How to make more sustainable choices

The British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition launches their Planet Positive Beauty Guide and is working to combat greenwashing

The British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition launches their Planet Positive Beauty Guide and is working to combat greenwashing

Although looking out for beauty products that boast the words ‘green’, ‘natural’, or ‘organic’ might seem like the right thing to be doing for the planet, thanks to the prevalence of greenwashing, it could be leading you to make purchases that harm the environment.

‘Clean’ has become a beauty buzzword that consumers have put their buying power behind, thinking that the products are sustainable and planet-friendly. However, many brands are jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to green claims without delivering their promises.

More and more people are becoming aware of this marketing and are taking responsibility to learn more about the negative effects of their beauty cabinets. A survey carried out by Cult Beauty and Provenance, a transparency tech company that aims to debunk green claims, found that 48% of consumers are looking for more information and clarity about brands’ values and commitments to the environment.

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The same survey (which picked the brains of 23,000 beauty shoppers) found that many respondents were confused about which ingredients and packaging were non-harmful and recyclable. The findings also highlight the lack of understanding that surrounds animal welfare in the beauty industry.

In 2020, the British Beauty Council commissioned the Courage to Change report. It outlined the work that we must undertake to build a planet positive beauty industry. Despite many people doing their best to help the planet, the report shows that 42% of people feel guilty about the environmental impact of their beauty purchases, and The Sustainable Beauty Coalition is here to change that with its Planet Positive Beauty Guide.

The members of the planet-conscious arm of the British Beauty Council have put their heads together to create the most comprehensive guide to sustainable beauty that the industry has ever seen. Headed by Jayn Sterland, Managing Director at Weleda UK, the team worked with brands, governmental representatives and sustainability experts to compile all the actionable advice you need to navigate today’s confusing beauty industry.

Sterland says: “‘Greenwashing’ can be seen not only in the misleading use of claims such as ‘natural’ and/or ‘organic’, but also ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘clean’ or ‘green’. Greenwashing not only means shoppers are making what they think are ‘green’ choices which can actively harm the environment, it also drains credibility from honest brands that are genuinely sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Covering topics including ingredients, packaging, people and sustainable sourcing, the guide gives you evidence-based tips for choosing the perfect products for you and the planet. Whether you need to brush up on which certifications you should keep an eye out for or want to learn more about the brands that are dedicated to improving society, this beauty dictionary will get you there in no time.

Image courtesy of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition

The handbook is a compilation of all of the sustainable beauty claims that are made by brands - big and small - and it pairs them with straightforward definitions. This helps you to not only make confident decisions when it comes to topping up your skincare or revamping your makeup kit but it will also help you to choose the brands that are doing their bit for the planet properly.

If we all use the Planet Positive Beauty Guide it will encourage the industry to become more transparent overall. What’s more, the guide was created in support of the Competition and Markets Authority’s Green Claims Code, which is designed to help businesses shout about their green credentials without misleading customers. Armed with the Planet Positive Beauty Guide and the Green Claims Code, our industry will become greener in a reliable and ethical way.

How can you make a difference?

Whether it's cotton pads, face masks or wipes, try to make a simple swap to reusable options. These products are designed to last longer and treat the planet with more respect. When you opt for a single-use beauty product you are adding to the land waste problem that is a key driver in the climate crisis. If you want to do even more, why not up the amount of bamboo in your bathroom? From bamboo razors to compostable packaged deodorants and lip balms, when a product's packaging is made from bamboo it enters the Earth's cycle more easily at the end of its life.

When it comes to certifications you should keep an eye out for the B-Corp, UEBT and Cradle to Cradle badges. To become a certified company, beauty brands go through a rigorous verification process that tests their entire supply chain. After receiving these accolades, brands are legally bound to consider the environmental and social stakeholders in all of their decisions. When you buy from a certified brand (think Aromatherapy Associates, The Body Shop or Garnier) you can rest assured knowing that the planet and its people are at the centre of everything they do.

The world of recycling is a confusing one but making sure that all of your treats are packaged in glass, paper, cardboard or aluminium is a simple way to make sense of it all. If products are sold in these materials, the empty containers can be picked up in your curbside recycling. Another great way to recycle is to choose reusable options, not only does this allow you to try different products from your favourite brand every time, it means your waste is cut back. You can also give your unwanted products to food banks and charities like Beauty Banks, Toiletries Amnesty or The Hygiene Bank.

Lisa Oxenham

An award-winning health and beauty writer, stylist and creative director, Lisa Oxenham is one of the UK’s top beauty editors and the Beauty and Style Director at Marie Claire UK. With 20 years of editorial experience Lisa is a brand partnership expert, and a popular speaker, panelist and interviewer on a range of topics from sustainability to the future of beauty in the digital world. She recently spoke at Cognition X and Beauty Tech Live and is on the Advisory Board for the British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition.

A well-respected creative director she works on celebrity, model and influencer shoots with the highest calibre of photographers, filmmakers, make-up artists and hairstylists to create timeless images, attention-grabbing videos, digital events and masterclasses. Most recently Lisa has directed covers such as Lily Cole and Jameela Jamil, films such as Save The Arts featuring Francesca Hayward and sustainable fashion shoots such as Be The Change. Supporting the beauty industry over the pandemic has been a top focus, directing the British Beauty Council’s six inspirational short biographical films for their Bring Back Beauty campaign.

Lisa is a wellbeing and beauty influencer with a focus on mental health and a large and engaged audience on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.