You find paint everywhere – be it in classrooms, offices, kitchens, bedrooms, hospital wards or nurseries. We should care about what is in our paint, in the same we care about what is in our food. Formaldehyde, Lead, APEO are some of the most common chemicals of the home paintings, which are incredibly harmful to our health and environment. Eicó will cover almost any decorative paint needs, such as Walls, ceilings, floor, furniture, metal, concrete, fabric… this brand of eco-friendly paints is also a stronger and much longer lasting paint with no fading.
We talk to Joakim Cimmerbeck, who stopped working in finance and took the leap to start Eicó in Asia. Trying to make a difference with an eco-friendly paints brand that is less focused on profits but offering better products for decoration. Learn about the endless list of benefits an eco-friendly painting can give to you and think about this:
“Hong Kong is full of some of the most discriminating consumers in the world. But do we ever stop to think what is on our walls, either in the office or at home where either our work colleagues or family spend so much time?” Joakim Cimmerbeck
We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did!
What was the tipping point for you to start Eicó with the range of eco-friendly paints?
I came to Hong Kong for the second time in my life, now with a family with children and dogs, I wanted to make sure that they lived in a healthy home environment. I had at that time already invested and owned a high-quality sustainable paint brand in the UK. I did that as an investment while I was working in banking.
I discovered in Asia there are very little sustainable products and many of the ones that state that are doing that predominantly only because of marketing. Sustainability is not marketing it is a life changer that is instrumental in our future. We need to change.Sustainability is not marketing it is a life changer that is instrumental in our future. We need to change. Click To Tweet
What is the mission of the brand?
Disrupt and make an impact while providing consumers with the best decorative product available in Asia. Our slogan, “clean water clean air clean paint”. If we all can work towards and succeed with that we have done a lot for future generations.
What does a paint need to be eco-friendly?
A paint that is eco-friendly should be sustainable from cradle to grave.
- We use renewable water in locations where there is no water shortage.
- We use no fossil fuel in the production.
- We only use the best raw material. Higher quality is longer lasting – more sustainable.
- We do not add transport, we only use already scheduled shipments.
- Our tins are 100% recyclable, normally a paint tin is around 60%
- Adding to that we have no solvents at all in our paint regardless of colour.
- Aim to use only material that is socially and environmentally safe.
- We only produce eco-friendly products. Not a “range” only.
- And finally, maybe the most important: being open to change to improve sustainability.
What sort of chemicals and components are the most harmful to our health and/or the environment and everyone should be aware of? What are the most common side effects?
Formaldehyde – Besides fatally being diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or other nervous system consequences, formaldehyde is also a respiratory irritant that causes chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing, and nose and throat irritation, according to the ATSDR. It can also cause cancer and has been linked to an increased risk of asthma and allergies in kids. More information and source.
Lead – The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls lead paint “a major flashpoint” for children’s potential lead poisoning and says, “Since the phase-out of leaded petrol, lead paint is one of the largest sources of exposure to lead in children.” Children are exposed to lead when painted surfaces deteriorate over time and contaminate household dust and soils. Children, ages 0-6 years, engaging in normal hand-to-mouth behaviours are most at risk of damage to their intelligence and mental development from exposure to lead dust and soil. Lead paint is still today prevalent in most Asian countries. More information and source.
APEO – Poor biodegradability, their toxicity (including that of their metabolites) and their potential to act as endocrine disrupters. Alkylphenol ethoxylates are themselves believed to be endocrine disruptors and to cause feminization of male fish. More importantly, however, they produce metabolites which are believed to be many times more potent as endocrine disruptors than the parent compounds. Chemicals that can interfere with endocrine (or hormone) systems at certain doses. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed by hormone disruptors. The most potent of these are octyl- and nonylphenol. Nonylphenol is listed as a priority hazardous substance under OSPAR and the EC Water Framework Directive, which means that any discharge needs to be phased out. More information and source.
What makes Eicó products sustainable and also durable? Is it the ingredients or components, the production process, the durability…?
At Eicó we do not use any known hazardous material that cannot be replaced by a sustainable alternative. We do not add any Formaldehyde, Lead, other heavy metals, APEO and so on. Many of these additives (even if not all), are banned from use in Europe, but not in Asia. We are also a company that only use the best quality products to make our paint. For example, our water is renewable and yet of a spring water quality. Adding to that we spent many years perfecting the formula of our paints. This has given one of the most sustainable and long-lasting decorative paint products in the market. We are also very focused on how we produce and deliver, and all aspects of our environmental impact are continuously considered. Striving to become better in every aspect of what we do is key to long-standing quality and sustainability.
Where are Eico eco-friendly paints sourced or made?
Our factories are in Iceland and Sweden. We struggle to find any further location as we do not allow fossil fuel in production and we are also not keen to produce our paint in areas where water is a scarce commodity, paint making uses a lot of energy and water.
Could you please explain what is the kind of technology are you using to create the eco-friendly paints, and how different is it from other brands?
The factories worldwide for paint manufacturing are very similar, and our technology is not different. They mix the components in big vats and decant the ready product in tins, a process that can be more or less automate but, in essence, it is all the same. The quality and sustainability come from factory location the variety of paint types (solvent based and water based) produced in the factory and in general the willingness to adopt more sustainable ways. We make our paint using the best locations as well as the best and most sustainable raw material* with the least environmental impact.
