What does it mean for something to be sustainable? Brands tend to throw this word around with no specific definition. Consumers are led to assume that something marketed as “sustainable” is inherently environmentally-friendly. In general, a sustainable practice is one that does not harm the environment and could continue for an extended amount of time without ever causing environmental damage. Environmental consciousness is the cool new wave, and many brands have jumped on the bandwagon. They have come to realize that more consumers will buy a product if they believe it is good for the environment. This trend gives way to “greenwashing”, when companies falsely brand their products as eco-friendly or “clean”, thereby misleading consumers into thinking they’re making healthier choices.
We could spend an entire week discussing environmental issues in the beauty industry. Today, however, we want to provide an example of a brand pushing the industry forward by tackling sustainability in a unique and innovative way. We recently partnered with Emma Lewisham, a New Zealand-based skincare brand named after its founder.
We wanted to highlight Emma Lewisham because their model provides a blueprint for how beauty brands can flourish without contributing to climate change.
Though the brand was only founded in 2019, they’ve already defied beauty industry norms. Their transparency about their environmental impact and implementation of strategies for minimizing environmental effects stand out in the industry. Many brands have taken small steps in the past few years with initiatives like recycled/recyclable packaging and offering product refills to reduce packaging waste. While these are great initiatives, few brands attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or packaging waste in any significant way. The process of building a single product from start to finish is a huge environmental burden. The emission of greenhouse gases from shipping ingredients from their sources, the energy costs of manufacturing, and the packaging that most likely will end up in a landfill all add up.
In 2019 alone, more than 120 billion (yes, billion with a B) units of cosmetic packaging were produced. Cosmetic packaging is typically made from non-recyclable plastic, meaning most of these plastic items will sit with us somewhere on Earth for the next 1000 years. Additionally, 70% of the plastic waste from the beauty industry is not recycled and the portion that is recycled often ends up in landfills anyway. Additionally, Zero Waste Week reported that the beauty industry contributes to 18 million acres of deforestation yearly.
From the beginning, Emma Lewisham was dedicated to challenging the status quo and ensuring every aspect of their production had the smallest possible environmental impact. A detailed Sustainability Framework outlines five key goals, and why each is important. It also addresses any foreseeable challenges, strategies, and their 2020 target. The goals are:
- Use 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. Lewisham has worked with suppliers to create the first 100% PCR plastic sunscreen tube. This means no new plastic will be created to manufacture their packaging. This lessens the burden of plastic waste on our planet.
- Use 100% recyclable glass bottles. Though one of their products is not recyclable, the brand offers refills of products with free shipping.
- Use 100% recycled material for their box packaging — all of their box packaging is 100% recyclable. and printed with vegetable-based inks, meaning they are compostable.
- Achieve carbon neutrality certification. This would mean that every fossil fuel emission related to any aspect of manufacturing, transport, and production, would be minimized and offset with carbon credits.
- Responsible animal welfare. The brand is already cruelty-free and vegan, save for a small amount of beeswax in their sunscreen.
All ingredient suppliers and sources must adhere to their Supplier Principles, which emphasize environmental impact, fair labor, and transparency about where and how ingredients are sourced.
They are also about to launch the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle, New Zealand’s first sustainable beauty initiative which rethinks the entire process of a beauty product’s lifespan. Its aim is to give beauty waste a second life. The initiative enables consumers to send back 4 facial products at a time for recycling — that’s of ANY beauty brand — in return for a $15.00 Emma Lewisham voucher to be spent on emmalewisham.co.nz. Even cooler, the plastic that’s recycled is turned into useful materials, such as material for the fashion industry or picnic tables for the community.
Lewisham launched her first product in 2019 after three years of research and development. In addition to her focus on environmental impact, she worked to ensure the products were effective! She sought ingredients from plants that would give her better results than typical skincare ingredients. The product was formulated with more active agents and functional ingredients than most. This means the active components of plants — vitamins, antioxidants, and fatty acids. Oftentimes in skincare, filler ingredients like phthalates and DEA are added to create volume, texture, or as preservatives. They’re not always bad for you, but they don’t contribute to quality or efficacy. All this research paid off, The Skin Reset Serum outperformed 10 of the leading competitors in tests that assessed the product’s ability to even skin tone.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-lesson on sustainability and our new member of the Think Dirty family, Emma Lewisham. We’re so excited to see what comes next for the brand and how they will expand upon their initiatives in the upcoming months. If you’re interested in ordering products, use the code: THINKDIRTY at checkout to get free shipping on their sunscreen!
Emma Lewisham is Redefining Sustainability in the Beauty Industry was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.