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Why Collaboration Trumps Competition in Beauty’s Fight for Sustainability

At Fairchild Media Group’s 2021 Sustainability Summit, executives from the Estée Lauder Cos. and Pacifica Beauty said brands, suppliers and consumers need to work in tandem for eco-conscious efforts to reach critical mass.

As beauty brands find ways to minimize their impact on the environment, industry players need to compete together — not with each other.

At Fairchild Media Group’s Sustainability Summit, Brook Harvey-Taylor, founder and chief executive officer of Pacifica Beauty, spoke about the growing need for collaboration in beauty with Nancy Mahon, senior vice president of global corporate citizenship and sustainability of the Estée Lauder Companies, and Jenny B. Fine, executive editor of beauty at WWD and Beauty Inc.

Read more stories from the sustainability summit by clicking here.

Harvey-Taylor said the use of plastics — a ubiquitous packaging material that harms ecosystems — creates a dilemma for brands. “We know a few things about plastics. We’re using too much with not enough accountability, and they’re not going anywhere soon. It’s really important for us to not knee-jerk, and since brands aren’t going to stop using them tomorrow, we need to be conscientious and mindful, not reactionary,” she said.

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Mahon outlined the challenges in minimizing plastic’s impact on the planet, and stressed the need for a united front across sectors of the industry.

“Radical collaboration is us working both across industry with different players, but also vertically with our retail partners, as well as our consumers. At MAC, we have a program called Back to MAC. We’ve partnered with Macy’s and Nordstrom, where they take back products. We use it as a loyalty driver, and we also provide a free product. That’s an example where we couldn’t do it alone,” Mahon said.

She reasoned that the more brands ask suppliers for less wasteful materials, the more quickly they will become industry standards.

“As a bigger house, what we bring is our ability to scale. We have 29 brands and we have deep, deep green brands like Aveda and Le Labo of varying sizes. We tend to look at the smaller brands because of their agility and ability to innovate. We do not see this as a zero-sum game, but that we’re essentially all in this together. We can all use the same solutions, if it builds a better world, and what we want to do is open access for this to be leveraged as bigger brands branch into it,” she said.

“We can work together with our retailers, we can work together with our consumers and the beauty business to our great credit has had a great history of this and social investments, whether it be breast cancer, HIV and AIDS. We have done this before, whether it be us collaborating with Benefit or Revlon or other houses. We’re here to join arms, and we need each other,” she continued.

Harvey-Taylor warned that marketing efforts should be secondary to making meaningful changes to sourcing and manufacturing.

“We’ve been doing the work for many years behind the scenes, and we don’t talk about it that much because we’re making sure any claims we make are substantiated and that we’re weaving this into daily operations, and not just in how we market products. It’s important to think about the beginning of life of a product, and what its end of life will be. This is about collaboration and coming together, not, ‘I’m better than you because I’m doing this,’” Harvey-Taylor said.

For more from WWD.com, see:

Climate Refugees ‘Reverse Climate Change’ With New Zero-Waste Jackets

Loli Beauty Brings Zero-Waste Packaging to Ulta Beauty

Pacifica Unveils Upcycle Program With Preserve