*eicó paint is comprised of three main elements: pigments (colours), a binder (latex, copolymer or acrylic) and a solvent, high-quality water.
Aside from being eco-friendly, what are the other qualities to make Eico paints with a unique formula?
We believe that less is more. We have just over a handful of base products that will cover more than 90% of all decorative paint needs. That makes it easier and better for the users. Our tinting system enables us to create any colour and we are actively promoting the use of colours and making your own colours. The design is important and the use of the right colours will make a significant difference to any project large or small.
Our quality, in itself, an important sustainability factor. The fewer times you need to repaint the less you impact the environment as well as you are keeping the costs down. In Asia, we are promoting and urging our clients to use 100% acrylics as it is a stronger and much longer lasting paint with no fading. This is really important in sunny and, sometimes, wet locations.
What can Eico paints be used for?
Our Alterior range can be applied on any and all solid surfaces inside and outside. Walls, ceilings, floor, furniture, metal, concrete, fabric and so on.
What kind of clients do you have, and how do they appreciate the brand being eco-friendly?
Our clients ranging from households that care about the family and the environment to big business that have adopted a better way. We see many new clients and hope that we can continue to add clients and hopefully also get more competition. Alone we can not make a lasting change for the better. It will happen once we are all working with a common goal and we all use a better product.
Our clients, the vast majority return clients, share our approach to a better way. It can never be wrong to keep our families and the environment safe for now and the future.
Are there any certifications Eico has earned for being eco-friendly and sustainable?
We have several and keep getting more, such as “Paint with superior Eco Credentials” by the Hong Kong Green Innovation Awards and the “Certificate of Sustainable Product Supplier” by the Business Environment Council. Eicó’s manufacturing (Sweden) quality policy conforms to the environmental system standard ISO 14001 and the quality standard of ISO 9001. We also test all our paint in a third-party laboratory both in Europe and China.
In regards to your packaging, is it recyclable or do you offer options to refill for example?
Our tins are 100% recyclable unfortunately here in Hong Kong and China, despite we have tried, no company have so far shown any interest in recycling our tins. Paint can unfortunately not be “refilled” however we ask all our clients to return their unused paint, we will after we have cleaned it and fixed it offer it for free to schools and artists. This is an effort to reduce the landfill with unused paint.
What have been the challenges of creating an eco-friendly paint brand?
Creating it was quite easy. To get to our current formulas and logistic set up took almost a decade, once that was done the hard work started. We are trying hard to make a difference, especially here in Asia where the basic quality of decorative products is still very low and convince consumers and users to use a better material. This has proven to be very hard. The business consumers only really care about short-term profit. Sustainability in their minds is a cost, not a value.
How do you find the competition in the current market when it comes to painting products?
Our biggest issue is the lack of competition. In Europe, we are one of many high-quality paints and we compete more on colours and specific aspects that are appealing to different clients.
In Asia, we are one of the very few high-quality paints. We have no match in regards to eco credentials. That is an issue. We like to compete with brands that are equal rather than compete with brands that do not share our quality and eco ambitions.
You are based in Hong Kong, how does a social entrepreneurial venture look like there? Do you feel there’s a change happening in the region?
I think we are seeing some good signs but we are still lagging significantly compared to Europe and America. In Hong Kong and China, the big users are still mainly focusing on short-term gain. That when it comes to choosing decorative products becomes apparent. Products often used are of a low quality with no sustainability concern at all. Even big companies with a defined sustainability standard often use inferior products partly due to cost but mainly due to lack of knowledge or willingness to change. We have worked with some of the main HK companies and still after 5 years some of them do not feel that they need to change their products. Despite they are aware of all the issues and the risks. They just do not want to change.
That said we see a continuous and significant increase in sales to individual households and smaller contractors that are all being told by their clients to use a better product.
What has been the greatest success of the brand so far?
Being the preferred paint for some major projects here in Hong Kong, soon to be public. Along with some significant artwork in China. The biggest 3D paintwork in the world, or so we have been told.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other businesses trying to make a difference for good?
Do your homework, market research and feasibility studies before you start. Also, make sure your products or services do what you want it to do. In Asia, we have diverse weather and often extreme climate, if your products or services are dependent on this make sure it works.
Whatever is the number of sales you are targeting and time it takes to be self-sufficient, expect it to be a lot harder. Have time and money more than you think you need, double at least.
Prepare for surprises. Listen to your opposition and the ones that say what you do not want to hear. Those are the only ones that matter. The ones that say what you want to hear do not help your business. They grow your ego but that will never make business.
If you could write a message on a big wall that the entire world could read, what would it say?
Be sustainable. Not only talking about it. Start living it.
(I am really frustrated with the fashion part of sustainability and the perception of being sustainable mainly in the B2B marketplace. All companies can without prejudice say that they are sustainable. There is no measure and no control. Anyone can state anything they want)Be sustainable. Not only talking about it. Start living it Click To Tweet
Finally, where can we find you? Shops, online, worldwide…?
In Asia, we are in Hong Kong and several locations in Mainland China. We are looking for partners in other countries in Asia. So, if anyone being keen to sell “probably the best paint in the world” get in touch. In the meantime, we are happy to take orders via Eicó website and email.
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