The Challenges of Running a Sustainable Beauty Brand in Today’s Climate
Running an established business isn’t easy, but running a start-up is even harder. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and for many small businesses, it’s chaos. For Fiils, whilst supply chains were stretched, it provided an ideal opportunity for us to reinforce our message. We all saw the impact that decreased human activity had on the planet, and how we could all live with much less when we were forced to stop.
Whilst it’s been a difficult time for so many reasons, the needle seems to be shifting towards more sustainable lifestyles, coupled with a rise of consciousness from both customers and brands alike. There’s still a very long way to go, but the seed has been planted and many more people are looking for ways to give more and consume less.
The beauty industry is one of the biggest contributors to single-use waste and overconsumption. Beauty has had many ugly sides over the years – the latest being packaging waste, which creates 140 billion tonnes per year, to be exact. Not only this, but many beauty products are filled with chemicals that aren’t just damaging to humans, but to the environment. Sulphates for instance are one of the worst offenders, having an eco-toxicity of over 80%. Despite this, they are still widely used in shampoos, body washes and toothpastes to make the product foam.
It’s impossible to hit every base when building a sustainable business model. At Fiils, we knew we wanted our sustainable service to be as convenient as possible for the consumer, by offering familiar personal care essentials without the compromise on lifestyle.
Other, more sustainable brands may disagree, that in order to make the biggest change, we have to venture outside of what we know and are used to. For example, switching to soap or shampoo bars or using refill stores to top up glass bottles. Whilst we do agree with this to an extent, we believe that its small steps and changes that make a bigger difference overall. This is why offering letterbox packaging, using less materials in our refills and by closing the loop on our waste, reusing and recycling our refill packs with a dedicated service was phase one in our development.
The ease of use of this service, and ability to order only during the pandemic with letterbox refills and returns, made our service a huge success with an 80% return rate that can be easily scaled to offer our service to even more customers. This doesn’t mean we will stop innovating and tweaking our model to make it as carbon efficient and waste-free as possible – we’re already working on this as we speak. But it means collectively we need to start somewhere. We never created Fiils to be a beauty brand that was ‘overly eco’ from the start. But one that would inspire the everyday consumer to begin to put their best foot forward towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
We also knew that the beauty consumer still wants formulas that perform well. Whilst sustainable packaging is one of our pillars – we’re always formula first. To go the extra mile with our formulas, we knew that using clean ingredients, minus sulphates or parabens was paramount, as was making our formulas highly concentrated. We opted for formulas with over 75% extracts for a reason – to conserve water. Most of the aqua in our products comes from the plant extracts themselves, and when you wash with Fiils, you’ll immediately notice our textures are different to many personal care products on the market; they’re thicker, and far more luxurious.
The refill/reuse model is an exciting category and it’s interesting to see the brands and companies emerging in this space, and their different takes on it. One thing that it absolutely paramount, is that we all keep moving in the same direction.
Our refill model at Fiils is a closed loop, meaning we are completely closing the loop on our packaging waste, and know the journey of it from start to finish. The biggest issue with single-use plastic is our disposal of it. We’ve come to view it as a single-use commodity when in reality, it is meant to be reused for as long as possible. This means keeping it in circulation for longer, and out of our ecosystems and landfill, or opting for no plastic at all. This is what we are aiming to do will all our materials at Fiils – make them reusable or recyclable and of course, where reusable alternatives exist, such as aluminium, use them instead.
We use aluminium for our refillable bottles; it’s a great material that can be infinitely recycled. But for certain elements of our packaging like the pumps or the barrier layer in our pouches, it is almost impossible with current materials to avoid plastic. However, we always use recycled materials so no new plastic is created. We ensure we have a tracked recycling service where we can identify the packaging coming back through our supply chain. We’ve also started looking at reusable and compostable materials, connecting with key innovators in this space to ensure we are at the forefront of any new developments.
Another way we are reducing our impact is by carbon offsetting. We are committed to planting a tree with every sale made. Through this, we have offset more emissions than we have created with our model, making us a carbon neutral brand – and this is only the beginning. There is still an opportunity for us to reduce carbon by developing our packaging and formulations even further, and contributing to larger carbon offsetting models around the globe.
The need for sustainable business models is greater than ever; the brands that rise to this challenge are the ones that will succeed. To ignore sustainable practices, not only within your supply chain, but also within your team ethics as a business owner in 2021 simply won’t work. It is our responsibility to lead the conversation, encourage positive consumer behaviours with our services, lead with purpose, offer viable solutions that reduce emissions and impact, and champion sustainability within the workplace. Collaboration is the key amongst brands, innovators and consumers. We all need to play our part, and be open with our challenges and what we are doing to solve it. This is our planet, after all.
Words by: Gabriella Ferlita, Anna Priadka