Modern consumers understand sustainable business. They know the difference between authentic commitments and vague marketing attempts to boost “natural” and “green” beauty products.

As more shoppers incorporate sustainability into their habits, more businesses adapt operations and communications strategies to meet demand. But real change takes time. And the beauty industry, for example, emits loads of waste.

One beauty brand, The Harmonist, wants to make sustainability an integral part of its business.

Dig deeper ➝ 5 min

Sustainable consumerism

Over half of consumers now consider sustainability a key factor when shopping for beauty, and according to consultancy Accenture’s global head of consumer goods and services Oliver Wright in 2021:

 “It’s obvious that the beauty industry will have to go through an extensive review of every part of its supply chain. I expect to see an explosion in brand commitments to research and development investment.”  

So, in a personal care industry worth $500bn annually, there is now a clear competitive advantage to be gained from genuinely sustainable business practice.   

The Harmonist – Combining Luxury and Sustainability

Lola Tillyaeva (Till) ‘s fragrance range, The Harmonist, demonstrates how founders can embed sustainability into the DNA of a product without compromising quality or growth – an encouragement to other brands, both small and large.

Lola Till, Founder of The Harmonist

Launched in 2016, The Harmonist is inspired by the guiding principles of Feng Shui, with each scent carefully crafted to help the wearer find balance, harmony, and wellbeing. 

Founder Lola Tillyaeva (Till) is a committed environmentalist, wellbeing activist, and philanthropist whose self-care guide ‘Be Your Own Harmonist’ (published in 2020) sets out practical advice for living a balanced, fulfilled, and healthier life in tune with our environment.

In keeping with Till’s overall philosophy, The Harmonist business uses natural, ethically sourced ingredients and recyclable materials at every possible touchpoint, including refillable glass bottles and vegetal wax candles.

As part of the brand’s commitment to continual advances in sustainability, the Yang fragrance collection was relaunched in 2021 with streamlined, recyclable packaging to reduce the overall environmental footprint.

“We have replaced internal plastic components with environmentally friendly materials in the new Yang collection,” says Lola Tillyaeva (Till).

“For a small niche brand, this was a challenging task, and we are very pleased and proud that we were able to achieve these results. We hope that with the new collection, The Harmonist will ascertain its position at the forefront of sustainability in the industry.”

Dedicated to advocacy, Lola Till spearheaded The Harmonist’s first charitable initiative, ‘The Droplet,’ in 2017 to raise global awareness of water scarcity issues and the need to conserve water where possible.

A testament to The Harmonist’s honed skills in combining luxury, quality, and sustainability, its unique scents earned two nominations at the prestigious 2021 Fragrance Foundation Awards.

‘Moon Glory’ and ‘Sun Force’ were nominated for Fragrance of the Year (in the women’s and men’s Luxury categories, respectively). The first time any fragrance brand was shortlisted for two luxury categories in the same year.  

Sustainability doesn’t hamper growth.

Commercially, The Harmonist nearly tripled revenues in 2021 while expanding its reach from five to eleven countries. The luxury perfume brand shows how sustainability can sit comfortably with high quality and expansion.

And while sustainability has usually been the preserve of niche brands, some sustainability pioneers prove what’s possible over time without compromise:

  • Aveda, founded in Minneapolis in 1978 to create holistic beauty products, was acquired in 1997 by the Estée Lauder group and now operates in 40 countries, remaining true to its principles with a 100% vegan range and manufacturing 100% powered by wind/solar energy.
    • Founder Horst Rechelbacher was twice named one of the most influential environmentalists in the US by Vanity Fair.
  • Lush, founded in 1997 in the UK with a vegan, minimal-packaging ethos, now has stores across 49 countries (20% located in the USA), and a range that remains 100% vegetarian, 85% vegan; Lush was conferred the “Award of Earth Defender” by the Environment Possibility Awards in 2020.

Big Beauty Brands Join Forces

Beauty industry heavyweights are also stepping up their commitment to sustainability, with the 2021 announcement of a new consortium, including L’Oréal and LVMH, aiming to set industry-wide sustainability standards.

The plan is to adopt a new scoring system that will enable shoppers to compare and contrast the environmental impact of cosmetic products, taking into account the whole product life cycle.

So, where should brands start, and what should you look for as a consumer?

Scrap the Plastic Packaging

Every plastic shower gel bottle or shrink-wrapped face cream box contributes to the global cosmetics industry’s more than 120 billion units of packaging.

There is no excuse for elaborate packaging, and of course, the more recyclable and refillable packaging, the better. And every brand can do better, as Lola Tillyaeva’s The Harmonist has shown with its recent packaging redesign.

What’s in the box counts too

A 2021 survey of 231 products from a wide range of beauty brands found that over half contained PFAS substances known as “forever chemicals” because of how long they persist in the environment.

The EU bans 1300 ingredients from cosmetic products, compared to just 11 banned in the US.

Brands can expect to increasingly be held to account by consumers for what goes into their products and should review and clearly define their definition of “clean” beauty.

Lola Till’s team at The Harmonist goes to great lengths to sustainably source its precious ingredients. The brand prides itself in using the best natural ingredients from all over the world but always opting for natural essential oils from ethical and sustainable sources.

What are your carbon emissions?

Aveda has shown the way in manufacturing, with 100% of its manufacturing powered by wind or solar energy.

Brands investing in a switch to renewables and bringing manufacturing close to their markets will reap the rewards from increasingly savvy consumers.

While the beauty industry behemoths have read the writing on the wall and are getting on board with sustainability, it may still be the more agile, independent brands like Lola Lola Tillyaeva (Till)’s The Harmonist that shows action to match their stated commitment. 

As consumers, we all need to hold beauty brands to account and put our money where our principles are, with the brands that demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainability across their product life cycle.

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