Running a sustainable beauty business isn’t always easy, but it will soon be the norm if brands commit to innovation and get consumers on board, leaders from brands including Sana Jardin, Neal’s Yard and Unilever’s Love Beauty and Planet said on Tuesday.
CEW (UK) and Givaudan hosted a talk in London called “Celebrating Sustainability in the Beauty Industry,” with brand leaders agreeing that sustainability can be difficult — and sometimes expensive — but the key is to take small steps, build greener policies into the business plan and set clear goals.
“You have to ask yourself, what’s your impact? We do footprinting work to find out where the impact is. It might be your ingredients or how consumers use your product, but it’s about understanding your entire value chain,” said Louise Green, head of sustainability at Neal’s Yard Remedies.
For Neal’s Yard, the impact lies in the use of organic ingredients, so Green said it was important to build relationships with producers.
“We need them to have their crops, to be healthy and to want to do business with us. Without them we wouldn’t have our business.”
Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, founder of Sana Jardin, also stressed the importance of building a community. She operates a closed loop system by helping to create products and compost from flower waste. She promotes “going beyond sustainability” and is helping to create employment and to educate the local community.
“It’s seeing how businesses can be more creative and, of course, evaluating one’s own supply chain to see where there is waste,” Christiansen Si-Ahmed said.
Matthew Seal, research and development partner for Unilever brand Love Beauty and Planet, which uses recycled plastic packaging, said that trying to solve a problem is sometimes better than avoiding it altogether.
“We can go plastic-free, but plastic is a really environmentally low impact material compared to other materials. The problem is that it’s a single-use product, so why not make it 100 percent recyclable and create an economy for it?” he said.
Speakers also said that businesses should start small and hold themselves accountable for their actions. Neal’s Yard stopped selling sandalwood around the millennium and has only reintroduced this ingredient after partnering with an ethical plantation in Australia.
At Love Beauty and Planet, the brand has self-imposed a carbon tax. For every ton of greenhouse gas emitted, the brand will charge itself 40 euros.
“We want to relink doing good with doing business and to create a financial incentive to support infrastructure and recycle more effectively and ultimately cut our footprint,” Seal said.
When asked what will continue to drive sustainable changes, the brands all spoke of new technologies, in the form of machines to ease labor and excite producers, or new biotechnologies for processes such as extraction.
The event also promoted the CEW (UK) Responsible Beauty Award, sponsored by Givaudan, which recognizes a beauty product or product line that has most significantly moved toward the goal of improved sustainability. The award aims to encourage steps toward greater sustainability within the beauty industry. Eligible beauty products or product lines must be currently available at retail in the U.K.