“Sustainability” has been one of the most important – if not the bigger – buzzwords in the beauty industry for years. Entire marketing efforts and campaigns focused on refillable, recyclable and post-consumer recycled packaging, “clean” formulation, microplastics, carbon footprints, water waste, energy efficiency, supplier transparency, etc have become abundant and commonplace. And all of these topics are important when it comes to answering consumer calls for beauty products that generate less waste. But there’s also a less discussed topic of arguably equal importance that some say is the new frontier of the sustainable beauty movement: biodiversity.
“Biodiversity is the variety of plants, animals and other living creatures on earth. We all depend on nature for the raw materials we need to lead healthy lives. By taking care of biodiversity, we take care of ourselves,” says Lara Koritzke, communications and marketing director of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT), a nonprofit that “promotes respectful sourcing” for businesses and manufacturers of consumer goods.
While it’s common for beauty brands to talk about the star ingredients in their products and sometimes even cite the origin of said ingredients, attention to the biodiversity of the regions they source from has taken a back seat. This is where UEBT comes in, to encourage brands to consider less harmful practices and even put in place processes that invest in the long-term health and viability of an ecosystem, environment local and a community as a whole.
“If a company sources an ingredient, such as a flower, plant, or root, from a farm that follows practices that reduce agrochemicals and/or promote beneficial insects, that’s good for the business. local environment and surrounding communities,” says Koritzke. “These farms could see lower levels of chemical residues in waterways that provide drinking water to local communities, or they could see plants bearing more fruit through effective pollination.”
Ultimately, UEBT is looking for businesses and consumers who want to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
“Brands that are part of UEBT strive to provide people with a positive choice of biodiversity-friendly products,” Koritzke notes. “This means they source ingredients from biodiversity in a way that respects local ecosystems and the local communities where these materials are collected or grown.”
Fresh is one of the leading beauty brands in sourcing biodiversity-conscious ingredients. The LVMH-backed skincare brand launched its White Truffle Crème Ancienne Sleeping Mask — a luxurious (and pricey, $385) firming treatment meant to be worn while you sleep — last fall. To develop the formula and source the prized white truffle, Fresh partnered with UEBT and Save the Truffle, a local non-profit organization based in Alba, Italy. The latter’s mission is to raise awareness of the traditions surrounding the cultivation and harvesting of truffles, as well as to strive to preserve the environment in the region, where most of the world’s white truffles come from (not to mention hazelnuts and very good wine).
With Save the Truffle, Fresh is educating consumers about the scarcity of this ingredient – white truffles can only be grown under a strict set of environmental circumstances, but not grown or cultivated – and is putting funds for reforestation in the region to help to promote such conditions and ensure its longevity. In doing so, it not only mitigates its own impact on the environment, but it also takes steps to invest in the future of the truffle hunting industry, the natural ecosystem and the human population of the region. .
In beauty and beyond, biodiversity is set to become a crucial goal in 2022, Koritzke predicts, especially with the Global Biodiversity Accord soon to be formalized and adopted by nations around the world.
“This agreement is similar to the Paris Agreement on climate change, but focused specifically on biodiversity,” she explains. “With this agreement, we anticipate that more and more companies will need to be more transparent in their actions and show clear actions when it comes to protection.”
Working with UEBT is a way for companies to clarify their biodiversity efforts – but not just any company can pay to get its approval.
“To become a member of UEBT, a company must first demonstrate that it meets the requirements, that it wants to source responsibly from a specific part of the world, provide insight into its supply chain and , finally, setting goals,” says Koritzke. “If a company is willing to commit to these requirements, it will automatically influence how they develop products in the future, as they look through a lens of sustainable consciousness. . Once you commit to protecting and preserving biodiversity, it changes the way you operate and act as a business.
While Fresh isn’t the only brand UEBT works with – it also counts Givenchy Parfums, Christian Dior Parfums and Natura Brazil among its members – it’s one of the first to take major steps in the area of biodiversity and talk about it publicly. Until recently, most beauty brand communications about sustainability focused on things like packaging and recycling.
“That’s very important, but what they may be missing are the on-the-ground impacts of their raw material sourcing,” says Koritzke. “In general, many companies find it easier to focus on the later stages of the process, and that’s understandable – there are clear positive steps that can be taken in how you work with manufacturers or you choose the packaging materials for the products — but at the production level, where it all starts, there are significant improvements that can be made for water, for soil and for the local climate. are improvements that can affect local people and important ecosystems, so working to make those improvements at the source, on farms or wild growing areas for plants and other raw materials, and investing in local communities, can really creating positive change for people and biodiversity.”
Beyond its own commitments, Fresh also wants to draw attention to the concept of biodiversity in the beauty industry as a whole.
“Many beauty brands strive to use ‘sustainable’ packaging and materials, but don’t focus as much on working to ensure that the communities where their ingredients come from are nurtured and preserved in a way that promotes biodiversity,” Tennille Kopiasz, Fresh’s global chief marketing officer, tells Fashionista. “Our work with these initiatives is hugely important, and we hope to inspire other companies to make the same changes and work to become more sustainable and biodiversity-friendly.”
LVMH has owned a majority stake in the brand since 2000, and with many other beauty brands under its umbrella (Guerlain, Benefit, Make Up For Ever, Maison Francis Kurkdjian and Kendo’s list of brands, such as Fenty Beauty, Ole Henriksen and Bite), there is certainly room for this biodiversity-first philosophy to extend across its entire portfolio.
“We are very proud to have been the first LVMH brand to become a member of UEBT and to integrate them into the group. We hope our work with UEBT will inspire many beauty brands to commit to rethinking their practices and join us in creating a more sustainable environment. future,” notes Kopiasz.
Koritzke agrees that this is a promising area of interest that is brimming with opportunities for beauty: “We do consumer surveys every year and we see that awareness of biodiversity is growing and consumers marks that they protect it. low level of confidence that brands are actually respecting nature in their sourcing practices, so there is a real opportunity for brands to be more transparent and show clear actions.”
Ultimately, these companies need to make money and create value for their shareholders, and if consumers demand that they provide more transparency or deepen their sustainability commitments, they don’t have a problem. other choice than to do so, especially if their competitors already are.
“Across the industry, we are all seeing customers who are more knowledgeable about sustainability practices and who expect transparency from the brands they support. This expectation will only grow in the future” , notes Kopiasz.
In other words, consumers have a voice when it comes to calling on brands to seek concrete ways to fight climate change and prioritize a conscious approach to environmental impact. And not only is it understood, but it also raises the bar for brands in the industry, raising the bar for what it really means to be a “sustainable” brand.
Disclosure: Expenses paid for my travel and accommodation to visit Alba and get a first hand look at how white truffles are grown and harvested in the region. The brand also coordinated access to UEBT representatives for the interviews included above.
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