The Degrowth Beauty Opportunity
As a society, we’re thinking a lot about the future. We’re mulling over how to let go of what we knew while coming to terms with the fact that we don’t know as much as we thought we did. As Covid-19 continues to lift the veil on our culture of materialism and overconsumption, consumers are turning towards wise consumption that balances the scales both socially and ecologically.
The concept of degrowth, the idea of stripping the curtains back - is not a new idea. The concept dates back to the 1970s when the philosopher Andre Gorz and a group of intellectuals proposed a simple idea: in response to mounting environmental and social problems, they suggested that the only real solution was to produce and consume less — to shrink our economies to cope with the carrying capacity of our planet. The idea at the time was considered too radical to actually implement but fast-forward to 2020, where years of self-optimisation has lead to burnout and disillusionment (not to mention adding a global climate crisis and pandemic into the mix), it's a business practise that brands are finally taking note of.
No market has best implemented the degrowth narrative into its business model than the beauty market. Moving beyond an individualistic mindset, the beauty and wellness industry and its socially-conscious consumers are choosing to better inform themselves not just about the benefits of particular ingredients but also about the effect they have on the planet.
Increasingly, consumers from Gen Z to boomers are choosing to vote with their dollar and put their money behind the brands they believe aligns with their own ethics. Traceability and sustainability are becoming at the forefront of consumers’ daily regimens, driving a greater focus on local ingredients and carbon-offsetting initiatives from brands.
Keen to understand the impact of the products we apply to our skin, hair and body, beauty consumers are putting pressure on brands not only to respond but to be more responsible. And the industry has taken note. From new sustainable packaging initiatives to indie brands they are offering full transparency within the supply chain and the evolution of ‘clean’ beauty into upcycling as the circular economy take hold - it’s safe to say the future of beauty is looking green. We investigate.
No shade to millennials, but Generation D (those born after 1995) are leading the green beauty movement. Characterised by their ethical consumption habits and favouring brands that offer vegan, cruelty-free and non-toxic products, this generation is generally known as being more socially conscious than Millennials. It’s no surprise then that a wave of new indie beauty brands are targeting younger consumers with transparent branding with products that prioritise organic, natural and paraben- and sulphate-free over and above everything else. Plenaire is just one brand who is aiming to provide teenagers with a range of clean, sustainably designed products that meet their everyday skincare needs and encourage emotional wellbeing. With the tagline ‘take pleasure in your skin chemistry’, the range has been created for delicate and sensitive skin.
Sustainable Packaging - The Refill Market
The conversation around plastics and waste isn’t just a concern of teenagers, millennials too, are demanding new solutions from brands that go beyond just recycling. As a solution to this problem, 2020 was the year that refillable packaging took off, as what could be the future of sustainable beauty. With the growing popularity of refillable products, we’ve seen more and more brands invest in refillable packaging, offering consumers an opportunity to drastically reduce their plastic usage, with designs that have been upgraded to be both sustainable and sleek. And it’s not just small, independent brands like Kjaer Weis and LINK Beauty who have entered the refillable market. Just last year Olay, was one of the first global brands to pivot towards refillables. The brand’s much-loved moisturisers can now be bought alongside a refill that fits right into the jar, practically halving the packaging waste. The pods are fully recyclable and the initial jar and refill will be sold and shipped in a box made of 100% recycled paper. Olay’s parent company, Procter & Gamble, is also signed up to TerraCycle’s Loop refillable initiative.
Beauty brands are adopting the concept of upcycling as waste becomes a covetable
ingredient. Beginning with the simple idea of incorporating coffee grounds into facial scrubs, the plant-based and cruelty-free brand UpCircle is just one example of a brand who has launched a skincare line that repurposes coffee grounds to create exfoliants and soaps. The grounds are sourced from small chain, independent coffee houses in and around London. Moving beyond just coffee, a new era of brands are redefining the word ‘by-product’ and demonstrating how shortening the supply chain can create more desirable goods.