Discussing the wider issue of how to communicate sustainable beauty to consumers, a dedicated panel of industry executives brainstormed the best strategies moving forward at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit held in Paris back in November 2022.
Overcoming ‘distrust in our space’
Benjamin Grace, founder of UK solid skin care startup SBTRCT, said everything centred around “being as transparent as possible” and “building trust” with consumers.
“There is a distrust within our space, and with innovation comes claims and green claims. So, it’s very important to be able to demonstrate that and build that trust up. And if you can do that, you can build up a very, very loyal customer base. I think marketing communication is key, of course, for building relationships with your customers,” Grace said.
And backing product claims up or demonstrating green credentials could be achieved in a trustworthy way via the plethora of certifications available to industry, said Dirk-Jan Oudshoorn, founder and CEO of wild harvest ingredient supplier Forestwise.
“As an ingredient supplier, it’s part of the communication or part of the decision-making for which certifications we choose, because this is mostly the only requirement from our buyers,” Oudshoorn said.
Be it Fairtrade or Fair for Life or UEBT, these all helped secure trust between suppliers and buyers, and ultimately, end consumers, he said.
Communicating the complexities
Asked if the vast array of certifications could become too complicated for end consumers, Hedy Scheck, chief marketing officer at microbiome-friendly certifier and R&D consultancy MyMicrobiome, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe education was critical – on the consumer side and industry side.
“We just founded a microbiome academy to educate the consumer but, also, we found out the sales staff selling microbiome-friendly aren’t sure what to say about the microbiome,” Scheck said.
The company was therefore developing training materials and giving seminars to beauty and personal care and retail staff, she said, and on the consumer side, it was offering free webinars on its website to outline what microbiome-friendly means.
From a supplier standpoint, Oudshoorn said there was plenty of communication between manufacturers and suppliers around ingredients and raw material sourcing, but it was important these messages got passed on to end consumers. Many manufacturers “quite actively” did this, he said, but there were still others that didn’t.
Grace agreed that education was “absolutely” key in simplifying sustainable beauty messaging but added it was even more powerful when done on an industry-wide level.
“I think [education] is aided by collaborations – more brands working together to communicate consistent messaging, if you like.”
Pushing through the higher costs
All of this, however, created added costs on top of inevitably higher costs for sustainable products and ingredients in the first place. And this, the executives said, was a vital area to consider within the bigger topic of market communication.
Grace said highlighting the “value for money” these more sustainable products and ingredients or raw materials offered to the consumer was central. For SBTRCT’s solid skin care products, for example, they sat in the premium price range but tended to last two to three times longer than traditionally formatted offerings, he said, which was important to communicate.
“Whilst the unit cost is greater initially, it does last longer, so you get more value for money. And you’re not paying for water; you’re paying for ingredients.”
If the value of these products was understood, and the quality communicated well, he said there was “absolutely” a consumer base willing to spend more.
Scheck added that highlighting the health aspect of a product was also key to justifying higher costs to consumers. “Health is the most important thing we have to consider – that it’s worthwhile keeping an eye on your health,” she said.
Oudshoorn agreed but added that in the long-run, sustainable beauty could become more relevant to an even wider set of consumers as cost structures and pricing evolved.
“If we can have more collaboration and more use of sustainable materials, right now they may be more expensive than other ingredients they replace, but if more brands start using them, the costs will go down. And hopefully, the end-product cost will go down.”