As Sustainability Efforts Increase, Should The Beauty Industry Rethink The Flood Of New Products?
In this edition of our ongoing series posing questions relevant to indie beauty, we ask 36 beauty entrepreneurs and executives the following questions: Do you believe the beauty industry should rethink the barrage of beauty product launches to become more sustainable? If so, how? Have you been reconsidering your product launches?
- Frances Shoemack Founder, Abel
We introduced a one-in-one-out policy on our main collection early in 2019 to take a stance against exactly this. It's a guarantee to our customers that we will only launch something that's truly awesome, genuinely different and filling a gap. I'd love to see the industry more geared towards products that deliver over a long period of sustained love and use rather than the newest launches or latest fads, which doesn't mean less innovation, it means more thoughtful innovation.
The answer is: It's complicated. The pitfalls of the never-ending launch cycle that defines the beauty industry are obvious, but innovation and fresh launches can be helpful by replacing old product lines that either weren't selling well or had high return rates, both of which are a long-term sustainability nightmare when brands have to use third-party manufacturers with high MOQs and may be sitting on thousands of units of inventory, which will eventually be trashed or destroyed when they expire. I also think the more competitive the market is, which could arguably be connected to product saturation, then the more every brand is pushed to do and be better.
Internally, we have not needed to reevaluate our scheduled launches. Before I ever launch a new product, I ask myself if we're actually doing something unique in terms of price, packaging, ingredient or technology. I do believe brands have a responsibility to curate launch calendars that are truly a value-add to the industry for a reason other than "but look how cute the branding is!" So, that's the context I use to plan out our new launches.
- Tiila Abbitt Founder, Athr Beauty
Absolutely. The FDA reported that one-third of our U.S. landfill waste is coming from the beauty industry. The entire industry needs to shift and think differently since the packaging options have not changed much since cosmetics molds were first made in the 1970s of harder plastics that are all of single use. First and foremost would be to stop using single-use materials from a packaging perspective, but also rethinking how we sample since sample packaging itself is too small to recycle which is why Credo Beauty has pledged to stop sampling as well as how we source our raw materials.
There's a misconception that a natural ingredient is better for our planet, but actually sometimes a more sustainable alternative is a lab-made ingredient since you can guarantee no forced or child labor from mining or using a farmed ingredient with all the water, chemicals and energy it takes to grow that ingredient when it can be made in a lab can be a much more sustainable option for our planet.
Sustainability has always been a core pillar for Athr Beauty. Our ingredients are sourced ethically to ensure no forced or child labor, and we utilize safe lab-made ingredients. Our packaging materials are 100% recycled and recyclable. We always have utilized 100% ocean-based PCR in any plastic we use. We do not believe in ever using virgin materials, especially creating any more virgin plastic since there is already 8 billion metric tons of it on our planet anyways. The only reason brands do not use 100% PCR is they simply do not want to pay for it.
- Laura Burget Co-Founder, Three Ships
We really believe that brands shouldn't launch products just because an ingredient is trendy—i.e., releasing a full product line of 10 CBD or green tea products to ride the wave of that trend and, then, move on to the next trend. Instead, brands should focus on launching products that they genuinely see as filling a consumer's need.
At Three Ships, we have a very dedicated consumer base and draw most of our product innovation from them. Our first step is asking our followers on Instagram what kinds of products they are looking for. We then filter through the responses to find the product that is the clear winner. From there, we ask more questions on social media, anything from texture, goals of the product, skin benefit, price point, scents, names, etc. We then formulate a few options and seed it out to our test group full of women of all ages, backgrounds and skin types, and send them a 30-question survey to fill out regarding their experience with the new product. We take all of these insights and then create the ideal final version that goes to market. We love involving our consumers in the process because it ensures that we are building products that consumers actually want and not just adding another innovation to the natural beauty mix.
We've been using more upcycled ingredients in our new innovations. For example, we use squalane sourced from sugarcane that has already been processed for sugar in our Radiance Cream, which helps reduce our impact on the global food supply. We've likewise have begun to release more multipurpose products to reduce the number of products in our assortment like our Dew Drops Serum, which combines hyaluronic acid and vitamin C, two hero ingredients that are usually found in separate products. We use minimal ingredients in our products to decrease our carbon footprint and are creating waterless or minimal water formulas that are more concentrated and, therefore, last longer. We are likewise moving to screen-printed packaging later this year to decrease our use of plastic labels and are considering refillable packaging options where possible. This will likely be a huge focus for us in 2022.
