Beauty brands, from the freshest start-up to the largest global corporate, recognize this. They want to respond to this rising consumer demand, and they want to mitigate their impact. The challenge for many is knowing where to get started.
Here we offer seven ideas. We hope they provoke thought, inspire action and help beauty brands join the movement towards a more sustainable future.
#1: Personalize Formulas
How many of us have despaired at our ‘Foundation Graveyards’ – off the shelf formulas sitting unused because they didn’t match skin tone or disagreed with skin type? In response to this, a growing number of forward-thinking beauty brands are offering personalized formulations.
Look at Lancôme in-store custom-made foundation service which matches skin and blends the formula into a personalized bottle. Allél goes even further, matching its customers’ DNA profiles to specific products.
Personalization of products will reduce waste, as well as transport and storage costs. It also delivers a far better product and experience to the customer. Looking ahead, we expect to see this reach the mainstream, with personalization becoming a standard beauty concept, primarily led by direct-to-consumer brands collecting real-time data to adapt formulas.
#2: From Natural to Bio Design
For too long people have fetishized the notion of organic. Today, there is a growing recognition of the burden resource-intensive botanicals like vanilla and rose oil place on both the planet and the people who farm them. Synthetic formulas offer a more environmentally friendly approach with lower carbon footprint. They are the future.
The remarkable work being done by Gingko Bio Works shows just what will be possible in this future. Through collaborations with a paleogenomics lab, a smell researcher, a multidisciplinary artist, and cutting-edge synthetic biology it is resurrecting scents that have been extinct for up to 200 years.
In the years ahead consumer thinking in this area will shift as people begin the recognize that synthetic is more resource efficient whilst also opening up a new spectrum of colors and scents. The opportunity now is for beauty brands to lead the way in this.
#3: Tomorrow’s Packaging Materials
While plastic and glass are both strong, durable and recyclable, they have problems: glass is heavy, and only 50% of bathroom waste is recycled, compared to 90% in the kitchen. With the World Economic Forum predicting that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, this is a major issue.
The beauty sector is responding. L’Occitane now offers its products in an Eco Refill range that uses 90% less plastic compared to its standard size products. Ecologic transports its bottles as shells. Chanel has invested in the firm Sulapac. Made from wood and natural biopolymers, Sulapac material is industrially compostable, and they are working towards recycling via plastic waste streams.
Crucially, these packaging alternatives look desirable. While they switch glass and plastic for locally abundant materials there is no compromise on how they look and feel.
#4: The Naked Store
We have been trained to equate heavy, complex packaging with quality. At its most extreme this is the unboxing phenomenon. Today’s consumer is increasingly taking a different approach. For them quality is delivered not through harmful packaging but through a digital and real life brand world.
Lush has long been associated with a uniquely multi-sensorial approach to merchandising which encourages consumer interaction with a variety of smells, colors and textures around the store. The experience is the product. When it created a video to explain its naked shampoo bars, pointing out that it could replace the 552 million shampoo bottles we throw out annually, the video went viral and Lush sold 12,000 shampoo bars in just two days.
#5: Go Waterless
With water making up around 70% of most beauty products, there is significant potential to reduce water use as well as transport and storage costs by developing water-free alternatives. L'Oréal has pledged to reduce its water consumption by 60% per unit of finished product by 2020.
Brands like EC30 are showing how it can be done: you add water to its single dose drops and they become one of eight cleaning products from shampoo to conditioner, handwash, even laundry detergent. This visual alchemy can help ingredients evoke a sense of activeness and enhanced freshness. People enjoy being there in the final act of creation. The opportunity is for beauty brands to engender the same sensorial rituals.
#6: Refill Packs for Life
With waste such a major issue in the beauty industry, more and more brands are finding innovative ways to offer refillable packs that customers can keep for life. Crucially, this model allows design teams to invest more heavily in these packs for life, so they are more desirable than their disposable predecessors.
Loop is leading the way here. It delivers beauty products in premium durable packaging which is returned and refilled. The customer never owns the packaging. As the company describes itself: ‘Like a milkman, just for beauty’.
Buy one Lancôme Absolute L’Extrait reusable jar and two refills, and you achieve a 58% weight reduction compared to three conventional products. Just as people now visit shops with their own bags in a way that would have seemed unthinkable a decade ago, soon they will visit with their collection of stylish refill jars.
#7: Nudge People Towards Sustainable Disposal
Finally, there is disposal. Lush has always been ahead of the game in sustainability and has a well-established closed-loop recycling scheme with its black pots which ‘could have more lives than a cat.’ Customers who return these pots are rewarded with a free face mask. Similarly, The Body Shop is collaborating with TerraCycle to encourage customers to bring back empty products from any brand to receive a discount.
There is huge potential in the beauty industry to innovate towards sustainable products and experiences. It’s a journey, and the most forward-thinking brands in this space are already finding ways to nudge consumers in the right direction. In the years ahead they will reap the benefits not only in sales, but also in a cleaner, greener planet for future generations.
Jenny Cook is a strategist at Echo Brand Design, London. The company works in partnership with clients to create and develop brands that are brilliantly compelling, useful, caring and environmentally responsible. The company provides: Brand Strategy with Purpose Progressive Innovation; Holistic Brand Identity and Product Design; and Sustainable Solutions for a Prosperous Future.