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How Sustainable is the Beauty Industry in 2023?

By 9 August 2023Blog, Insights
Image showing sustainable recyclable beauty packaging on a green leaf background

In today’s world, there’s never been a louder conversation around sustainability. For the sake of the well-being of our planet and generations to come, brands are increasingly integrating eco-friendly practices into their supply chains and manufacturing processes.

But what does this mean for the beauty sector?

Well, beauty brands are cleaning up their act in more ways than one. Whether they are focussed on creating more sustainable packaging lifecycles or sourcing eco-friendly ingredients to formulate ‘clean beauty’ products; whatever they do, consumers will always have something to say about it!

“What is clean beauty?” we hear you ask…Clean beauty is arguably one of the hottest trends in the beauty industry today for several reasons, concerning consumers and brands alike. The exact definition of clean beauty is elusive as the term is used very loosely across the industry, but it generally relates to product formulas that are natural and nontoxic or ethically produced – or a mix of both!

One of the positive outcomes of the buzz around the clean beauty trend, is the emphasis on product and ingredient research. Consumers are more aware and have expectations for beauty brands to communicate evidence more clearly and with complete transparency. 

As an example, we surveyed our LaunchPilots* and discovered that 75% believe the beauty industry is committed to being sustainable or environmentally friendly based on their own experience and knowledge of the sector. 14% say the beauty industry is not committed at all, whilst 11% simply don’t know.

These results suggest a quarter of consumers would like to see more sustainable action being taken by brands.

But, ultimately, how important is sustainable, clean beauty to consumer purchase decisions?

24% of LaunchPilots say eco-friendly / nontoxic / natural ingredients are important to them when buying beauty or grooming products.  

However, a staggering three-quarters of consumers say price is the most important factor in their decision-making process, though we are experiencing a cost-of-living crisis!

Our data also tells us that a brand’s eco-friendly endeavours have mid-to-low level importance when it comes to their purchase decision making. 1 in 4 look out for recyclable packaging and even fewer consumers seek plastic-free or refillable packaging. Whilst there is some consumer demand for eco-friendly derived and manufactured products, this is viewed as an added benefit and is unfortunately outweighed by non-environmental factors including price, promotions and previous experience with a product.

Chart showing the importance of sustainable factors in making a beauty or grooming purchase decision.
542 LaunchPilots surveyed in July 2023

Sustainability Initiatives

That said, brands still have a responsibility to play their part in protecting the planet by being sustainable and eco-friendly, so how do you compete in a price sensitive market to ensure that your brand is tapping into consumers’ sub-conscious?

Some brands have created their own initiatives to boost their sustainability efforts, encouraging customers to get involved, and it seems consumers are happy to help! 73% of LaunchPilots say they would likely participate in a beauty brand’s recycling programme.

Here are three examples of how big players in the beauty industry are striving towards a greener future:

  • The MAC cosmetics ‘Back-To-MAC’ recycling programme has been on the scene for thirty years now, historically offering a free product in return for empty packaging; however recently the initiative has switched a free product incentive to investments that have a much bigger impact on reducing plastic waste. They also convert energy from any packaging that cannot be recycled!  
  • Retail giant John Lewis has introduced a programme named the ‘BeautyCycle’. Any My John Lewis member can simply spend £20 or more on beauty and bring in five clean empty beauty products to enjoy £5 off their beauty haul.
  • Boots have launched a similar scheme with ‘Recycle at Boots’. This scheme also asks consumers to recycle 5 empty beauty products in store, as an added bonus they also receive 500 Advantage Card points when they spend £10. Boots also track the amount of empties you bring back to help emphasise the positive impact the scheme has made to the environment!

Whist there are incentives for sustainable shopper behaviours, it is evident there are barriers to switching to more eco-friendly alternatives, as over half of LaunchPilots admit they haven’t switched any of their usual products to alternatives that have sustainable or eco-friendly packaging. Only 36% of consumers would be willing to increase their spend in order to use alternative sustainable beauty/grooming products.

Eco-friendly products are proven to be a good idea and an added benefit, but what price do consumers have to pay? Consumers now face the difficult decision of weighing up the cost to the planet vs. their wallet.

How does this impact your brand?

Considering all this, and knowing how the market is heavily shifting towards becoming more environmentally friendly, the burning question is: How does this impact your brand?

Furthermore, are you viewed as a sustainable brand, are you tapping into the sub-conscious mind of the consumer? Are you transparent in your sustainability claims? How does your brand compare to your competitors?

Launchpad Research could help you answer all these questions by discovering what consumers really think of your brand and how to leverage the appeal…

Our bespoke brand tracking studies will unearth consumer perceptions of your brand using vital KPI’s such as satisfaction, brand familiarity, brand salience, NPS and much more. Additionally, if you want to take a deeper dive into your consumers’ head, our in-house data experts can use statistical techniques to unveil a greater understanding of your consumers’ needs. Key driver analysis can help highlight the most important factors of your business relating to ‘clean beauty’ that contribute to your brand’s health.  

Contact Launchpad Research today and together we can make sense of it all! Contact us here.

*LaunchPilot is Launchpad Research’s proprietary research community. 542 consumers polled in July 2023.

Authors - Abby Phinn (Senior Research Manager) and Josh Welch (Data Executive)

By Abby Phinn (Senior Research Manager) & Josh Welch (Data Executive)