- Gillian Gorman Round CEO, Kjaer Weis
Brands launch products at an ever-increasing rate for a few simple reasons: from the genuine (“we really have something wonderful here”) to the financial necessity (“we must anniversary last year’s numbers”). The former is great and feeds a fantastically dynamic industry while delighting consumers, and the latter is an ever-decreasing negative spiral. And that’s before you think about all of the excess packaging, formula, freight and resources that go into supporting the latter. Plus, many of these suboptimal launches have to replace something that exists as shelves, gondolas, tester units and walls don’t get any bigger. Thus, that means there’s existing product being dumped.
If we don’t rethink the velocity at which we launch product and truly focus on sustained launches that drive incremental business, open up categories and recruit consumers then beauty brands will continue to contribute to the environmental crisis. The beauty industry, as does all fast-moving consumer goods, needs to take their role seriously in working to become more sustainable. To try and distance ourselves from our contribution to this crisis and not work to improve our impact is being naïve about the responsibility that we bear.
At Kjaer Weis, we have always had a very considered and deliberate strategy for product innovation. Each launch has to meet every one of our pillars: high performance, certified organic, gorgeously flattering, sustainable and kind. If a launch doesn’t meet this test, then it doesn’t happen. That way we ensure that we are only bringing product to market that meets our standards and our principles, and our consumer’s needs.
During the pandemic, consumers only purchased what they really needed and what they really, really wanted. While all pandemic buying behavior won’t last forever, we at Kjaer Weis believe that consumers will continue to be extremely thoughtful about their purchases. This perfectly complements our innovation approach, ensuring that we are being really deliberate about any launch, not just meeting our brand principles, but also bettering anything else already in the market. Our philosophy will be to continue to launch only when we can achieve these brand pillars.
- Jamika Martin Founder, Rosen Skincare
Absolutely! Not only for sustainability, but for the ease of the consumer. There are so many brands that don't really offer anything very different for the consumer other than slightly different key ingredients. For us, we like to ensure we are truly tackling a white space in the market—mass acne care—and even past the brand's positioning. Each product needs to be unique.
As a formulator, I love the opportunity to develop products that have different ingredient stories, but what benefit is it to the planet, consumers or the market if I make a cleanser with anti-bacterials and anti-inflammatories if I already achieve that with our Earth Cleanser? With future product launches at Rosen, our aim is to create something that we don't have in our line already. That means you probably won't see us come out with another brightening serum or powerful clay-based mask for inflamed breakouts. I'd rather reformulate or tweak existing formulas to make our current product suite make more sense than launch a nearly identical product.
- Shannon Goldberg Founder, Izzy Zero Waste Beauty
That would be a resounding yes! We, as in the people behind the brands, need to drive the change, be the change and really advocate for sustainability. From shrinking our proverbial carbon footprints, to eliminating single-use plastics and reducing waste across the board, we can band together to make a profound impact. When brands say things like, "Well, that's just not us,” or “Our client doesn't really care about that stuff," I begin to wonder why there's resistance in the first place.
I myself was guilty of sleepwalking throughout my career, always striving to launch products as fast and as cheap as possible. Now knowing better, I can confidently say that ignorance is not bliss. And, when we get curious, the knowledge we uncover can be very powerful. We cannot deny the facts, and the fact is that plastic is ubiquitous in our world. We produce over 120 billion units of unrecyclable plastic a year. Paper, print and shipping collateral can also equate up to 50% of a brand’s waste.
Therefore, committing to more sustainable efforts isn't just about saving the world, it needs to be a business imperative in this critical decade of climate action. The urgency and scale of climate change requires all industries, not just beauty, to dream up widespread innovation. The clean and sustainable beauty movement is here to stay, it is not just a marketing trend. The best part is that sustainability can fit into any brand’s ethos. No matter if your brand is sexy, young, fun, clinical or full of sparkles, the options are endless.
At Izzy Zero Waste Beauty, we are always trying to wise up, get smarter and dream bigger. It’s cool to tout the fact that we are the first color brand to be certified carbon-neutral. It’s even cooler to say that we 100% are recyclable, refillable and reusable thanks to our closed-loop supply chain, but the ultimate cool stuff is yet to come. We aim to be the paradigm when it comes to sustainable and clean beauty, and are dedicated to innovating as fast as technology allows us to.
