The British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition launches the Planet Positive Beauty Guide to help consumers avoid “greenwashed” products.

by | Nov 4, 2021

Beauty consumers are more conscious of their purchasing choices now than ever before, yet many beauty brands continue to “greenwash” shoppers by making misleading claims about the sustainability of their products.

A new study found that 48% of consumers are looking for more information and clarity about brands’ values and commitments to the environment. The study, conducted by Provenance, a transparency tech company that helps brands prove their eco-claims, and online beauty retailer Cult Beauty, surveyed the attitudes of more than 23,000 beauty shoppers over a 12-month period.


The study also found that there was confusion about which ingredients are environmentally friendly and which simply sound as though they are. The top issues that shoppers are interested in were ingredients, recyclability of packaging and animal welfare.


The latest finding also supports the recent research by the British Beauty Council, which found that 42% feel guilty about the environmental impact of their beauty purchases and nearly half want to know more about how the brands they buy impact the environment.


Despite many brands committing to using 100% recyclable packaging by 2025, which is in line with the UK Plastics Pact, 61% of consumers struggle to tell if hair and skincare products are ethical from the packaging4 and 42% want to know details of brand values and commitments to social causes.


To help consumers navigate through the minefield of baffling ingredient jargon and confusing claims, the British Beauty Council’s Sustainable Beauty Coalition has created the Planet Positive Beauty Guide – a definitive industry guide featuring easy-to-digest information to help consumers make greener beauty choices more confidently. Drawing on a transparency framework from Provenance, it includes a comprehensive list of claims often made by the beauty industry and straightforward descriptions to help consumers understand what to look for (and to avoid) when shopping for beauty products. The Planet Positive Beauty Guide also highlights certifications and third-party verification that shoppers can easily check for, to ensure brands can back up their eco-claims, and are not therefore greenwashing their products.


“This phenomenon, called ‘greenwashing’ can be seen not only in the misleading use of claims such as ‘natural’ and/or ‘organic’ but also ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘clean’ or ‘green’. Greenwashing not only means shoppers are making what they think are ‘green’ choices which can actively harm the environment, it also drains credibility from honest brands that are genuinely sustainable and environmentally friendly”

– Jayn Sterland, Chair of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition.


The Planet Positive Beauty Guide is split into four chapters:

  • Ingredients: Most claims made in the ingredients category are not regulated so there is widespread confusion surrounding definitions and, most importantly, why they matter. This section breaks down common terms including ‘organic’, ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ and highlight certifications that you should look out for.
  • Packaging: With 95% of packaging thrown away, packaging is one of the biggest sustainability challenges facing the beauty industry. This section helps shoppers understand key packaging terms such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘recyclable’ and ‘plastic free’ and gives practical tips to help consumers make better choices and avoid waste going to landfills.
  • People: Whilst the planet is at the heart of sustainability, you cannot get there without a fair and sustainable society. People are at the heart of this, and planet positive brands have a responsibility to society, too. This section highlights the key terms, including ‘fair tax’ and ‘living wage’, to help shoppers support brands and products that treat people fairly.
  • Sustainable Sourcing: Sustainable sourcing is more than ingredients and packaging; it brings together the elements needed to make the world a fairer place to live and work. Key terms explored in this section include ‘carbon footprint’, ‘biodiversity’ and ‘net-zero’.


Supporting the Competition and Markets Authority’s newly published Green Claims Code, which aims to help businesses communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading consumers when making environmental claims, the Planet Positive Beauty Guide will help inform shoppers, and encourage the beauty industry to deliver accurate and transparent communications around their product and packaging claims.


Members of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition contributed to the guide, including Jayn Sterland, Managing Director of Weleda UK; Helen Cox, Global Environmental Reporting Lead at Lush; Jo Chidley, Co-founder of Beauty Kitchen; Jessi Baker, MBE and founder and CEO of Provenance; and Oriele Frank, Chief Product & Sustainability Officer and Co-founder of Elemis.


Click here to read the Planet Positive Beauty Guide and to download the #PlanetPositiveBeautyGuide assets.


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