There’s no denying that the beauty industry is a major culprit when it comes to our plastic problem. In fact, according to Beat the Microbead, the cosmetics industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging globally every year. With 95% of this thrown out after one use, and just 14% of plastic making it to a recycling centre, it’s clear that radical change is needed to make sustainable beauty the norm – from ingredients sourcing to shipping.
The trailblazing brands awarded in the Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards put as much thought into how they can protect our planet as they do the efficacy of their game-changing products. From everyday essentials like toothpaste to high-performing scientific skincare, these brilliant brands are making the world a better place, one beauty hero at a time.
Here are the Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards 2021 Beauty winners...
Marie Claire UK Sustainability Awards Beauty winners
Best for Carbon Footprint
Honouring the Amazon rainforest as one of the planet’s most valuable resources, Rahua is on a mission to make plant-based beauty products that give back. So much so that for each bottle of Rahua sold, the brand promises to preserve one acre of the Amazon Rainforest annually.
Offering symbiotic® (in this case, meaning ingredients are grown in the wild and handcrafted by Indigenous tribal communities), vegan, non-toxic products free of parabens, silicones, sulfates and gluten, the MC Sustainability Awards judges were hugely impressed by Rahua’s commitment to effecting change in the beauty industry.
Sustainability Awards judge and Head of Marketing and Growth at CoGo, Ele Ward says: “This is a brand that gives me hope for how businesses can and should act.”
Highly commended: Comfort Zone
Best Cruelty-free Brand
In an industry awash with green promises, Tropic is a brand that truly delivers. Not only is it carbon-neutral, but it’s also carbon-negative, having worked to doubly offset its carbon emissions since 2018. All of Tropic’s clinically proven cruelty-free products have been made with sustainably sourced tropical ingredients and packaged in refillable, recyclable packaging. It even offers customers a free product for every five empties sent back through its recycling scheme.
Additionally, the brand has saved more than 12 tonnes of waste from being generated through its beloved (and travel-friendly) refillable colour palette. Tropic’s promise to be a force for good beyond beauty goes all the way to the boardroom, too. The brand’s HQ in South London is powered by 100% renewable energy, and has been 100% landfill-free for the past two years.
PETA president and Sustainability Awards judge Ingrid Newkirk says: “This is a delightful, creamy, vegan and cruelty-free brand approved by PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies programme – the highest standard guarantee. Today’s consumers value ethically produced beauty, and Tropic recognises that.”
Highly commended: The Body Shop
Best Ethical Initiative
Chances are, you (and your skin) are already familiar with DECIEM, but you probably didn’t know just how far beyond skin-deep this cult beauty brand goes when it comes to community. Praised by Sustainability Awards judge Clare McDermott for “supporting the wider community and making a real difference”, DECIEM is a brand that gives back to the people who have led to its global success.
From the DECIEM Family Fund – a financial aid programme providing team members and their families with assistance in circumstances of financial hardship or adversity – to a Community Fund that has so far donated $120,000 (approx £86,000) to 12 causes directly affecting the neighbourhoods in and around DECIEM stores, DECIEM recognises that the wellbeing of its people is integral to the success and longevity of its brand.
Highly commended: Kiehl's Since 1851 – Recycle & Be Rewarded
Best Ocean-friendly Brand
Winner: HUM Nutrition
According to the World Economic Forum, a truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute. Without action, that amount is estimated to double by 2030; by 2050, there may even be more plastic in our oceans than fish. With these dire statistics in mind, premium supplement brand HUM Nutrition has announced that it will be the first supplement company to transition its bottle packaging to 100% ocean-bound plastic.
In partnership with Prevented Ocean Plastic™, the brand estimates that its initiative will prevent the equivalent of six million water bottles from entering the ocean this year alone. And it’s not content with stopping just there. On a mission to eliminate single-use plastics altogether, the brand hopes that by 2025 it will have prevented the equivalent of more than 50 million water bottles from entering our oceans.
Karen Hamilton, Global VP, Sustainability, Divisions at Unilever, and Sustainability Awards judge says: “HUM Nutrition has taken a serious and considered approach to its packaging, with no wasteful outer packs and a strong partnership to scale the use of ocean-bound plastic across its entire range.”