We at Izzy are a tiny, but mighty group of type A extremists. I say that in the most loving way because it really all just boils down to passion and commitment. Our supply chain will always remain within a 400-mile radius, which is the equivalent of two Tesla charges or one tank of gas. Our components will always be made from medical-grade stainless steel, so we can ensure that every single piece will get at least 10,000 uses, cleanings, refills and roundtrips, enabling them to be handed down to future generations.
We will never ship our products in anything but a reusable shipping bag, even our supply chain uses reusable boxes to travel between vendors. Lastly, any plastic that we do use will be melted down and made new again via our closed-loop process. With such a strict structure in place, our process can feel quite radical at times, but we are really proud of our efforts and truly hope the industry follows our lead.
- Conny Witke Founder, Superzero
I’m a believer that products should only be brought to market if they are truly needed and solve a new or underserved problem. You can certainly question if that is the case in beauty with the proliferation of launches and the industry largely being built around newness because newness gets so much attention in press via influencers, social media, retailers, etc. I believe that launching products just to launch newness without a distinctively different need or problem being solved is wasteful and unsustainable. The industry should refocus on building, nurturing, and growing evergreen hero products.
At Superzero, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We only launch products that are distinctively different from each other and serve a specific, tailored purpose to fill a gap in the market. For example, we decided against doing conditioner bars as complementary product for each of our shampoo bars because some hair types do not need a specific conditioner but can “share” with other hair types.
- Divya Gugnani Co-Founder, Wander Beauty
It's fair to say that the number of beauty launches has increased tremendously over the last few decades. As we've moved away from traditional long lead and towards a more digital approach, competition has increased substantially, there’s oversaturation in parts of the market, and customer loyalty has decreased. In response, it seems like a new brand, collection or product launches every day in order to capture and retain customers' attention.
Some parts of the industry have seen success and have embraced a fast beauty mindset with their first-to-market, one-shot collections and, parallel to what we are starting to see with fast fashion, the immediacy feeds into overconsumption and declining brand integrity. It's really important that brands start to launch products that actually resonate with their customers, and that does mean slowing down and reevaluating the project at every touchpoint. Otherwise, at some point and soon, customers and brands will tire themselves out from the exhaustive launch pipes and the tide will need to change.
For us at Wander, fewer, better is what we were built on. There was absolutely a time that we had focused on having a robust pipe, but what we saw was that it was not only overwhelming to our customers, but our teams, too. We had many internal conversations on who we were and what we wanted to be for our customer, and it meant slowing down and offering only the best essentials.
We started applying a new internal standard when evaluating new product ideas to be clear with the reason for being. Once it passes that stage, our timeline gives us the ability to talk to our customer directly, get them involved and vet concepts and formulas. If they love it as much as we do, we know it has a path for success. This approach gives our teams time to really dive deep and invest in each launch, giving them the opportunity to really bring their A game.
- Tara Pelletier Founder, Meow Meow Tweet
I think that the primary and easiest way to truly and effectively address plastic use, waste reduction and overuse of our natural raw resources is for companies to make less stuff. The industry thrives on newness, so this might be scary and also take some changes in how marketing is done.
It could also be addressed through means of production and sales. For example, negotiating with contract manufacturers to reduce MOQs for new product launches until a product has been tested on the market and has a sure-fire demand. Using packaging that is not overly customized so that it could be used across different SKUs in your line. Pre-selling new product launches before going into production so that you produce only what you will make. Stop making things that already exist just for the sake of making more money.
Over the past couple of years, we have been looking at our line and have developed a series of questions that act as a metric for whether we should launch a new product or not. We’ve also opted to improve or build out bulk offerings for preexisting products rather than put something completely new into the world. And we’ve started discontinuing products that don’t exist within our new metrics. It’s a work in progress but it’s been an exciting project for our team.
- Achelle Richards Partner, Chief Product Officer and Chief Creative Officer, PYT Beauty
The beauty industry has become a bit like fast fashion. The rush to get products to market has left some brands overlooking how to innovate sustainably. We believe every brand has a social responsibility and encourage the beauty industry to take the approach of being more earth friendly with transparency that helps to educate the consumer. A few suggestions would be to remove all mirrors since those just end up in landfills, incorporate PCR, reduce excess packaging materials and create recyclable packaging when size allows.
