People, Planet and Profit: Why Brands Forget Sustainability At Their Peril
11/05/2020 by The Red Tree
Seeing face masks and latex gloves litter verges near my home, not to mention grocery shopping firmly back in plastic bags, it’s clear that the environment is not riding high on the agenda right now.
Needs literally must. Due to very real fears of COVID-19 contamination from reusable items, those needs mean hygienic, single-use plastic PPE, packaging and food service items. Even if more waste goes to landfill in the short-term. Government has pushed back its ban on plastic stirrers, straws and cotton buds from April until October 2020 and the 5p charge for plastic bags has been waived during the crisis.
But it doesn’t mean that brands generally, and beauty brands specifically, should forget about sustainability and – in fact – they haven’t.
So much attention has been paid to the environmental impacts of beauty consumption, since Attenborough’s shocking Blue Planet II programme, that sustainability’s broader meaning has been lost: “sustainability is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs…composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social— known informally as profits, planet, and people.”
Put that way, it’s clear that sustainability is holistic and interconnected, and beauty brands have been stepping up to the mark on the ‘People’ part in recent months.
Businesses from the largest, like Coty, Unilever and P&G, to the smallest like PAI, Nursem, BYBI, SpaRitual and Gallinée (and many others) have re-geared to support people through the pandemic. Making hand sanitisers, gifting products to medical workers or homeless, supporting food banks and domestic violence services, providing help to beauty professionals on furlough and more besides. On the consumer side, brands like Kiehl’s, luxury CBD brand OTTO, Tatcha and Beauty blender offer free meditation classes and Milk Makeup and Huda Beauty are shifting their Tik-Tok’s to ASMR content to help people cope with stress and anxiety.
This is both the right – and smart – thing to do. A special COVID-19 edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer of 12,000 people in 12 leading economies found 65% of global consumers said how brands respond to the pandemic will have a “huge impact” on whether they buy its products in future and over half (52%) said brands “must” protect the well-being and financial security of their employees, even if it means suffering big financial losses in order to keep their trust. A further 38% “hoped” they would do it.
But these expectations aren’t new. Edelman had previously reported 78% of people thought how a company treats employees is one of the best indicators of its trustworthiness. So it’s highly unlikely that these heightened ‘People’ expectations will suddenly wither away, as the implications of the pandemic ripple through industry for months, if not years, to come.
But what about the Planet side? This is surprisingly interconnected too. There’s always been a ‘attitude behaviour’ gap where people express the desire for environmentally-friendly goods, but then make their decisions based on personal convenience, quality and cost in practice. But coronavirus may, rather strangely, have massively changed that equation.
Multiple research studies find the environment we live in has a direct impact on the danger from coronavirus. The more polluted a city? The more likely you are to die from COVID-19. We also know that discarded plastic in our water creates surfaces spreading human diseases like cholera and creating antibiotic resistance and that microplastics have a direct negative affect on the human body we’re only just starting to understand. We simply can’t separate out the two issues as we’ve mostly done before.
And people are making those connections between their personal wellbeing and the impact of consumption on the Planet. It’s hard not to when we see clear skies and water emerging during lockdown. Even if it’s spawning numerous hilarious “nature is healing itself” memes, memes always reflect a cultural truth…
So even if it’s tempting to push back that packaging redesign project or ingredients supply chain review to another time, it’s actually never been a better time to push ahead with sustainability. People, planet and profit have never been so clearly shown to be indivisible.
Free the Birds is a London-based, independent branding, design and communications agency that helps elevate beauty, health and home brands through Beautiful Thinking. Now 22 years old, its clients include Coty, P&G, Bayer, Lindt and Nestlé.
Free The Birds’ Brand Insight & Content Director, Joanne Bell, has spent over 20 years bringing Big Ideas to life for brands as diverse as BP, P&G, Coty and Bayer, from brand strategy and thought leadership to copywriting and event design. Diversity, inclusion and sustainability in brands and businesses is both a personal passion and particular focus of her work.
The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.
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Any company entering The Beauty Accelerator™ competition must be based and registered in the UK.
The scheme by which investment into the winning brand will be made is the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). You must be eligible for SEIS to enter The Beauty Accelerator but you do not need to be registered for SEIS. You can be in the process of applying for SEIS and receiving Advanced Assurance from HMRC, which is free of charge to obtain and certifies to investors that the criteria necessary to qualify for SEIS have been met by the company at the time of the application. You do however need to be SEIS registered at the point of investment.Click here For further information about SEIS
As is the case with all equity investments, the winning brand must be willing to provide equity stakes for both SFC Capital and The Red Tree. In addition, the winning brand might be required to pay a monthly fee for the duration of the 12 month period of assistance from The Red Tree. The size of the equity stakes for both SFC Capital and The Red Tree are unknown at this stage and will be based on the valuation of the business at the time of investment. The value of the monthly fee to The Red Tree will be determined by the scope of work required by The Red Tree and will be agreed in consultation with the winning brand. The equity stake, monthly fee and scope of work will be discussed in further detail with short listed brands during the interview stage.
Brands that applied for The Beauty Accelerator™ 2022 can apply for The Beauty Accelerator™ 2024.
Applicant brands should ideally have proof of concept – the business should ideally be in operation with at least one product currently retailing on the market, an existing website in operation and a number of months of trading.
Under exceptional circumstances, brands that are at concept stage will be considered.
There should be a team in place or a willingness to take on a co-founder at an early stage.
A business plan must be in place and submitted as part of your application to demonstrate the revenue that can be delivered.
The business should not be valued at more than £1,000,000.
All R&D should be completed as funds invested will only be used for marketing and commercial activity.
If you are short listed, you must be available to attend the virtual shortlist interview. It is likely that short listed brands will be required to attend more than one virtual interview.
If you are a Finalist, you must be able to attend The Beauty Accelerator™ Final, either virtually or in-person.
You cannot apply for or already be in the process of applying for another accelerator or incubator during the period December 2023 to December 2024.
If you are selected as a finalist, and if you go on to win The Beauty Accelerator™, you must agree to exposure of you and your brand through The Red Tree’s, SFC Capital’s and Freeths online and social channels and a possible marketing campaign.
Confirmation of the winning brand is subject to SEIS eligibility confirmation, agreement on equity stake and The Red Tree fee, and completion of due diligence.
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