Highly commended: weDo/ Professional
Best Organic Brand
Winner: Pai Skincare
Organic is an adjective thrown around liberally, as brands try to take advantage of an increasingly eco-conscious customer. But skincare label Pai has the credentials to back it up. Not only is it a certified organic brand, it’s been an organic formulator and manufacturer from the very beginning, too.
Every single one of its products is created in-house, giving Pai Skincare a total view of the supply chain – from formulation to packaging – and its COSMOS organic certification means the company is held to the most rigorous standards of ingredient-sustainability, biodegradability and organic content (all of which are, of course, independently scrutinised).
On a mission to be the leading authority in organic skincare, Pai is out to dispel the myths and misconceptions around organic beauty, while providing products that are as high-performing as they are kind to the environment. We’re 100% onboard for the journey.
Highly commended: Tata Harper
Best Progress Towards Circularity
Circla is a beauty brand on a mission to change the beauty industry’s love of single-use plastic.
Believing that convenience is key to switching to a refillable lifestyle, Circla takes the faff out of reusing packaging by delivering direct to your doorstep. (Think the milkman, but much more exciting.) Since launching in March, Circla has curated a range of 25 independent brands on its platform that showcases the best of British sustainable, vegan and organic beauty, and its widely recyclable packaging can be reused more than 50 times.
Needless to say, all Circla deliveries are emissions-free, made via bicycle courier or electric van. Offering a radical new approach to not only how we use packaging but how we think about it too, the MC Sustainability Awards judges were highly impressed with the brand’s vision of a waste-free future.
Highly commended: Lumene
Best Progress Towards Circularity – Retailer
Winner: LOOKFANTASTIC – recycle:me
LOOKFANTASTIC is one of the beauty industry’s best-loved retailers, so when the brand launched its innovative recycle:me scheme, we sat up and took note. Aiming to tackle the industry’s plastic-waste problem, the scheme allows customers to send all plastic packaging from used beauty products – regardless of the brand – back to LOOKFANTASTIC to be recycled free of charge.
The retailer then recycles the plastic into new materials that can be used for social projects, preventing these often ‘hard to recycle’ items going to landfill or harming the environment.
What about the carbon emissions that come from sending the packaging back, you ask? These are offset through THG’s CarbonNeutral® delivery certification. Check and check.
Best Supply Chain Initiative
WELEDA has never made any bones about being committed to change. One of just two leading beauty brands globally (and the first in Europe) to obtain the new Union for Ethical BioTrade certification for sourcing with respect, the brand’s supply chain was scrutinised for how it sources its raw ingredients, as well as how it compensates workers at all levels of the production process.
Speaking of the judges’ decision to award WELEDA Best Supply Chain Initiative, sustainability adviser Christina Archer says: “A long-term leader and innovator in the beauty industry, they are always looking ahead and diving deeper and deeper into examining and understanding the sustainability issues of their supply chain. They partner with well-known experts to address these, and are always sharing their decades of experience with the industry to push the whole sector (including consumers) to be more sustainable.”
Highly commended: Dr. Hauschka
Best Sustainable Packaging – Body
When the KLORIS CBD bath bombs became a beauty industry mainstay, the brand recognised an opportunity to up its eco game, and redesigned them into sleek, space-saving Blocks. Zero waste is a priority for the brand, and all of its packaging is 100% recyclable; 95% of the entire product and postage materials are biodegradable; and the brand never wraps anything in plastic or excess packaging.
Not only that, but all of the outer packaging used for mailing is made from unbleached Kraft materials too. With each Block additionally boxed and sealed in a protective biodegradable cellulose wrap, our Sustainability Awards judges were impressed by the lengths KLORIS has gone to in order to minimise its environmental impact.
As MC’ s Associate Editor-at-Large Sunil Makan says: “You can tell when so much time and thought has gone into crafting something so simple and efficacious.”
Highly commended: gloved
Best Sustainable Packaging – Fragrance
Winner: Floral Street
Floral Street’s ‘born clean’ tagline is apt. Since its beginnings in 2017, the eco-conscious brand has been leading the way in responsible scent – applying the four Rs (rethink, reduce, repurpose and recycle) to every aspect of its business. All of the the brand’s vegetable-printed packaging is recyclable, and its biodegradable wood-pulp carton is a first in the fragrance industry. So, even if the fragrance boxes did end up in landfill – and here’s hoping that they don't – they wouldn't leave a trace on the environment.