We recently took this approach and relaunched all of our products in sustainable packaging. This means we have added PCR to all packaging and created recyclable components where possible. Additionally, we have clearly listed, both on packaging and online, the sustainable anatomy of each package. We believe clean is not only about the ingredients in our products, but helping to keep our planet clean, too. This is a work in progress, and our journey is not complete. We will continue to look to improve with each and every order.
Additionally, when launching new products, we try to optimize our assortment and color ranges to be inclusive as possible without over producing which can be wasteful. This means we take a more mindful approach and scale back on the amount of new launches we create each year and potentially archive current items to reduce carrying too many SKUs at any given time to reduce excess waste.
- Blair Armstrong Founder, Gilded
Sustainability should certainly be part of the new product development process. Approaches that consider consumer desire for new products, the existing products that address the problem, product-market fit and innovation are useful guidelines. Our approach to new launches is to create products that are new to the category or those that are an improvement upon what's currently being offered.
- Heela Yang CEO and Co-Founder, Sol de Janeiro
Yes! At Sol de Janeiro, we’re all about fewer, better quality, more effective products that bring you more joy. Our formulas have concentrated and high-quality ingredients so that you can use less and still get amazing results, not to mention we focus on sustainably sourced ingredients and recyclable or reusable packaging and actively update our products regularly as better and more sustainable materials become available.
For example, we have recently reformulated and repackaged our Brazilian Touch Hand Cream that will be launching on Aug. 17. Not only did we make the formula more concentrated, more moisturizing and repairing so you can get even better results with fewer applications, we also made the tube 100% recyclable and used 33% sugarcane-derived—a renewable resource—resin instead of traditional plastic. The results—more effective and more sustainable. It is possible.
- Tiffany Buzzatto Founder, Dew Mighty
Absolutely! The best conservation of resources and most effective way to support sustainability is to consume less overall. In the U.S., we average 8 times the consumption of resources in comparison to other countries per person, and this directly correlates to the waste we create.
We plan to only launch powerhouse formulas that show effective results tested on all skin types. We also raise the bar higher by working to customize our product use for benefits, function and customer need. A great example is application of the Bloom Jelly Serum Bar to replace up to eight products by choosing when and how it is used. We currently have been finalizing a formula that will follow these testing and customization guidelines but will be a detoxifying and cleaning step that will act as a mask, spot treatment and daily cleanser.
- Suzannah Raff Founder, Cleo + Coco
Yes, I think that, as consumers read more labels and are more concerned and educated about sustainability, brands in the beauty industry will be forced to be more authentic and will launch products that are more thoughtful and sustainable. We are already beginning to see this shift. While it's not yet mainstream, it is gaining popularity in the press, which is how all new trends begin.
I think that as barriers to entry have diminished thanks to social media. Indie brands with deeply thoughtful and authentic sustainable products are getting consumer votes, which then informs the bigger industry leaders on the changes that consumers will pay for. A lot of that is beginning to take place in terms of sustainability.
We have a few different pillars for our brand. Before we create or launch anything, we make sure that it meets certain standards: Is there anything else like this on the market that meets the need our product is meeting? How can we make it as clean as possible? How can we make it as sustainable as possible without compromising efficacy and usability?
These are not easy on an indie brand’s budget, but we believe that it is this authenticity and forcing ourselves to really think out of the box that makes us a brand that people love. I couldn’t imagine doing things any other way, it goes against my nature. Being different and pushing your limits is how anyone breaks through the noise and succeeds. We have a few products that would make sense for our brand, but we won’t launch them until we can figure out how to do them in the most sustainable way. Whether it's by using sugarcane or glass and keeping the formulas waterless, we push our chemists and supply chain until we can get it to the point of true authentic sustainability and clean. I really believe consumers are too smart to be greenwashed or bluewashed, a term I just coined that would mean, similar to greenwashing, claiming products are sustainable when they really aren’t. I believe we have to go beyond using plastic to refill plastic and think out of the box, which is what we did with our completely plastic-free deodorant bars, which were inspired by Axiology’s Balmies. We use the same compostable wrapper as well. This was not easy to innovate or create, and it took us a few tries to get the packaging perfect, but we have persevered and are seeing tremendous success from it and hope to be leaders in this authentic sustainability.
