australia, so our experience is radically different than those of American families.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded gDiapers.
Kim Graham-Nye: When I was pregnant with our first son, we came across the shocking statistics that 1 disposable diaper takes up to 500 years to biodegrade…and that in the US alone…over 50,000,000 were going into landfills every single DAY!!! It wasn’t rocket science to see we were creating a plastic waste crisis. This was in 2002, long before the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, or the public’s understanding that landfills contribute to Greenhouse Gases which impact global temperatures and the resulting climate crisis. We simply saw it as common sense: with 50 million dirty diapers a day, we were going to run out of holes in the ground at some point! My husband and I founded gDiapers, raised capital, and moved to the USA in 2004 to launch our hybrid diaper with compostable inserts (wet diapers can go into your backyard home compost and will degrade in once cycle – typically 55-150 days).
How does gDiapers innovate?
Kim Graham-Nye: The global diaper industry is grounded in polypropylene. Why? Because plastic is cheap. Our current economic structure does not account for ‘true costs’ as it does not include externalities, i.e., generating Greenhouse Gas emissions, ocean pollution, fossil fuel extraction, etc. At gDiapers, we start with the end in mind and design out the very concept of waste. We were the first brand in the world to be Cradle to Cradle Certified (Silver) and home compostable, which means we turn waste into a resource. No plastic. No landfill. No waste.
In addition to our core mission of eliminating plastic from the diaper industry, gDiapers has innovated both in our products and our way of doing business. On the product front, we brought fashion into the diaper category with our soft cotton textile gPants (compostable inserts sit inside our gPants). For us, the baby’s bottoms are adorable and offered the perfect outlet for fashion and personality. Within 3 years of launching, both industry leaders – Huggies & Pampers – went beyond their Disney characters and brought out designer printed patterns. Today, beautiful prints are simply expected from most brands.
We also chose to do business differently right from the beginning. We called it being “Fair Dinkum,” which is an Australian expression for being genuine and real with everyone you meet. Simply put: it has integrity. When bCorporation certification came into being, we saw it as an independent assessment for how fair dinkum we were being – to our people, the planet, and our profit. We also offered onsite childcare from day one (literally, our first official gDiapers employee was a teacher!). By the end of our first 2 years, we had 19 adults (15 gStaff and 4 teachers) and 12 kids in the office every day. We called it The Village, and it allowed parents to be closer to their bubs; mums could breastfeed on demand; Dads could read their kids to sleep, and we all loved having them on site. At g, the family is at our core. This meant we offered flexible hours and always allowed folks to work from home (so much so that in 2015 Jason and I decided we wanted to ‘work from home’ too and moved home to Australia and zoomed in for meeting every day). So I would say innovation is the water we swim in.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Kim Graham-Nye: The current reality is that COVID has effected our supply chain and forced us to temporarily close our doors after 15 years. But Jason and I refuse to live in the current reality and instead focus on what could be (rather than what is). Our goal is to look back on this time and see it as our greatest gift. We have always had long and complicated supply chains…thanks to COVID – we have been forced to re-imagine our materials and push ourselves into new business models. We have new products, partnerships, and materials in development and fresh ways of attacking the market. But for now…we are living off savings and trying not to freak out!
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Kim Graham-Nye: Yes. Closing our US office was a painful decision. Not only were we letting down our customers and community, but laying off our gTeam, who had been with us for 3-15 years – was incredibly difficult, especially knowing how hard the job market would be in the US right now. But every crisis brings opportunity, and now that we are no longer selling to mums and dads in the US (no office, no warehouse, no team, no pipeline, no systems, no structures, no product), we find ourselves really excited by radical new ideas on how gDiapers is going to come back. COVID is essentially gifting us a “blank piece of paper” to start all over again, but this time with the benefit of 15 years experience!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and gDiapers in the future?
Kim Graham-Nye: In the following ways.
- Stress – I enjoy a 3 part mediation each day. The first part is to quiet my mind in order to train my focus. The second part is to calibrate my energy to joy/gratitude/flow to find my happy place. This puts me in touch with my best self and aligns my energy to what I am meant to be doing on this earth. We all have our unique talents, that work that feels almost effortless and brings us joy. When I am in this state – I am on the right path. The third part is taking advantage of this connection with my inner being, and I sit quietly ready to ‘receive.’ That might sound woohoo – but I quiet my mind so that I can hear my intuition and my body guide me and inspire me. Even on really busy days- I will spend 1 minute in each step – to myself aligned for the day ahead.
- I am also lucky enough to live on the beach, so I walk on the sand every day and connect with the beauty, abundance, and inspiration of nature.
- As I mentioned above, Jason and I choose to see the world as it CAN BE – and do not spend much time focused on what it IS today. For 18 years, we have seen the impending plastic waste crisis, and are determined to shift the global diaper industry into a circular economy (where corporations take responsibility for what they bring into the world, and where waste no longer exists). We strive to find better ways to work in order to connect with our best selves and create a work place that replenishes our personal energy rather than drains it.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Kim Graham-Nye: Historically, it was baby diaper companies, but thanks to COVID, we see new opportunities to attack plastic waste and are redefining our business model. I wish I could say more, but it is just too early to share!
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