What is it?
Sustainability in the beauty industry has become a hot topic due to a rise in environmental awareness, new global standards, its profitability and consumer demand. Cosmetic brands, retailers, suppliers, spas and salons are starting to realize that incorporating sustainability into their overall business strategy is the right thing to do. Social responsibility is beneficial not only to large corporations, but also to small and medium sized businesses who want to differentiate themselves from their competition. Studies have shown that implementing sustainable actions has its benefits, including enhanced brand image, increased sales and customer loyalty. In addition, YouGov data showed that in 2017 the proportion of 18-24 year olds turning to vegetarianism for environmental reasons increased from 9% to 19%, while a 2018 McKinsey & Business of Fashion study reported that 66% of global millennials are willing to spend more on fashion brands that are sustainable. Consumers are paying attention and sustainability will soon be an expectation, not a choice.
Many consumers have assumed that if a product is listed as “organic” or “natural”, it is considered sustainable. However, this is rarely the case. In order for a product, business or brand to be truly sustainable all facets of sustainability must be addressed. In addition to using environmentally friendly ingredients, there are many dimensions to being sustainable. Are eco-friendly packaging and designs being used? How green are the internal operations, distribution and marketing practices? What is the level of involvement in community outreach and socially responsible programs?
How efficient and renewable companies are with their energy use and waste management is hard for us as consumers to affect. However, what we can control is whether we are buying products that are sustainable in their ingredients and packaging. Here are some things to be aware of.
Palm Oil: Palm oil is widely used in cosmetics and skincare products – an estimated 70% contain a palm oil derivative – as well as in food, cleaning products, and fuel. However, the production of palm oil has been extremely harmful to the environment and is believed to be responsible for 8% of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008. This is because large areas of rainforest are burned down in order to clear the land for palm oil plantations. These fires not only release high levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but also destroy the habitats of endangered species such as the orangutan and Borneo elephant. The palm oil industry has also been linked to worker exploitation and human rights abuses. If you are interested in learning more about this “Amnesty” published a report, “The Great Palm Oil Scandal,” in 2016.
Silicones are another ingredient widely used in haircare, skincare, and cosmetics. They can be found under many names the best known being ‘dimethicone.’ You can generally identify a silicone from the ending ‘-cone’, ‘-conol’, or ‘-siloxane’. Some examples include methicone, trimethicone, and cyclomethicone. Silicones have generated a lot of discussion within the beauty community over safety and environmental issues. Several studies have found traces of silicones in plant and marine life, leading the EU to restrict the use of silicones D4 in April 2018. Environmental debates are centred around the biodegradability of silicone and concerns that silicones are bioaccumulative i.e. they are building up in the environment.
Microbeads are those tiny pieces of plastic often found in personal care products such as face scrubs and shower gels. Environmental concerns began to be raised, however, after thousands of tons of microbeads were being washed into the sea every year, ending up inside marine wildlife and ultimately making their way into humans. One study by Plymouth University in 2013 found traces of plastic in one third of fish caught in the Channel. In January 2018 a ban on microbeads came into effect in the UK, as well as Canada. This followed the 2015 US Microbead-Free Waters Act which stopped companies using microbeads in beauty and health products. New Zealand and Taiwan banned the beads in July 2018, and Ireland is expected to do the same by the end of the year. Since the microbead ban has come into effect, scientists have turned their attention to another ecologically hazardous micro-plastic still widely used in cosmetics: glitter.
So what about companies and products that are environmentally sustainable?
Here are a few brands to check out!
La Mer supports ocean habitats through donations and this year has projects in the Azores, Grenada and the East China Sea, focusing on helping seas flourish. The brand’s famous moisturising cream only uses sustainably sourced sea kelp, in order to preserve oceanic resources.
Orveda makes use of ocean-derived ingredients in their formulas but are hyper-aware about not destroying oceanic resources. Instead they work “with, not against” our oceans, meaning they are mineral oil-free, plastic bead free and vegan. They are also committed to using less than 5% plastic in their products – meaning their formulas are housed in glass bottles.
Natural deodorants have come a long way since they first came onto the beauty scene and by investing in Elsa’s Ocean Natural Deodorant Crème you can keep yourself smelling fresh, while also helping to beat plastic pollution. Elsa’s will donate £1 from every tin sold to the charity Plastic Oceans UK.
With their aim to reduce 20% of their emissions, water and waste by 2020, Jurlique have revolutionised their manufacturing process to encourage water reuse, solar power production, and initiatives such as a tree planting day.
Sana Jardin uses sustainable and waste-reducing techniques to create its seven scents. The brand also supports the female flower harvesters they employ in Morocco by helping them create and run their own businesses, using by-products from the fragrance-making process.