- Chris Kolodziejski Founder and CEO, Chella
At Chella, we believe that together we can be a strong voice for sustainable change. The process does not have to have to cost more or be more labor intensive. In product launches, we see some amazing creativity within the beauty industry. However, these launches typically involve a multitude of unnecessary materials, and the brand's message can be tied up with what the product comes in beyond how well the product stands alone.
Our focus and commitment going forward is conveying purpose, support of our mission and what our products can do. As a team, we have started to create lists of local resources, sustainable packaging, and cards that are recyclable and brought naturally into the environment, e.g., paper embedded with seeds that can be planted into the ground and flower.
- Michelle Ranavat Founder, Ranavat
I believe the cadence of launches should be something that is tied to the brand ethos. For Ranavat, we love going deep into storytelling and sharing the reason for each launch. For us, product development takes years, so we want to celebrate that moment very thoughtfully. In terms of the beauty industry, I personally would love a slower approach. It would drive more innovation and thought behind launches, and allow for more creativity. At the same time, beauty is fun, and newness will always drive excitement and interest. It is all about striking that right balance and making sure your launch cadence is something that aligns with your brand ethos and positioning. You don’t want to be a place where you are pushing launches just for the sake of newness and sacrificing what your values are as a brand.
- Shel Pink Founder, SpaRitual
Choices are good, too many choices not so much. In an attention-deficit society, novelty and impulse consumption is at an all-time high. As consumers, we want to simplify, but we are having trouble doing so because novelty is soothing in the moment. At SpaRitual, we edited our product offerings when we updated our packaging, and we do not have an aggressive marketing calendar.
We are thoughtful about our product launches. We are interested in offering a tailored product assortment that supports the authentic daily self-care needs that are accessible and contribute meaningfully to the overall health and well-being of consumers for body care and nail care. We believe in the slow beauty philosophy, taking a slower, ritual approach to beauty as opposed to participating in the quick fix, instant result mindset promoted by the beauty industry. Slow beauty is a sustainable approach to self-care and contributes to our wellness because it is mindful, intentional and holistic.
- Donagh Quigley Founder, The Handmade Soap Company
Yes, I do. In my opinion, unless you are doing something to improve the packaging cycle or improve the supply chain cycle, you should not be launching a beauty product. Does the world need another beauty product? Let’s flip this question on its head, why does the world need another beauty product? if it's doing something to improve the composting supply chain, you have a valid entry point and you have something to say. Think to yourself, what is the product’s end goal?
At The Handmade Soap Company, we are trying to improve the packaging cycle and supply chain cycle at scale. For us, we have been a champion of post-consumer recycled plastic. We do use plastic, and I believe as a civilization we are not going to eliminate it entirely, but I believe plastic recycling is the sustainable answer. We have enough plastic feed stock in the system. There is no need to make any more virgin plastic. We need to recycle the plastic we already have in the system, and that is what we do at The Handmade Soap Company. We pay a premium for plastics that are recycled, and we turn them into the bottles in which we put our products in. We send them out and the idea is that the end user then closes the loop by putting them in their recycling bin.
We have also developed a new range, ANAM, that takes this improvement of the packaging cycle and supply chain one step further with compostable and refillable packaging. We are trying to prove that you can improve the complete packaging cycle and, in an ideal world, end up with a compostable product that is good for the environment. Essentially, product launches have to say something. They need to be an improvement in the packaging supply chain, or does the world really need it?
- Lynn Power CEO and Co-founder, Masami
Yes, there is so much packaging waste in beauty! We've really managed to train consumers that they need upwards of 15 beauty products in their routine every day, and that number seems to keep growing.
I'd love to see brands offer simpler options that do more: Products that are multitasking, products that are high performing and work for lots of different people, and products that are gender neutral. Most hair and skin products really don't need to be so specialized by gender.
We are working on creating more sustainable packaging options, but we are also ensuring that all Masami products we launch are simple yet highly effective for most hair types so you don't need lots of different products! We just launched a large size refillable shampoo and conditioner bottle with pouches and are also looking at new packaging materials to reduce waste.
- Sara Rotman Founder and CEO, Wellfounded Botanicals
Today, every industry should be focused on sustainability. For the beauty industry, that means rethinking all practices that create waste or harm the planet. More is not always more. There’s an opportunity for the industry to focus on launching fewer, better products and creating sustainability standards in packaging.
