ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY
Beauty is an industry that gets a bad rap when it comes to sustainability. That’s because the beauty industry generates up to 120 billion units of plastics packaging per year contributing to the loss of 18 million acres of forest annually. Packaging is clearly an issue, but there are other challenges for brands wanting to lower their environmental impact, including carbon production, water waste and energy consumption. So, if you’re a beauty or personal care brand, where do you start to tackle your sustainability goals? How can environmental sustainability in the beauty industry become the standard?
MINIMIZING PACKAGING WASTE
Assessing packaging may be the most obvious place to start. At MASAMI, we use recyclable packaging but we’ve gone one step further to make refillable ceramic bottles and refill pouches to begin to eliminate much of the plastic altogether. There are great examples of packaging innovation in deodorant, cosmetics and skincare with refillable options — and also some interesting packaging materials that are now being used to replace plastic (like algae and bamboo).
Making it easy for consumers to know how to properly recycle your products is helpful as well. If you can afford it, TerraCycle is a great option to ensure your products and packaging won’t end up in the landfill, but you can also direct consumers to places like Target that offer recycling stations in their stores.
Also, if you are a DTC brand, don’t forget about shipping which can be a “hidden” source of pollution. Use the smallest shipping boxes you can to minimize paper waste and help conserve the resources that go into manufacturing packaging. Be mindful of what you use as packaging materials (ideally, no plastic or hard-to-recycle materials) as well as any marketing materials you include. As for shipping, there are also “green” shipping partners like Sendle that can help you offset your carbon impact.
ENSURING SAFE AND SUSTAINABLE FORMULAS
Of course, you should also take steps to ensure your formulas are as sustainable as possible and free from any toxic ingredients that can harm human and environmental health. You might be surprised that the vast majority of beauty products on the market still contain toxic ingredients. We follow EU standards which are much stricter than those of the US (over 1300 cosmetic ingredients are banned in the EU versus just 11 in the US). You can start by creating your own standard and definition of “clean beauty” to determine your approach to ingredient assessment and at least eliminate the ones that pretty much everyone agrees upon (sulfates, parabens, and phthalates).
JOINING SUSTAINABILITY AND CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS
Beyond your actual product manufacturing, there are other things you can be doing to get smarter about your sustainability efforts.
We are part of Impact Collective by Greenprint, which helps brands (especially small brands like ours) offset their carbon, plastic, energy or water impact. We participate in the carbon and plastic programs and it’s a great, turnkey way to mitigate our footprint. They provide transparency into the programs that you are a part of so that you can feel good about cleaning up plastic waste in India or other specific countries. It’s a great way to extend your efforts into making meaningful change.
We also love the Green Business Bureau’s sustainability certification and the tangible steps it provides for evaluating your energy consumption, your water waste and even things like recycling your business supplies (printer cartridges for example). You’ll be surprised how many simple steps you can take — it just requires a bit of mindfulness and planning.
If you take the approach that many small steps can lead to big changes, you’ll find that there are many things you can do across your supply chain to eliminate and reduce waste and improve environmental sustainability in the beauty industry.