Meanwhile, the brand’s box-production process has been independently verified to use less energy, water and raw materials than alternatives, and any waste water is cleaned and recycled. Floral Street also carbon balances via the World Land Trust, and its 2020 certificate confirms that it has balanced the equivalent of 9,362kg of carbon dioxide.
“They’ve really thought of everything,” says MC’s Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor Ally Head. “A well-rounded approach to sustainability that champions the waste not, want not approach.”
Highly commended: STORIES Parfums
Best Sustainable Packaging – Hair & Body
Winner: Faith In Nature
Faith in Nature was at the forefront of the green-beauty movement long before it was mainstream. Wary of lofty, greenwashing phrases, the brand has, in fact, been using 100% recycled and recyclable bottles since 1999, and has managed to save a remarkable 34o tonnes of plastic from landfill in the years since.
Thanks to its waste-saving five-litre bottles and handmade soaps and shampoo bars, this legacy beauty brand is on its way to saving hundreds more. Not only has it now introduced refillable product stations, but it’s working towards total elimination of virgin plastic from the supply chain – a priority as important to Faith In Nature as the quality of its formulas.
Speaking of the judges’ decision to award Faith In Nature Best Sustainable Packaging in the hair and body category, MC’s Beauty & Style Director Lisa Oxenham says: “BIG refill champions. Other brands are following by example.”
Best Sustainable Packaging – Skincare
Spectacle Skincare’s innovative packaging is as devoutly eco-conscious as its skincare – with more than 95% of the materials used to make the brand’s Performance Crème tube derived from renewable resources. Eco and cosmos-certified, the tube is constructed from a spruce-wood and sugarcane compound. (The processed spruce is a by-product of sawdust created by German carpenters.)
Not only that, but the wood tube has a carbon footprint that is 40% better than a conventional PE tube. The Crème’s outer box, meanwhile, is created using hemp paper that’s acid-, chlorine- and chemical-free; with 50% of the fibre sustainably sourced from European hemp fields, and the remaining 50% derived from post-consumer recycled waste.
To go a step further, Spectacle Skincare plants two hemp seeds for every outer box created. So, for every 154 boxes made from hemp, Spectacle saves 16 lbs of trees, conserves 20 gallons of water, saves 36,000 BTUs of energy, retains 2.5 lbs of solid waste and keeps 4.5 lbs of greenhouse gases from entering the environment. That’s a pretty amazing achievement, considering it’s such a young brand.
Karen Hamilton, Global VP Sustainability, Divisions at Unilever and MC Sustainability Awards judge says: “Spectacle Skincare are making their packaging out of extraordinary renewable materials – leftover spruce-wood and sustainably sourced hemp. This is disruptive stuff.”
Highly commended: Seed to Skin
Best Use Of Technology For Good – Retailer
Winner: Cult Beauty
One of the most trusted beauty retailers in the biz, Cult Beauty has always insisted on transparency from the brands it carries, and was the first retailer to require a full ingredients list and independently written descriptions for each product on its site when launching in 2008.
The retailer took things a step further last year when its partnered with blockchain transparency platform, Provenance.org, to launch Cult Conscious. Using blockchain technology to digitally verify the deluge of product information that pervades the beauty industry, Cult Conscious provides people with third-party proof to substantiate brands’ claims about sourcing, efficacy and sustainably. (Essentially, it’s an easy-to-use fact checker that allows you to do due diligence around the brands in your basket.)
Chosen by the judges for its radical transparency, Sara Vaughan, MC's Global Chief Purpose & Sustainability Advisor calls the platform, “So very powerful and so helpful to consumers wanting to make sustainable and ethical choices.”
Best Use of Technology for Good
Icelandic skincare brand BIOEFFECT was created by three scientists who, after a decade of research, discovered a way to bioengineer a plant-based human replica of EGF (Epidermal Growth Factor) in barley plants. One of the most important growth factors for skin, EGF helps boost production of collagen and elastin to ensure skin stays healthy, plump and youthful.
