I have worked in the field of sustainability for years. Throughout my professional career, people have been trying to find answers to these questions: What is the precise definition of sustainability? Or, what does sustainability mean for business? You may see on social media channels that your favorite beauty brands are converting their packaging to sustainable green material, but what about the actual beauty product? Does that mean the product itself is now sustainable? Here is my answer: NO!
There's more to it than just adapting best practices in terms of packaging. Let's talk about the basics then.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability is a complex concept. The most often quoted definition comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development. It states, "Sustainable development is a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainability supports ecology, human health, and the economy in a non-harmful way. So, when we reflect on the same phenomenon in terms of sustainable beauty, we need to talk about a more in-depth analysis — not just about fair-trade sourcing and green packaging.
Based on the UN World Commission definition and my professional experience, I would like to redefine the approach of beauty and wellness in terms of sustainability.
Currently, our world is on "ecological overshoot," which means we are using our resources faster than we should be. We need to cut down on resource use. For example, the amount of water we use for our Sunday bath soak should be the same amount of rain we're getting through rainfall. That way, we won't encounter problems like ecological overshoot, which creates an imbalance in our environmental system. It creates issues around water accessibility, lack of sanitation, hunger, and air pollution.
By 2050, will have a significant crisis in terms of water, air, and food if we don't address these issues. It's coming faster than we think. To see an in-depth calculator, visit Footprint.
Also, please take a look at this article from Wikipedia: in our collective future
What is sustainable beauty?
Since we are redefining our approach towards sustainable beauty, let's lay some ground rules in beauty and wellness. Here in the Glow & Green Community, we evaluate sustainable beauty brands by the following standards:
Protecting natural resources for present & future
• When we see secure nature/ecological connections between beauty care products and the environment, it means that that brand is on the path to sustainability. In a more elaborative way, during the process of skincare or haircare formulations, it is vital to take a look at the concept of minimizing the adverse impact on the environment as well as not compromising the quality or quantity of natural resources for our current and future generations. Those brands are on their way to becoming a more sustainable and greener brand. Bonus point, if the company is trying to solve major environmental issues such as water pollution, air pollution, the energy crisis, and the list goes on.
Freedom to develop new products
• When a brand formulates skincare or haircare products, their decisions should be more intuitive than calculative. This approach will push a brand to explore more ideas beyond traditional practices. If a beauty brand is following this step, then it is closer to becoming a sustainable brand.
Effective & safe products
• The term "sustainability" can also cover safety and effectiveness, especially in terms of beauty products. The safety of customers and supply chain personnel needs to be a priority. This topic touches on everything from the harvesting of natural ingredients and product development to the way people consume that product.
• Sustainable brands should engage in fair-trade practices as well as develop the highest community engagement level throughout their products' life-cycle.
So basically, sustainable skincare is balancing three needs: ecological health, economic vitality, and social equity. These are known as the 3 Es, which are also called the 3 Ps: people, planet, profit. There is always a tension between these three needs when you are trying to create something sustainable. Still, in general, if we try hard enough, we can find the happy middle ground in this struggle.
For us, sustainable beauty = balancing the 3 Es or 3 Ps.
Hopefully, we can find some excellent practices and formulation techniques that will help us grow, which present and future generations will thank us for.
After this heavy blog topic, I promise I will come up with some fun articles! :) But I thought this was one of the critical issues to address when deciding on beauty products.
Let me know what you think of our approach to sustainable beauty!
Comment below – we would love to hear your thoughts on this.