British Beauty Council CEO, Millie Kendall MBE, talks to Timely about the landmark sustainability report The Courage to Change, and about why it’s imperative that beauty industry businesses find the courage to make the changes that will sustain both their business and the planet. Timely is a patron of the British Beauty Council and provided sponsorship towards the research and development for this report.

Why your path to financial recovery needs to be a green one

Why is The Courage to Change Report so important?

It’s a landmark report on sustainability that was commissioned by the British Beauty Council. And it’s incredibly comprehensive, we conducted a huge amount of research, both inside and outside of the industry. 

We have faced up to the fact that we have a climate emergency, and we really are sitting on a time bomb.  Unless we collectively move forward on the journey to having a greener industry, we’re not going to make enough change.

Which statistics in the report shocked you the most?

I was visibly shaken by all of the findings. The statistics really are incredibly scary. Every year, 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the beauty industry.

Brits use 1.1 billion wet wipes a year, and each wet wipe takes 100 years to decompose. 14,000 tons of sunscreen collects in the world’s reefs each year.  If current levels of consumption continue, by 2050 there will be 12 billion tons of plastic in landfills. That’s the equivalent of 35,000 empire state buildings. It’s truly shocking.

Was there any good news in the report?

There was. 70% of people are using less water. One in seven have changed to more sustainable beauty products in the last three months. A third of consumers are happy to pay more for refillable containers and for sustainable palm oil or substitutes. 

 So, beauty industry consumers and clients are supportive of changes that benefit the planet?

They aren’t just supportive; if anything, it is the consumers who are leading the way and pushing us forward. 90% of gen Z want their brands to do more. 90%!  88% of people want to be able to refill their cosmetics. 91% of people want less packaging. 86% want information about ingredient supply chains.

When you start to read the report, it becomes very obvious, very quickly, that the consumer wants more, and that the industry isn’t doing enough.  To put it bluntly, if we don’t start to make the changes that our consumers and clients want, then we’re going to lose them. 

Businesses in the beauty industry are dealing with an awful lot right now.  What would you say to those who feel that they just aren’t able to take this on at the moment as they need to focus on the path to financial recovery following COVID-19?

Making changes that positively impact our planet is the path to financial recovery.  There is no recovery without clients, and there will be no clients if you don’t make the changes that an overwhelming majority of consumers are calling for.

Green recovery will be the only way to sustain your business in the long-term. There’s a commercial imperative to go green; it’s the only way to keep your clients. It might feel like it’s a bit of an expensive way of recovering, but the long-term profitability will become apparent. It’s more important than ever, both for the planet and for the success of your business, that you aren’t short-sighted.  This is what people want. The consumer wants things in our industry to change.  You need to start future-proofing your business now.

If beauty business owners are feeling overwhelmed or confused about the changes they need to make, where should they start?

Firstly, it’s natural to feel like that. Sustainability is a huge subject, and massive changes need to be made by the industry as a collective.  But not overnight.  Let’s not be unrealistic. It’s about taking baby steps and just getting the ball rolling.

And the best way to do this is by having conversations with your clients, with your consumers.  Ask them what they feel you should be doing to make your business more sustainable.  Ask them what changes they want to see.  Then ask yourself what the cost implications of those changes are and if they will ultimately make your business profitable.  You’ll find that by doing this, by having those conversations, your first few baby steps will become very clear. 

 Keep talking to your clients.  Download The Courage to Change report and have it available for them to read on a tablet when they are sitting in the salon. Just, please, don’t print it out! Tell your clients what you are doing, ask them if you’re getting it right, show them how you’re making the planet greener. 

Are there any very easy changes that beauty business owners could, and should, make immediately?

There are a lot of different things that you can do as a business. You most likely already know some of the little steps you can take, but aren’t necessarily implementing those changes.  So, take a baby step today.  Everything’s a bit of a process; just get it started.

 Steps can be taken gently, to fit in with your business model.  Start by just looking around your environment; what can you do to make it better and to make it greener?  It might be putting water restrictors on taps so that less water is used during backwash. It might be moving from plastic to paper when you’re using disposables. It might be emailing receipts, switching to energy efficient lightbulbs, recycling more. 

Once those little steps are established, then take a slightly bigger challenge.  Just keep moving forward, keep taking those steps, keep making the changes required to sustain your business and to sustain the planet. 

The Courage to Change Report is free to download here.