The conversation around climate change and sustainability camecloser to home when the COP26 conference was held in Glasgow in October/ November last year.
COP, or Conference of the Parties, refers to the 197 nations that agreed to a new environmental pact, the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, at a meeting in 1992.1 Fast forward 30 years, and although the noise around sustainability and climate change is getting louder every year, and governments and businesses get closer to the various targets they committed to, there are still huge challenges ahead.
When we look at any global issue, from CO2 emissions to food or water scarcity, it is very clear that no individual institution, government, or company can provide the solution. Instead, many partnerships, both within and across industries, have been formed to collaborate, innovate and speed up the change that is necessary on both a local and global scale. One of the first of these was the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance,2 which was also formed in 1992. This organisation uniquely represents how the hospitality industry is taking collective responsibility to ensure that destinations and communities are being supported and protected now and for future generations.
Since then, hundreds of other coalitions and partnerships have been formed; the most recent initiative in the UK beauty sector was announced in July 2021. The Sustainable Beauty Coalition (SBC) was formed by the British Beauty Council as one of the recommendations of its ground-breaking sustainability report Courage to Change3 , published in 2020. The SBC4 is made up of industry experts, brand owners and industry body representatives from across the beauty sector to develop a clear strategy, roadmap and initiatives which will accelerate the sustainability efforts of the industry.
In November 2021 the SBC released the Planet Positive Beauty Guide5 , stating, “Our planet is in a code red situation”. Within this consumer-orientated guide, the group published the results of a recent study of 23,000 beauty shoppers which found almost half (48%) are looking for more information and clarity about brands’ values and commitments to the environment. The Guide tackles the subject of “greenwashing”, whereby companies provide a false impression or misleading information about how its products or services are more environmentally sound than they actually are. The Guide provides direction for consumers about claims related to ingredients, packaging, people (social responsibility) and sustainable sourcing.
Although the Sustainable Beauty Coalition is new, the topic of sustainability in the beauty sector has been discussed and debated by consumers, commentators, industry suppliers and salons for a number of years. This includes industry-specific media, such as Professional Beauty Magazine (the sister publication to Aesthetic Medicine).
Although medical aesthetics is seen by those practising in the industry as a distinct sector in its own right; with its own conferences, magazines/ journals and suppliers, a blurring around the edges between the two sectors has become apparent in recent years, as beauty has become more advanced and aesthetics has become more accessible. It’s not uncommon to see some of the same skincare and equipment companies advertising in both beauty and aesthetic media and exhibiting at trade shows aimed at both sectors. And of course, this blurring has caused significant controversy and debate for many reasons.
However, sustainability efforts don’t seem to have quite made this crossover. Conversation around how we can do our part as an industry has nowhere near as much prominence in aesthetic industry media, at events and forums or among brands and suppliers, compared to the beauty sector. Although there are some sustainability issues that are pertinent to aesthetics, it would seem that many of the major problems affecting both the beauty and aesthetics sectors are similar. The energy we use to heat and light our premises, disposables, the chemicals in sunscreens and other skincare products that have adverse effects on marine life; plastic packaging and other recycling issues are all common themes that affect both sectors.
The recent Mintel 2021 Global Beauty and Personal Care Trends report6 listed “Beauty eco-lution” as one of its four core narratives. The report stated, “As consumers emerge from covid-19 confinement they will re-evaluate priorities with eco-ethical considerations driving more purchase, with more shopping local and with less of a focus on price”.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we have hit a tipping point regarding sustainability, and many large (and small) businesses are now reforming strategies, business plans and investments to resonate with their customers who are increasingly considering sustainability when making purchases. In the coming years, the aesthetic industry will not be immune to these changes. However, the subject is complicated, with a diverse range of opinions concerning the “best” solutions and how these are communicated to customers. Although I’m sure that the aesthetic sector could form a similar group to the Sustainable Beauty Coalition, it would seem that there could be a considerable duplication of efforts.
There is a lot to discuss and debate about this subject to really start some momentum in our sector. If you’d like to learn more, please join the Sustainability in Aesthetics Facebook group.7 This group aims to explore examples of collaborations, novel ideas, and how clinics and suppliers are using sustainability marketing to differentiate themselves from local competitors.
1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations, 1992, https:// unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf
2. Sustainability Hospitality Alliance website, https://sustainablehospitalityalliance.org/
3. The Courage to Change, British Beauty Council, 2020, https://britishbeautycouncil.com/ wp-content/uploads/2021/03/the-courage-tochange.pdf
4.Sustainable Beauty Coalition website, https:// britishbeautycouncil.com/sustainable-beautycoalition/
5. Planet Positive Beauty Guide, https:// britishbeautycouncil.com/wp-content/ uploads/2021/10/BBC-Green-Guide-FINAL- CS.pdf
6. Mintel 2021 Global Beauty and Personal Care Trends, https://mintel.com/beauty-trends
7. Sustainability in Aesthetics Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ groups/299090618701603
Ron Myers is a business coach and mentor, helping aesthetic clinics and suppliers to maximise their profits. With a proven business background in identifying and capitalising on trends, and with a love of the natural world, Ron is keen to champion and incorporate sustainability issues in the aesthetic arena. Contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org