Sounds impressive? Well prepare to be even more impressed by the brand’s high-tech approach to sustainability. BIOEFFECT’S ecologically-engineered greenhouse is powered by sustainable, natural energy, using hydroponic cultivation that preserves more water, and volcanic pumice to make the cultivation even more clean. Nestled in the lava fields of Reykjanes Peninsula, only 50 km from the brand’s Headquarters in Reykjavik, the greenhouse can nurture up to 130,000 barley plants at a time, and uses biotechnology to create clean and stable ingredients.
Highly commended: Biossance
Best Vegan Brand or Range – Hair
Winner: Authentic Beauty Concept
Authentic Beauty Concept makes professional haircare with purpose. Used by salons and hairdressers across the globe daily, the brand’s products are packed with carefully selected vegan hero ingredients that are entirely free from silicones and sulfate surfactants.
Additionally, up to 95% of Authentic Beauty Concept’s ingredients come from a natural origin, including coconut and jojoba oils, shea butter, Fairtrade violet rice extract and biodegradable starch, and all of its vegan products are registered with the Vegan Society.
Believing that change should start within its own community, Authentic Beauty Concept has also collaborated with partner salons on sustainable concepts to help them run more mindful businesses. Take, for example, the brand’s Refill Bars, which allow customers to bring their product bottle back with each visit – thus reducing plastic waste, contributing to the circular economy, and building a meaningful, eco-conscious salon community.
Best Vegan Brand – Body
Winner: Isle of Paradise
Isle of Paradise’s skin-loving and streak-free tanning products are free from both animal-derived ingredients and a range of other nasties, like parabens and sulfates. As part of the brand’s promise to deliver a cleaner, greener glow for all skin types and tones, all ingredients are sourced responsibly, as well as being PETA-approved and certified organic.
In fact, Isle of Paradise is the world’s first 100% vegan and cruelty-free colour correcting self-tanning brand. Packed with nourishing skin treats like chia seed, grapefruit and avocado oils, each glow-getting formula is powered by a unique complex to brighten, reduce redness and even out all skin tones. Now that brings new meaning to the idea of a natural tan.
Best Zero-waste Brand – Essentials
When it comes to leading a more sustainable lifestyle, sometimes it’s the small, everyday choices that can have the most radical impact. An ethical, eco-friendly and effective alternative to toothpaste in a tube, PÄRLA’s toothpaste tabs were born of the belief that toothpaste should protect people’s smiles, without harming the environment (or those who depend on it) in the process.
Zero waste and completely free of plastic packaging, the brand’s vegan, dehydrated toothpaste tablets are made with clean ingredients; are palm oil-, SLS- and gluten-free, and come in a cute reusable glass jar. Oh, and they’re made in the UK – allowing the brand to also greatly reduce its carbon footprint.
Jayn Sterland, MD of WELEDA UK and Sustainability Awards judge says: “[A] brilliant idea! Make toothpaste more sustainable in a new (retro) format and out of the ubiquitous plastic tube. I hope it really shakes up the industry.”
Best Zero-waste Skincare Brand
Winner: REN Clean Skincare
Sustainability is in REN Clean Skincare’s DNA. Since the brand’s beginnings more than two decades ago, REN has used sustainably sourced, natural bio-active ingredients to help skin help itself. But in its bid to become zero-waste by the end of this year, the company has kicked things up a notch, and now more than 60% of its products already meet this pledge.
And it’s fully prepared to share the love. REN's We Are Greater Allies Campaign united the brand with four like-minded competitors who share the goal of tackling the environmental crisis caused by packaging waste. Meanwhile, REN has also signed up to the first-of-its-kind LOOP shopping platform. Produced in partnership with TerraCycle and Tesco, the platform challenges our global reliance on single-use plastic, offering consumers premium, durable packaging that can be delivered directly, then returned and refilled.
“REN are making great headway in switching to PCR and the collaboration they have initiated is brave, groundbreaking and exactly what the industry needs to do,” says British Beauty Council advisor and Sustainability Awards judge Jayn Sterland. Watch this space.
Highly commended: SBTRCT
Marie Claire UK have determined the award winners in accordance with the judging criteria and with the information provided by the entrants. All information provided by the winning brands are published in good faith.
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Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. She studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, and her byline has also appeared in Dezeen, British Vogue, The Times and woman&home. In no particular order, her big loves are: design, good fiction, bad reality shows and the risible interiors of celebrity houses.
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