The first carbon positive beauty brand is here

Emma Lewisham has taken the skincare market by storm since launching in 2019, and now the New Zealand brand has its sights set on changing the industry's linear ways.

Just like our faces, we only have one planet, and the brand not only wants to create products that have positive results for our skin, but also aims to foster a business model that has a positive impact on the world.

Which is why Emma Lewisham is thrilled to announce it is officially the world's first carbon positive beauty brand, as well as now being 100% circular designed.

The achievement, which has taken the last 12 months, is set to revolutionise the industry as a whole, which produces an estimated 120 billion units of packaging every year, according to Zero Waste Week.

To put that number into perspective, it's the equivalent weight of over 843,000 elephants. And with 95% of that packaging thrown out after just a single use, only 14% of beauty plastic makes it to a recycling centre.

With the mission to embrace collaboration over competition, on the day of the brand's announcement, Emma Lewisham is also sharing all IP surrounding its carbon positive model. 

Emma, herself, has emailed leading beauty brands this morning, about how they can too adopt this viable solution to reducing the industry's carbon emissions.

BD spoke to Emma, about the the groundbreaking achievement, which has also received the UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall, endorsement. 

Congratulations on the announcement that Emma Lewisham is the world’s first carbon positive beauty brand! What does this achievement mean to you?

The current model of beauty is inherently broken. Brands take from the Earth, make something, then consumers throw it away - take, make, waste. This model is responsible for an estimated 120 billion units of beauty packaging produced globally every single year.

It is essential to understand that almost all beauty packaging ends up in landfills, oceans or is burnt due to the economics not being there to recycle it. Packaging is also the single largest contributor of carbon emissions in beauty.

From the start, we had an audacious goal to transform the beauty industry and bring about systemic change. I wanted to solve this problem. When you see something that is broken and damaged, you have a choice to be a bystander and accept it, or you can choose to do something about it. We could see the whole model needed to be flipped on its head.

If we had a circular model, where we put reducing packaging and reusing the packaging we already had brought into the world, at the centre of it, the whole beauty system would decrease its waste immensely and also its carbon emissions by up to 70%.

Our achievement is truly leading a paradigm shift in beauty and is the result of a lot of thinking, problem solving, tenacity and commitment from an array of people.

I am very humbled to be surrounded by so many committed and passionate people who believed in what we set out to do. I am immensely proud of the work we have done and will continue to do to lead a circular and climate positive beauty movement. We are creating a new choice that will leave the world better than we found it and make it easy for our customers to make these choices.

The brand has also received an endorsement from Jane Goodall - how does it feel having the UN Messenger of Peace's tick of approval?

On a personal level, a dream come true and I hope it inspires everyone to look at how they’re making a difference in the world. If I can, anyone can.

Dr Jane Goodall has the highest of integrity and I’ve admired and been in awe of her since I was a teenager. To have someone of her calibre endorse the work we have done is one of my proudest moments.

The product range is now 100% circular designed - can you take us through this process?

If beauty brands are truly serious about combating pollution, plastic in our oceans and climate change a circular designed beauty model is where we need to start.

From the start, we had a focus on moving the industry to a circular and regenerative model. The link with a circular beauty model is it’s singlehandedly the most influential change we can make in reducing the industries carbon emissions – it would reduce our carbon emissions as an industry by 70%.

So what does this look like? All of Emma Lewisham’s products are refillable and 100% designed to fit within a circular system.

'Circular designed' means designing out waste, keeping materials in use through reuse, repair and recycling, and regenerating the environment. We have invested heavily into the research and development of innovative packaging, machinery and business processes that allow each product to be refilled and to ensure packaging end of life is kept in circulation and diverted from landfills.

We take ownership of all material once customers have finished, and make it easy for the material to be returned to us globally so we can reuse it.

Has the look of the packaging changed at all?

Yes – we’ve moved our products to all being designed to be refilled. For example, you buy the original product, but then ongoing you buy a pod that clips in and out of the original vessel.

We take ownership of the pods (made up of 50 to 100% PCR) and request our customers return the pods to us so we can sterilise and reuse them again.

The brand has shared all IP surrounding the achievement of its carbon positive model - why did you decide to open this up for public access? And what do you hope brands take from your blueprint?

Our purpose has been to transform the industry and bring about systemic change, and we can’t do that without scale.

We have less than ten years left to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and together as an industry, we can join forces to create the change we need to, more than any of us could alone. It’s time to embrace collaboration over competition.

This circular, carbon positive business model is said to be the only viable solution to the beauty industry meeting global climate targets - what is one step you believe all beauty brands need to action as priority in this goal?

The linear, extractive economic system we have is unsustainable. Right now in beauty, if you’re not helping solve this problem, then you’re part of it.

The first steps are to prioritise moving your products to refillable vessels (which we can provide the designs for) and putting in place how you’re going to take ownership of this material once it’s finished. We need to take ownership of what we bring into the world.

You have been pushing for better answers to the beauty industry's waste and pollution problems since the brand launched in 2019 - what's next on your list to achieve?

Over the last 12 months, we have measured our emissions throughout our entire supply chain including the harvesting and production of raw ingredients used, transportation, product packaging and end-of-life for each product in order to have visibility, so we could put further reduction plans in place, before positively offsetting what could not be reduced. You can’t possibly reduce what you don’t have a good measurement for.

We are focused on reducing our carbon footprint to the lowest number possible and implementing strategies, such as engaging our customers in buying our refillable products and returning them through the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle and working with more regenerative farms.

Our goal is by 2023 to halve our products’ carbon footprints. 

If you would like to find out more, you can view the Emma Lewisham beauty blueprint here.