How can beauty brands strive for sustainability?


December 20, 2021 | By Zubina Ahmed

Waste has been detrimental to the planet for years. The recent 26th UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP26 held in Glasgow had leaders, activists and delegates reflect on how to tackle climate change, reduce waste and enhance sustainability.  At one of the events in COP26, the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action set out new targets to introduce sustainability measures faster in response to the climate crisis. “We have realised the charter we launched at Cop24 is not enough and we need to make it stronger, more concrete and call for companies to halve emissions by 2030,” said Niclas Svenningsen, manager of Global Climate Action at UN Climate Change. Just like the fashion industry, the beauty and cosmetics sector also needs to embrace sustainability by creating products made out of eco-friendly and natural ingredients. 

As per the global cosmetics industry, an estimated 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year, most of which are not recyclable. Scientists suggest that by 2050, about 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment. The pressure to find sustainable solutions is mounting and there is already a massive shift underway.  Consumers are also becoming more conscious , they want the best of both worlds – products made with ethical, natural and responsibly sourced ingredients in recyclable packaging. At the same time, they want products that feel great and actually work! Having said that, we think it’s important to understand what makes a brand or product truly sustainable?  Lately, many brands are following this ethos, one of which is the British-born, ethical cosmetics company The Body Shop. “The beauty industry is in such an urgent need of a makeover. Every year this sector generates billons of plastic which ends up in landfills or in the oceans. Amid the crisis, we can’t do without grave transformative brands that we love and that’s when the Body Shop comes in. The sustainability of the materials used in our products, the packaging and the activism are the core fundamentals of our stores ”, said Qas Qayyum, The Body Shop EMEA Franchise Director. 

Famous for its naturally-inspired cosmetic and toiletry products, The Body Shop is known all over the world for its consistency in campaigning for a sustainable change. Today, it operates about 3,000 retail locations in over 80 countries and offers an array of over 800 cruelty-free products, ranging from world-famous Shea Body Butter, best-selling Hemp Hand Protector and much-loved Tea Tree skin care range. They unveiled their brand new sustainable activist workshop store inside the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai on 3rd November. Rolling up their sleeves, they brought their concept store with an interactive ‘Activist Workshop’ that encourages people to explore organic products and discover how together, we can fight for a fairer and more beautiful world. With an aim to project themselves as a retail front space for sustainable and recyclable products, shoppers got a unique experience with refill stations, an activism hub, sustainable fixtures, an ethical gifting station, complete with recyclable paper and ribbons.

What makes this new concept store a truly sustainable experience?

The refill station at the stores gives the brand an opportunity to make refills easy, convenient and mainstream.“We are on a mission to make refill accessible across our 500 stores around the world and that’s the ambition which is really exciting. We want to help more people to opt out of plastic packaging, eliminate waste before the product is taken off from the shelves. By creating these refill stations, we don’t just put aluminum bottles in someone’s hand, we put a much needed change and sustainability in their hands, we put back power in their hands to drive change and thats what excites us”, elaborated Qas Qayyum. Now, customers can purchase a refillable 300ml aluminum bottle and fill it up with any of 12 of the brand’s best- loved shower gels, shampoos, conditioners and hand washes. And, when you run out of lather, you just need to bring back the cleaned bottle, ready to be refilled. Reusing your packaging really is that simple. 

Seemingly small acts like this can lead to big change. “I am very proud of the steps being taken in the sustainable goal to preserve the environment. Now if you go to the store you will find the refill station, it’s interesting to give that habit to the customer to tell them that hey you can simply refill whether it’s the hand wash, shower gel and so on. They can comeback again for the refill, said UAE based para-athlete and motivational speaker Zainab Al-Eqabi. Despite losing her left leg at age seven after a bomb explosion in Baghdad, Zainab has mastered different kinds of sports, all while keeping 1.5 million instagram followers and over 600K YouTube subscribers inspired. The UAE based influencer has also been appointed as The Body Shop’s ‘self-love’ ambassador. She strongly believes that self-love as a campaign permeates through the store. “That’s why we have the activist hub where we can bring to life some of the stories of what it means to love yourself, nurture your soul, body and mind using natural, organic ingredients. It’s also about loving yourself and driving change in the environment”, she added. 

The store has been outfitted with sustainable fixtures made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics to help minimize its environmental footprint. Examples include a metal facade constructed in aluminum, which requires less energy production than other materials and is infinitely recyclable. With this new design of the store,  Qas Qayyum, the Body Shop EMEA Franchise Director believes that the  brand continues its passion of being forward thinking and environmentally progressive. And if implemented in all the branches, sooner you can see the impact in the overall planet. The new store also features an activism hub where people can discover the brand’s activist roots as well as campaign for social change around issues ranging from gender equality to fighting cosmetic animal testing. “We are super-excited about the new activist-makers workshop because this is more than just a store. It’s the place where the Bodyshop’s activism really comes to life. It’s sustainably designed store for people to come together and discover how they can campaign for social and environmental change”, added Qas. He strongly believes that at the heart is a seamless omnichannel experience, a real place for discovery, engaged with a human connection. A place where ideas can be shared, a space where all the elements of the brand comes together from it’s commitment to activism to be increasingly more sustainable. 

Bodyshops brand journey in the Middle East and across the GCC.

Body shop’s franchise with Kamal Osman Jamjoom group in the Middle East has been going on for nearly 35 years. They acquired the rights for the Body Shop retail stores in the UAE six months back with about 25 stores which has now expanded to already 48. “It started in the 1990’s with the launch of one Body Shop store in Western Saudi Arabia. For us it’s now about 170 stores across UAE and Saudi and growing. We are planning acquire 65 more stores in the next 2 years time. This investment now makes us the largest franchise operation for The Body Shop International in the Mena market, and extends our strong retail footprint on the brand into another dynamic GCC country.”, said Hesham Al Amodi, Group CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group. He strongly believes, brands that are built on really sustainable ethos and values like the Body Shop will always stay and be strong. Customers will always look for compelling product performance and efficacy.  It’s not something that can happen in one day, shedding light on the future of beauty retail in the Middle East, Hesham added, “This region is unique in the sense that, it is the centre of gravity globally. You will not find such divergence, richness and innovation in brands as you find in the Middle East. Women in the region are beautiful and they get dazzled and pampered through all these international brands. So the beauty retail sector is definitely going to grow”. 

As we embark on the next stage of our journey, we are all supporting brands that are striving to go eco-friendly, sustainable, ethical, minimising waste, using vegan products and saying no to animal testing. But if you give a deeper thought, it’s no longer about one brand. If we are going to achieve the ambitious goals set out at COP26, every industry needs to play their part. It’s a gentle, everyday reminder about the importance of climate action for a sustainable future. “The beauty and personal care sector also requires an entire system reset and a shift. Customer behaviours are changing an we need to drive a change from a  and environmental perspective. It’s about time even beauty companies are united to bolster its sustainability ambitions. We need to invest in brands with the right values and which encourage us to rent, repair, recycle and resell, replacing impulse purchases and fast fashion methodology” concluded Hesham Al Amodi. 

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