I don’t think launches are the problem, it’s how they are planned and executed that matter. We think about the environment and sustainability first when planning out a product launch. Everything from the product ingredients to the packaging to the way we go to market is considered in the development phase. We try to use sustainable ingredients and recycled, recyclable and biodegradable material wherever we can. We’ve also streamlined packaging and retooled boxes so there aren’t layers of cardboard.
- Ashley Evans Director of Digital Marketing, Eva NYC
Innovation is part of what drives the beauty industry. However, with 120 billion units of packaging produced each year globally by the beauty industry alone, beauty brands have a responsibility to make sure we are not creating products that will end up in landfills or the ocean.
An extensive amount of research goes into every one of Eva NYC’s product launches, from clean ingredients to efficacy to product testing and, of course, to sustainable packaging. We strive to launch a limited number of products each year that each respond to a consumer need and a white space in the market so that every new product we launch has a true purpose and can offer customers a sustainable, clean, effective and affordable option.
At Eva NYC, sustainability is a major focus for us, and our five-year commitment invests heavily in the recyclability of our products. This began with our TerraCycle partnership where consumer can recycle all empties for free. This year, we also launched our portfolio in aluminum packaging, which is 100% recyclable forever and is easy to recycle curbside. We are on the path to become B Corp certified in 2022, two years earlier than originally planned, and are excited to continue offering sustainable, affordable, effective haircare.
- Brook Harvey-Taylor Founder and CEO, Pacifica
With the climate changes we are all literally living through every day, no brand beauty or otherwise has the luxury to ignore sustainable practices. It is not really about the industry as a whole, but it is up to every single brand to take accountability for what they are putting into the world. The hard part of this question is the last part: the how. It's not like you can just turn on a faucet and make it happen. It takes planning, hard work and dedication—and there are no good road maps to getting there. There is also a lot of misinformation, but the one thing that is true is that doing something and making real incremental changes is far better than doing nothing or pretending the consumer doesn't care or that the problem will go away. The consumer cares, and the planet needs everyone to do better.
Right now, we don't launch a product without replacing one, and we have fewer go-forward SKUs as a brand than we used to. And, as always, when we launch a product, we are mindful of our footprint. We also work to use better ingredients and better packaging as new opportunities become available to us. So, this means we are making updates to products as well.
Our core value at Pacifica is compassion for humans, animals and the planet. Every decision we make is guided by this. We listen to our consumers and create products that are accessible, paying attention to the environment, being thoughtful of our ingredient palette, [and] also creating formulas that are 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Eliminating animal ingredients puts less strain on the environment.
We do so much behind the scenes, and we don't even talk about it. So, this year we are working to become transparent about the changes that we have made over the years, and we will be releasing a year-end report for the first time. Our industry has a long way to go, and it is time we start thinking about supporting each other as brands versus using sustainability as a marketing tool. Yes, talk about it. Show your work! But help other brands, mentor, support each other. We are all in this together, and we need to collaborate.
- Katya Slepak Founder, Malaya Organics
I do think less is more. We don’t necessarily need 20-plus steps in a beauty routine. It’s nice to have options, but a well-edited collection is more useful and more sustainable. Releasing only that which can add value to the already existing collection is more sustainable because it creates less of an environmental impact and doesn't overwhelm or confuse the consumer.
Switching to packaging that is recycled or recyclable, zero waste, biodegradable or having a packaging recycling program is definitely a way to be more sustainable. Using ingredients that are ethically sourced and that don’t harm the environment in any way is also vital for sustainability. Consider these options for limited-edition collections to keep a brand fresh and on-trend instead of adding a myriad of permanent items to the core line.
I have been reconsidering my product launches. As a trained formulator who is always learning new skills and product trends, I experiment with new formulas all the time. The formulator nerd in me wants to share all my creations, but too many products is overwhelming and unnecessary. Products in a collection need to complement each other and be designed to be used together so that a collection is cohesive and makes sense to the consumer. I have become more of a minimalist over the years, and the new editions to my collection are very thoughtfully curated to build on that which already exists in my line of products.
