In a post-COVID world, consumers are more aware than ever of environmental, social and economic pressures on their communities. Today, two-thirds of Britons put their trust in business leaders above trust in the government.*
What does this mean for beauty businesses, their brands and their customers?
This is the opportunity for beauty businesses to lead their customers to help them make purchasing decisions that have a positive impact. It’s an opportunity to disrupt, and take a position of responsible and ethical leadership in their categories.
Beauty leaders can take this moment to understand that it doesn’t need to be a choice of profit vs purpose. If you have the best value product or service in the industry, arguably, you have an ethical obligation to dominate the market.
However, change isn’t always easy and when brand image is only as strong as your product and business performance, how can you address authentic change in your business without breaking parts of your brand?
The beauty industry thrives on innovation. What if you decided the change for good was going to be at the heart of your innovation plan?
What if addressing changes for good could build long term resilience and flexibility into your business, that already has to adjust to a new reality, post-COVID?
What if you were a smaller independent brand and this was your opportunity to make faster progress than a large organisation?
Here are some thought starters, around the social impact growth engines of Engagement, Collaboration and Innovation.
- Looking after your brand means looking after your business.
Examine every part of the business from supply chain, recruitment, employee experience, formulation, supplier management, raw materials sourcing, packaging, media buying… These are all parts of your brand. Help your teams be responsible for what they can do and your leadership accountable for the change.
- Speak honestly about the challenges in the beauty industry and be transparent about how you are making changes to yours. Do not virtue signal or greenwash.
- Be pragmatic about solutions, stretch for achievements and make them count. The majority should be achievable but if you are hitting all of them you have not looked hard and far enough.
- Be accountable and responsible for what happens in markets and suppliers at distance from your headquarters. Global solutions mean looking after local communities.
- Communicate your ambition and progress to all stakeholders in your community. Ask them to hold you accountable: employees, shareholders and customers.
- Bring people into conversations about your journey. Nobody likes a do-gooder, don’t preach.
- Work with your beauty peers to find solutions to shared problems. Who else is tackling the same issue? Would a major customer prefer a shared supply solution? Do you have a good product element with IP that you could sell to peers and create your own new business value?
- Build a network to help you navigate your challenges, find a mentor in another sector with similar responsibilities who can help guide and support.
- Move away from self governance, which can be problematic (see Boohoo’s supply issues) and instead work with independent organisations to identify challenges and track progress on solutions.
- Identify where partnerships, collaborations, mergers and acquisitions can help bring sustainable and ethical solutions at scale.
- Invest in R&D with targets for impactful change, small gestures alone will not be enough.
- Bring the best R&D thinking to each part of your product and customer experience, the whole business will need to deliver the change.
- Develop a continuous improvement plan, acknowledge this is not a moonshot programme. The beauty industry has taken decades (centuries) to create its ethical and sustainability problems, the biggest changes will not be the easiest.
- The change cannot come at extra financial or experience cost to the consumer. Ensure that all your customer base has access to an improved and impactful product.
It’s a thrill to take personal responsibility and celebrate the kindness and change that businesses can make. Disrupt, get noticed, make the difference. All you can do is start where you are. All you can do is start today.
One in five (19%) regard business leaders as trustworthy, vs only 1 in 10 (13%) considering politicians to be trustworthy. Oct 2020
Anna Legros is an independent consultant, delivering global marketing, product development and retail innovation for over 20 years. Anna loves helping leaders create social impact and business value at scale.
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