Welcome, I am so grateful that you are here.
Below you will find our blueprint for how we transitioned Emma Lewisham to the world’s first circular and carbon positive beauty brand.
You will find our journey broken down into step-by-step guides including tips and resources that we found helpful. Our hope in breaking down our processes in this way, is that you will find the information digestible, practical and easily implementable.
Our intention is to help make your transition to a circular beauty business as simple and supported as possible.
In moving to a circular model of beauty where refills are the status quo and every piece of packaging is recycled, it is estimated that the beauty industry could reduce carbon emissions by up to 70%, while eliminating waste and creating a truly beautiful, beauty industry.
I strongly believe that collaboration must underpin this transition, so, if you have any questions or would like more detail around any of our processes, it would be our pleasure to share.
I hope that united we can not only transition to a circular industry, but one where we embrace collaboration and are able to find solutions - together.
Here’s to the future of beauty.
The information below provides details on how to move your business to a circular designed model and work towards being carbon positive. There is also more detailed information available on refillable packaging moulds, sterilisation, and recycling and returns processes – just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beauty Industry’s Waste Problem
Our industry was built on linear economic thinking – take, make, waste. Raw materials are collected, then transformed into products that are used until they are finally discarded as waste.
It is estimated that alone, the beauty industry is responsible for 120 billion units of waste every year* – that’s the equivalent weight of over 843,000 elephants. 95% of it is thrown out after just a single use, and only 14% of beauty plastic makes it to a recycling centre.
What many people don’t realise, is that due to its complexity (e.g. pumps, coloured plastic and glass), the majority of beauty packaging can’t be recycled through kerbside recycling programmes. The vast majority of beauty packaging ends up in landfills, oceans or is burnt.
Packaging is also the single largest contributor of carbon emissions in beauty. Carbon is a critical element to all life on earth, however, the amount of carbon in our atmosphere and our oceans has increased so significantly, from human activity, that our planet is heating up. The excess carbon ends up stuck in our atmosphere or absorbed too heavily by our oceans, creating what we know as global warming. As a result of these increased temperatures, we are seeing catastrophic rates of biodiversity loss (animals and plants) as well as the imminent threat of mass migration as areas of the Earth that are home to many, start to become too hot to inhabit.
A circular beauty model where refills are the first and foremost option chosen – reusing a bottle or jar over and over again instead of creating a new vessel – is singlehandedly the most influential change we can make in reducing the beauty industry’s carbon emissions. It would reduce our carbon emissions as an industry by 70%, reduce energy used by 60%, and water by 45%**
If we started refilling and reusing even a small portion of the 120 billion units of beauty packaging waste that’s created every year, what an indelible impact on our planet we could make together.
Moving your business to a circular designed model
Step one - THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY - the first and most important step that underpins all else, is taking time to educate yourself and your colleagues on the principles of the circular economy. To summarise, a circular economy is based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle. It is about designing out waste by reusing what we already have in order to create a circular, waste free system. The opposite to the circular economy, is the linear economy - which is how the majority of our economy currently operates. The principles of a linear economy are take, make, waste. We extract things from the earth, turn them into products, then discard them after a single use.
Resource - A great place to start your education on the circular economy is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, where you will also find a wealth of additional resources.
Step two - REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE - next, it’s important to understand the hierarchy of priorities within circularity. Reducing is the first priority - you should look to reduce your adverse impact wherever possible. Second, is reuse - which in our industry means refill. Refills are the future of beauty. As part of a circular system, they have been estimated to reduce the beauty industry's carbon emissions by up to 70% while minimising the 120 billion units of beauty packaging produced every year. Finally, is recycle. Despite refills needing to be the primary focus, it’s also important to ensure that all materials used can be recycled or composted at the end of their life - feeding back into the circular model. We must stress here the importance of refilling before recycling. Recycling in isolation is not circular and should not be your solution to circularity.
