Four things beauty consumers can do to save the planet

By Lauren Heath-Jones


By Lauren Heath-Jones

12 November 2021

The Sustainable Beauty Coalition (SBC) has launched the Planet Positive Beauty Guide, a report aimed at beauty consumers that aims to tackle greenwashing and empower shoppers to make greener purchasing decisions. 

The free downloadable guide is designed to help consumers navigate greenwashed beauty products by debunking confusing marketing jargon and demystifying confusing ingredients lists and misleading claims. 

Sustainable Beauty Coalition Planet Positive Beauty Guide greenwashing
The Planet Positive Beauty Guide aims to empower beauty consumers to make greener buying choices ©Karoline Soares via Unsplash

The report was launched during the SBC’s Planet Positive panel discussion, which was live-streamed from the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow earlier this month. 

Hosted by journalist, author and British Vogue contributing beauty editor Kathleen Baird-Murray, the panel featured SBC founding members Jayn Sterland, Oriele Frank, Michelle Feeney, Jo-Anne Chidley, Helen Cox and Jessi Baker.

Here are four things that beauty consumers can look for to reduce their environmental impact:

1. Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients, the report advises shoppers to do their research, consult independent consumer testing bodies, such as Ethical Consumer or Which? and look for logos, such as the Zero Plastic Inside logo, or third party certifications. 


Certifications to look out for include Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny programme. To gain this certification brands must meet rigorous global standards above and beyond animal testing laws. The Vegan Society mark guarantees that no animal-derived ingredients were used in the product, packaging or production, while The Vegetarian Society guarantees that no animal products were used. 


Vegan and vegetarian claims have become synonymous with animal welfare, which in turn has become synonymous with sustainability, however unverified products cannot be assumed to be less harmful to the planet. 



Other certifications to be aware of include the COSMOS (as certified by the Soil Association) and NATRUE seals, which ensure that a percentage of ingredients used come from certified organic agriculture.


The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) guarantee that any palm oil in the product was sourced sustainably or the Organgutan Alliance Certfication, which ensures that the product is free from palm oil.


Checking a product’s ingredient’s list, being aware of third-party certifications and spending your money with brands that align with your values is key to holding brands accountable.

2. Packaging 

Packaging poses one of the biggest environmental challenges to the beauty industry, as 95 per cent of all cosmetic packaging is thrown away. Shockingly, only 14 per cent of packaging ends up at a recycling plant, where only 9 per cent is actually recycled, everything else heads directly to landfill. 

It’s important to remember the importance of buying power. Consumers can drive change if they choose not to buy a product because of excessive packaging. By keeping a product’s packaging at the forefront of their buying decisions consumers directly impact how brands sell their products. 

While businesses need to make sustainability an easy option  – and many brands have committed to 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025 in line with the UK Plastics Pact – everyone can play their part.

Only 9 per cent of beauty packaging waste is recycled

How to make a difference

  • Finish and wash products where possible before recycling packaging and only buying what you need.
  • Switch to products with packaging that can be recycled kerbside, glass, paper, cardboard, steel and aluminium can all be collected by local authorities
  • Choose ‘naked’ products, with minimal packaging, think shampoo bars or Konjac sponges
  • Buy products with refillable or reusable packaging
  • Send unwanted products and gifts to food banks or charities, such as Beauty Banks, Toiletries Amnesty or The Hygiene Bank.
People are at the heart of a fair and sustainable society, the report said ©Canva

3. People

People are at the heart of a fair and sustainable society and planet positive brands have a duty of care to both its employees and society as a whole.


Consumers must decide what is important to them when it comes to social responsibility. Most companies will offer a code of conduct relating to people, planet and product. By checking this, consumers can find out whether a company’s values aligns with their own.



Things to look out for include the Fair Tax mark, which shows that the business has made a substantial commitment to responsible tax conduct, financial transparency and beneficial ownership disclosure, while the Real Living Wage foundation mark guarantees that a company pays its employees a wage that allows them to support their household and uphold a decent standard of living.

4. Sustainable sourcing 

Sustainable sourcing goes beyond ingredients and packaging. It covers every aspect of the supply chain and ensures that everyone is treated fairly and encompasses participation in Fair Trade, real living wages, rules against discrimination, and regular employment.

Finding out if the company has these practices in place will show consumers whether places as much value on its people and on the planet as it does on profit. 

Sustainable sourcing covers all aspects of the supply chain and ensures that people are treated fairly

Third-party verification, such as UEBT, Cradle to Cradle and B Corp promote the highest social and environmental standards through their scoring systems. This certification is evidence of a company’s socially- and environmentally- responsible practices.

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