Clean beauty retailers are confronting their role in the global climate crisis.
On Wednesday, Detox Market rolled out a 360-degree plan to tackle its impact. Under the name #EarthCPR, Detox Market will plant 2.5 million trees by 2025 through nonprofit organization Eden Reforestation Projects. In-store and online, Detox launched a collection of sustainable products with a focus on reusable items including face wipes and refillable products like makeup from Kjaer Weis. The company will release in May a set of sustainability standards for its partner brands to follow that will expand on its existing clean beauty requirements. Romain Gaillard, Detox Market founder and CEO, estimates that the new sustainability commitments will cost the equivalent of 2% of the company’s revenue, but declined to provide hardline figures.
“From our stores and offices to shipping warehouses, we’re making simple changes that [will] yield serious results, now and over time,” Gaillard said. “We’re rethinking everything from the way we receive shipments to how we can communicate more information regarding product packaging and formulations.”
Detox Market is just one indie retailer that has begun dedicating resources to sustainability programs. Despite the hot topic of sustainability within the beauty industry — Launchmetrics found the word “sustainable” generated $1.8 million in media impact value for beauty brands in the first six months of 2019 — existing limitations around integrating sustainable practices make it difficult to make a large impact.
“I wish we could [create a sustainable beauty category], but innovation hasn’t come far along enough for us to do that,” said Tara Foley, Follain founder and CEO. “We’ve waved the flag in the clean and sustainable environment, but not enough people are adopting those products yet; we think it’s because people want to buy beauty products mostly because they are fun and effective [not because they are sustainable].”
Follain introduced TerraCycle boxes in all of its six locations in 2015 and has offered refillable product stations for liquid soap since its first store opened in Boston in 2013. Detox Market is also adding TerraCycle to its seven stores, in 2020 and will open another two locations next year. Plus its corporate office and stores are reducing their carbon footprint by using reusable products and conserving water, heat and electricity. Lena Rose, a Chicago-based retailer and spa that opened in 2017, has pledged to become plastic-free by 2025, and will also add a refillable product station in-store in April.
The aforementioned retailers agreed that more significant sustainability initiatives from large retailers like Walmart and Target, and companies like Estée Lauder and L’Oréal would drive the most change. Indie retailers typically stock indie brands, meaning the brands they carry are not producing enough product volume to have a significant impact. Retailers like Detox Market and Follain are also too small to dictate environmentally sustainable supply chain requirements to their brand partners.
Almost all national retailers have sustainability plans in place, including Target and Walmart, but they exist within larger corporate social responsibility programs, meaning they do not impact brand partners or reach customers in a practical way. Some larger retailers, like Sephora, are looking at options on the consumer level. In the third quarter of 2019, Sephora began piloting a program in Colorado and Utah allowing customers to bring back three containers from Sephora-carried brands to receive a 15% discount on Sephora Collection products. Net-a-Porter recently added beauty to its Net Sustain assortment with 27 new and existing beauty brands.
“Customers have propelled clean beauty forward since the beginning,” said Jenny Duranski, founder of Lena Rose. “Now that it [has reached mainstream] and brands see the businesses opportunity in clean and green beauty, you may see retailers and brands recognizing the same opportunities for sustainability.”