Sustainable skincare aims to choose products that meet our beauty needs without harming people or the environment.
It's about supporting brands that make an effort to do the right thing, from where they source their ingredients to the packaging they use.
We now see that 62% of executives consider a sustainability strategy necessary to be competitive today. Another 22% think it will be increasingly important in the near future, therefore demonstrating the growing prioritisation of sustainable business practices in the broader business environment.
What does being a brand sustainable or ethical brand mean?
There are a lot of beauty-related terms out there, some of which overlap and others where there are gaps. As these terms are not regulated, they can mean just about anything.
Although a brand may claim they're sustainable or ethical, this could be marketing or greenwashing. The real question is, do they practice what they preach?
The good news is that there are ways to spot a genuinely sustainable skincare brand when you understand what you're looking for, as what makes a brand or product genuinely ethical and sustainable can depend on several factors.
What makes a brand sustainable?
Sustainability is all about creating an enterprise or business model that has the most negligible impact on the environment. In skincare and beauty, sustainability means having recyclable packaging, reducing single-use plastics, carefully selecting non-toxic ingredients, ensuring product safety, and decreasing the carbon footprint from manufacturing to delivery.
However, sustainability is a broad term, so you could write down a whole list of sustainability factors to test brands against.
Sustainable skincare is a spectrum, and every brand will fall somewhere on that line. Therefore, most brands won't meet every criterion for sustainability. Consequently, personal choice is an essential factor, for example, a brand may say they're cruelty-free, but their products contain beeswax making them non-vegan- It's up to you to decide whether you consider that factor ethical.
What are the criteria for a sustainable, ethical brand?
As mentioned before, sustainability is a spectrum; therefore, most brands won't meet every criterion. However, some well-known certifications and labelling are considered ethical and sustainable. Good certificates to demonstrate a brand's sustainability credentials are:
Environment, Cruelty-free, organic, palm oil-free, vegan, ethical sourcing, eco-friendly packaging, and waste management.
Sustainable skincare brands should be doing everything they can to ensure their environmental impact is positive. Accreditations are sound proof that brands are being held accountable for their claims against specific criteria by objective organisations.
As well as sourcing sustainable ingredients to make their products, the packaging is another crucial factor that determines whether a brand is sustainable. Waste is a significant problem for the planet; therefore, recyclable (or compostable) packaging is vital.
Photo by Rob Morton on Unsplash
2. Resource and waste management
Brands that genuinely care about their impact go to great lengths to ensure they have excellent waste and resource management policies in place.
To be sustainable, organisations need to significantly cut waste and encourage reuse. This will minimise the use of virgin resources to create unnecessary items such as single-use products, therefore helping to protect the environment.
Good examples of practical resource and waste management policies include water and energy management, buying energy from sustainable or renewable sources, minimising manufacturing by-products (e.g., zero waste policies), carbon offsets and office recycling programs.
Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash
3. Palm oil-free
Although products that do not contain environmentally devastating palm oil or any of its derivatives are a good indicator that a brand is both ethical and sustainable, it is not always as straightforward.
For example, using other oils such as sesame seed oil or coconut oil doesn't make a product more sustainable. In fact, if the world's dependency on oils switched to another oil, environmental destruction could be much worse.
Consequently, it is vital to look for brands that use responsibly sourced oils from sustainable plantations. Therefore, this doesn't eliminate the use of palm oil if it's sourced sustainably.
Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash
4. Ethical sourcing
A brand committed to ethical ingredient sourcing is one of the single most essential signs of a sustainable and ethical company.
It requires the brand to be aware of what's going on in their supply chains, pays a fair price for the raw materials and goods, ensure that their suppliers are committed to positive environmental and social impact, and provide safe working environments.
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
It's not just you and the animals who will benefit from natural, vegan skincare. Opting for plant-based ingredients is better for the planet, too. This is because the process of raising and processing animals for food and other ingredients is tough on the environment.
However, vegan products may also contain ingredients that are not organic or natural, which are harmful to our environment and animals. If in doubt, do more research on the ingredients list on certain products.
Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash
6. Organic ingredients
Unlike petrochemical substances, natural and organic ingredients come primarily from the cultivation of plants and flowers, whose extracts are used in skin care product formulation.
The use of a diverse range of natural and organic raw materials requires that the biodiversity of wildlife habitats is protected and that sustainable production of various plant and flower species is preserved.
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash