Greenwashing is becoming rife in beauty, says new report

Provenance report says trend has increased as beauty brands try to stay ahead of consumers’ interest in planet-friendly purchasing


By Wendy Golledge

11 November 2022

Greenwashing has become rife over the last decade, as beauty brands try to stay ahead of consumers’ interest in planet-friendly purchasing, according to a new Provenance report.

The Skin Deep Beauty report suggests there’s a distrust between consumers and beauty brands when it comes to sustainability promises and a lack of transparency is driving consumers to reconsider their purchases.

The survey reveals that 90 per cent of consumers consider sustainability when buying beauty and wellness products, but 79 per cent find it difficult to trust brands’ sustainability claims.

A lack of consumer trust

In the Planet Positive Beauty Guide, Jayn Sterland, managing director of Weleda and chair of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition, says:“Greenwashing not only means shoppers are making what they think are ‘green’ choices, which can in fact be actively harming the environment, it also drains credibility from brands genuinely dedicated to sustainability and being environmentally friendly.”

This lack of consumer trust isn’t entirely unfounded. The British Beauty Council’s Courage to Change report states there is a lack of regulation and education ethical claims, and says: “just 1 per cent organic material is all that’s needed for a company to claim a beauty product is organic.”

Despite making 'green' choices, consumers can still be harming the planet | ©Noah-Buscher

The report, which surveyed more than 1,500 beauty shoppers, as well as leaders from Cult Beauty, Elemis, Douglas, Noble Panacea and B Corp Beauty Coalition, also highlighted the lack of influence social media content creators have in the sustainability space.

Only a third of shoppers are likely to trust bloggers over a sustainability certification stamp.

It spotlights Gen-Z as leaders of the transparency race – young people are more likely to hunt for an accreditation logo and hold brands accountable for more than their planetary promises.

Almost half (44 per cent) of respondents in their late teens and early twenties said ethics-related considerations are very important when buying beauty and wellness products – twice as many as those aged 55+.

Millie Kendall OBE, CEO, British Beauty Council

"Provenance’s Skin Deep Beauty report proves there’s a distrust between consumers and beauty brands when it comes to sustainability promises."

Millie Kendall, OBE

CEO, British Beauty Council

British Beauty Council CEO Millie Kendall said: “Last year, we worked with the certifiers to create the Planet Positive Beauty Guide, a one-stop-shop for tips to stamp out greenwashing.

“It’s a brand and consumer-friendly resource designed to educate everyone, and rebuild that trust. Provenance’s work in auditing our industry’s green claims is unmatched, the team is providing the gold-standard for transparency as our industry goes through a significantly challenging time.”

A requirement for transparency

Jessi Baker, founder of Provenance, added: “If brands want to win the planet-conscious beauty shopper, there’s a requirement for transparency across all areas of sustainability.

“The data suggests shoppers are appreciating sustainability as a holistic issue and may not agree with a brand focusing on one or two areas of impact whilst ignoring other factors completely.

“For example, 38 per cent of consumers believe the treatment of workers is a very important issue, yet only 3 per cent of brands are making credible worker related claims. Meanwhile 36 per cent believe climate change is a very important issue, yet only 3 per cent are making credible claims.’

Forward-thinking consumers

British consumers are the most forward thinking when it comes to greenwashing and sustainability issues. British, German and US shoppers were surveyed for the report and those from the UK showed the most scepticism when it comes to green claims.

Only 16 per cent of British shoppers think beauty brands’ sustainability claims are very trustworthy, compared to 19 per cent of German shoppers and 27 per cent of American shoppers.

Be educated ...

To find out more about the Provenance report, click below


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