- Lin Chen Founder, Pink Moon
I believe sustainability has deep ties to how considerate and intentional we are, both as consumers and brands. With respect to Pink Moon, I have always strived to be intentional when it comes to our products, packaging and shipping practices. When it comes to new launches, we make sure to do our research with respect to choosing both ingredients and ingredient suppliers, and we have always been committed to creating quality multifunctional products that can minimize the amount of products an individual needs.
When it comes to the beauty industry at large, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I think brands launching sustainability initiatives is a wonderful thing because it pushes the industry forward and helps educate consumers on the potential for eco-friendly beauty. On the other hand, I do think there is an irony in the idea of releasing more when the most sustainable thing we can do is produce and consume less. It's a delicate balance and, as an entrepreneur in the beauty space myself, I want to acknowledge that it is a fine and difficult line to walk.
- Diane Read Founder, MO MI
New product launches are inevitable, but, in my view, greenwashing by big brands is the bigger problem. When they launch products as sustainable and market them using confusing language and packaging like the plastic bottle disguised as a paper bottle, they give the false impression that they are impacting real change.
I’m working on expanding options while reducing single-use packaging ingredients that are biodegradable and have the highest possible ratio of recyclable components. For independent brands like ours, the challenge is not just developing the right products to launch and providing our customers with options for different hair types, concerns and lifestyles, it is also keeping a constant focus on designing and sourcing sustainable packaging while keeping the product protected. This is an ongoing process, and is expensive and time-consuming.
- Michele Gough Baril Founder, Iris&Romeo
I think we all have to do our part to take care of our planet in big and small ways. Eliminating single-use plastic is a great first step and can have a huge impact. At Iris&Romeo, we create products housed in glass and utilizing reusable plastic made from plastic waste that is also recyclable over single-use plastic packaging. In addition, by honing in on a pared-down, simple routine as illustrated through our two SKU lineup of Best Skin Days and Power Peptide Lip Balm, we encourage the consumer that less is more when it comes to her beauty routine. This hybrid beauty-meets-makeup approach in turn not only creates speed and ease in our customer's daily life, but also allows her and guides her to make better choices for our planet as well.
Since Iris&Romeo came into conception four years ago, our ethos has always been to create fewer, harder working products and that has never changed. We approach product design from a problem-solving mentality, one that's more efficient, less wasteful and, ultimately, wears like a second skin so that our female customer still feels like herself, only healthier. Furthermore, Iris&Romeo is more than just a curated edit of her daily essentials. Instead, we're literally hybriding multiple products into one, upgrading and distilling them into just a few easy steps and making them work for her busy lifestyle.
Our hero product Best Skin Days is her one-step morning routine in a jar. It's clean, the packaging is glass and permanently recyclable, the boxes are FSC-certified, made from paper waste and printed with soy inks. Moving forward, we will continue to be extremely thoughtful about the impact our innovation choices make on our planet and our customers' time. This may mean we don't turn products out like the machine the beauty industry often is, but it helps us sleep better at night.
- Alisha Gallagher Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officers, MOB Beauty
The landscape is certainly more crowded than ever, and my hope is that brand founders create consciously, source sustainably, and do their best to offer product in sustainable packaging solutions. Consumers are boss, and many are demanding more from the brands they buy, which is great. There is so much opportunity to rethink and do beauty better, and together we can create positive change.
We are in constant pursuit of sustainable packaging solutions and have a commitment that, if we don’t have a refillable package solution, we won’t launch a product, so our launch calendar revolves around our packaging more than product or trend.
- Shani Van Breukelen Co-Founder, Ayond
While the beauty industry isn’t a monolith, each brand should have sustainability at top of mind when launching new products. These launches can be beneficial if they are sustainable, ethical, inclusive and allow customers to make a switch from less sustainable options. At Ayond, we focus on sourcing plant-based, reusable, multifunctional, and renewable ingredients and materials for our collection. Because of these considerations, we take more time to launch a product, ensuring that it is refined and aligned with our beliefs.
- Luc Maes Founder, Kaibae
We need to look beyond sustainability to be regenerative and give back to the earth. One cannot stop innovation, and products will continue to be brought to market. This is how we all grow, evolve and learn, but we must do it thoughtfully. I personally think that the way products are made is the key to our future.
Every brand and entrepreneur should be asking, what is the purpose in creating this brand and the purpose of every product? Never just making a product or packaging because it's on trend and will sell. We all need to be more responsible about depleting natural resources and caring for the health of the planet.
