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Sustainability and Authenticity in the Beauty Industry

The State of the Industry

In the last half-decade, the beauty industry has witnessed a transformation that few could have predicted. YouTube and Instagram, and the “beauty gurus” or “beauty influencers” on them, became perhaps the most important channels in the entire industry. These influencers upload videos demonstrating their makeup and skincare skills on YouTube, often in how-to tutorial videos showing how to achieve a specific look or style. Instagram is similar, but the emphasis is more on the final product rather than the process itself. Companies pay large sums to have their products featured on popular channels because the influence of these influencers is difficult to overstate. They have become the industry’s gatekeepers, and they control how young people, all the way down to teenagers and tweens, consume products. The pandemic only accelerated this online transformation, and as Molton Brown Global President Mark Johnson puts it, “This industry ebbs and flows, but the one thing that’s really keeping me going right now is it’s a really exciting time to be in it”.

Before it was cool

The industry is exciting not only because of the channels through which companies reach their consumers, but also because there have been significant changes in what consumers want. Sustainability, a consideration that had been gaining traction before the pandemic, rose up the ranks of customer priorities because of the pandemic. “Lockdowns happened overnight. There were a lot of major metropolitan areas that saw bluer skies, lower levels of pollution and even improved water quality. And I think it gave consumers a moment to sit back and re-evaluate what matters and what they value most”. In the fashion world, there has been a widespread rebuke of fast fashion, where the massive waste of poorly made, mass-produced clothes have led to consumer preference for sustainably produced, durable fashion. Premium skincare has followed a similar movement, and Molton Brown has capitalised on its credibility in this area. The companies founders “had that ambition of delivering beauty that was far kinder to the environment, manufacturing cruelty-free products right from the start”. So, for the last 50 years, the company has been building up a reputation for using the best natural ingredients. This focus on sourcing and sustainability is extremely important to younger consumers; it is ingrained in them that they need to do their part to save the planet.

Less is more

Sustainability alone is not enough to attract buyers; that is why Molton Brown focuses on two other pillars as well: individuality and quality. Quality speaks for itself, but the company’s “idea of individuality is inspired by London, our home, which is one of the most diverse and open-minded places around the globe. For us, it’s staying true to our founders’ original ambitions and ethos, which are arguably more relevant today than they were perhaps even back then”. Overall, the company has a sort of balancing act; they want to attract consumers who care about quality and are willing to pay premium prices, but the luxury segment has historically been about excessive consumption. “We’ve been redefining the sector, in general, making sure that people understand it’s no longer about the excess… we can still provide a luxury experience that’s incredibly desirable, doesn’t compromise on quality and experience, and is as sustainable as possible. It’s not easy, but we truly believe that, in this case, less is more. And it’s no longer about being ridiculously extravagant; it’s about being authentic”. And authenticity may be the most sustainable path a brand can take.