Step three - ENGAGING CUSTOMERS - the last piece of the circularity puzzle to tackle is how you plan to engage your customers to participate in your refill and recycling programme. Customers play a vital role in the success of circularity. Without your customers returning their empty packaging to you for refilling and recycling, your business cannot be circular. Take some time to understand what your take back programme will look like, how you will incentivise your customers and which specialised recycling partner you will collaborate with. Specialised recycling partners ensure that ‘hard to recycle’ beauty packaging, actually gets recycled. You may not be aware but globally almost no kerbside recycling systems are able to recycle beauty packaging, even packaging that says ‘100% recyclable’, so take back programmes are absolutely essential.
Resource – For global recycling we use Terracycle. We collect all Emma Lewisham packaging back directly to ensure all refillable empties are sent for sterilising and refilling, with any packaging unfit for refilling sent to Terracycle for recycling.
Step four – IMPLEMENTATION - this includes innovation in some areas of your business and a redesign such as in packaging and operations processes. The shift to circular means we have to rethink and do things a different way. You’ll also need to be prepared for some investment, but remember that our waste stream (used packaging) actually has value, so there is the opportunity to be cost neutral, particularly once circular activity is scaled.
Before you put it all into action, one last tip: we’d recommend testing as much as you can before you launch – whether this is checking the sterilisation process for refill pods is effective or that your material take-back process is smooth. If you’d like more detail on what we did in these areas, come and talk to us at email@example.com
Resource – The Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute has great resources which talk you through common considerations and how to include circular principles in your innovation and design thinking.
Becoming Carbon Positive
Step one – The first and foundational step of your carbon mapping journey, is to thoroughly understand your supply chain. You must have full transparency and understand where everything comes from in order to map the carbon emissions of your product through its complete life cycle. This is time consuming work, however not only is it crucial to your carbon mapping journey, it is also crucial to ensuring that the ethical and environment standards across your supply chain align with your values.
Tip – we recommend starting at the very beginning of your supply chain. Start with finding out where and how all your raw ingredients are grown, then work your way up the supply chain – through suppliers, how and where ingredients are manufactured, where and how your packaging is made, how materials are transported in each stage of the journey, and so forth.
Step two – The next step is finding a reputable third party organisation who is able to support you throughout the carbon mapping process, then audit your findings and provide you with certification.
Tip – in order to find a reputable organisation, we recommend ensuring that the partner is audited by another third party organisation. If you’re in New Zealand, the option we used is Toitū Envirocare.
Step three – The carbon mapping process is time intensive and really does requires the efforts of a dedicated employee. We recommend having someone on your team committed to this full time while you are working through this process. This person should be analytical, good with data, highly structured, organised and preferably with previous auditing experience.
Step four – This is where the carbon mapping begins. Your partner organisation will guide you through the step-by-step process of doing this, however you will be asked to measure your carbon emissions from a product aspect at every level of your supply chain. The general areas that you will be asked to analyse and measure are; ingredients, packaging materials, distribution (air), distribution (road), supply freight, production, customer use and end-of-life. In addition, you may be asked, as we were, to complete a full assessment of your supply chain at an organisational level.
Step five – After mapping your carbon footprint for each product, you will be able to make a carbon reduction plan. Most auditing organisations will not allow you to offset your emissions without first seeing proof that you have made concerted efforts to reduce your existing emissions as much as possible. These reduction goals could include for example; reducing emissions during the growth of ingredients, working with manufacturers to implement renewable energy or improving logistics to avoid airfreight. As we also completed a full supply chain assessment at an organisational level, our staff and supplier engagements were mandatory to measure and therefore we also have a reduction plan in place, including policies for promoting customer behaviour change. Reduction is the first and most important point of call. In the ideal world, we wouldn’t need to offset at all.
Tip – the process of becoming certified carbon positive took us 12 months of intensive work. It is important to have someone dedicated full time to this process.
Resource – you can see our ongoing goals around carbon reduction here.
Tip - We found that our biggest contributor to carbon emissions was international transportation. To help reduce these emissions we identified the country we ship the largest volume to and are actively exploring opening a distribution centre here to enable us to send products there in bulk by sea freight, significantly reducing our carbon footprint.
We also have more detailed information available on refillable packaging moulds, sterilisation, and recycling and returns processes – just get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org