In respect to Kaibae’s product launches, we are a circular brand focused on wild plants, which are regenerative, do not need inputs, dry on the tree or in the sun, and no part of the plant ever get wasted. We use every single ingredient that comes from the pod: powder, seeds, funicles, leaves, and the pod itself is used for soap and firewood. The ‘leftover’’ seed meal from the oil pressing is upcycled and used as scrub in our soaps and upcoming cleanser.
You will see us introduce ingredients and products with a multitude of applications out of one formulation. The products not only benefit human health, but leave earth a better place. I am very hopeful that collectively the beauty industry will become better stewards of the environment where all aspects of the supply chain from harvesters and farmers to manufacturers, distributors, brands and retailers make the necessary shifts. The conscious consumer demands that we take care of the planet and continue to innovate. We can absolutely do both at the same time!
- Ericka Rodriguez Founder, Axiology
I think the beauty industry—all companies really—should be intentional about what they produce and sell. If the industry as a whole focused more on launching products that solve real problems like wasteful packaging, toxic ingredients and unethical sourcing, the number of product launches wouldn’t matter so much.
- Shuting Hu Founder, Acaderma
I don’t think that beauty launches and sustainability inherently contradict each other, but that contradiction is often the case when products are pushed out purely for the sake of profit. The number of products a brand launches is certainly important, but so is the mindfulness behind those products.
Sustainability has always been a priority at Acaderma, which is why we make conscious efforts to always source our products ethically, and use refillable and recyclable packaging. As a cosmetic scientist, I also have high standards for what products Acaderma puts out. Our product line growth is based on true innovation because we never want to feed into consumerism without actually filling a gap in the product market.
- Jamila Powell Founder, Naturally Drenched
It’s definitely necessary to make sure that products are put out mindfully, whether you’re an indie brand with a single product or an international beauty powerhouse. At the end of the day, the “fast fashionization” of beauty doesn’t help consumers.
Naturally Drenched was founded with eco-friendliness as a top priority, and I’ve always been extremely conscious of what I choose to include in my product line. At Naturally Drenched, the creation of innovative and community-serving products is our guiding mission, especially because the curly hair community is still so underserved. To us, that means making sure our products are what our consumers are actually asking for, instead of just releasing launch after launch just because they’ll sell.
That’s one of the main reasons why the Naturally Drenched line is so lean. Our hero product, Rebalance, was conceptualized because this product just didn’t exist on the market and wasn’t launched until it had undergone months of rigorous product formulation and testing.
- Alisia Ford Founder, Glory Skincare
As brands become more thoughtful with sustainability efforts, I think it's important to remain cognizant about the number of products that the brand launches throughout the year. The key is to remain intentional about the products you are developing and launching.
At Glory, we believe that products should be created based on what our community really wants, not what some marketing executive decides. Our community informs us of what they are looking for and, with that approach, we build our product roadmap.
We are launching one SKU this summer and an additional one or two SKUs this holiday season. We plan to launch these products at Sephora early next year. This approach lends itself to accommodate our resources effectively and reflects our approach to becoming a more conscious, sustainable brand.
- Evonna Kuehner Founder, Anové
It's important to remain mindful of what your audience is receptive to and consciously create products that address the problems they are looking to solve. Life breeds innovation, so I do not think launching new products have to run counter to sustainability as long as what you are launching is what customers actually want.
As a brand founder who started out self-funded, I've always been extremely cautious about product launches. My approach has always been to launch with purpose. I make sure that I hear all of our customers' feedback and really take their requests into consideration before developing or launching a new product. The products that we are planning to launch in the near future are not only purposefully aligned with our brand values, but have been highly requested by our customer base.
- Kiku Chaudhuri Founder, Shaz & Kiks
All industries should start rethinking how they source and create their products through more sustainable measures. The supply hasn't caught up to the demand, so there are still big challenges that companies will face when attempting to build a truly sustainable brand. It takes time and costs more money, but, hopefully, as long as the demand continues, the resource will grow and become more attainable.
At Shaz & Kiks, we are constantly thinking of better, more sustainable packaging materials and solutions to leave less of a footprint. As things have become more accessible, we've begun shifting to more sustainable materials such as PCR. We are also looking into refillable packaging and hoping to partner with more organizations that can help us with recycling and neutralizing our plastic use.
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