Emma Lewisham: Having prioritised my work over my wellness for 10 years, after losing my mother to cancer, I began looking closely at my health, and making lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes led me to discover that a skincare product I was using to combat hyperpigmentation wasn’t safe to continue using during pregnancy, and was in fact banned in many countries. This put me on the path to find a natural alternative and ultimately to discover the gap in the market for scientifically proven, natural and sustainable skincare. There seemed to be a need to compromise between having natural skincare and skincare that was scientifically proven to work. I was passionate about proving that you didn’t need to compromise. I could see a way for things to be done differently, and this is what led me to create Emma Lewisham.
IR: In the beauty world, natural products and science and technology don’t often come together, but that is a focus of your brand. Can you tell me where you think the challenges are for beauty brands in that regard?
EL: I think part of the challenge is the assumption itself that nature and science don’t co-exist, when in reality they’re an incredibly powerful partnership. I’m really passionate about educating our customers on this – when we design by science and deliver by nature we can achieve incredible things for the skin.
IR: We hear a lot about the circular economy when it comes to fashion, less so in beauty. Tell me about the Beauty Circle and how it works.
EL: The Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle is our complimentary global takeback programme, where we bring back all used packaging to be either refilled or recycled. Our innovative, refill pod and pouch system allows all our packaging to be refilled. This industry-first initiative not only helps to eliminate waste but has been certified to reduce carbon emissions per product by up to 74 per cent.
IR: A lot of retailers are across the importance of becoming carbon neutral, but your focus has been on regeneration and the brand was the world’s first certified carbon positive beauty brand last year. Why is being carbon positive important to you and what did that process involve?
EL: We believe that in order to play our part in mitigating the climate crisis, simply sustaining the world’s current state is not enough, we need to be actively helping to regenerate it. Our carbon positive certification means that as a business we have gone beyond just neutralising our carbon emissions, instead positively offsetting them in order to have a positive environmental impact.
In order to become carbon positive we measured our total emissions both at a business and product level, in order to understand and identify the areas we could make reductions. After reducing each product’s inherent emissions as much as possible, we then offset our remaining emissions by 125 per cent through an independent certification agency, Toitu Envirocare, to become certified Climate Positive under their Climate Positive Programme.
IR: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges of being a genuinely sustainable brand?
EL: One of the biggest challenges comes with being a pioneer and having to invest in the research and development of new ways of doing things. For example, we had to develop our circular packaging from scratch as the few existing solutions available were patented by large multinational corporations. This required significant time and investment, however, these were non-negotiables for us.
We believe having refillable packaging for all products should be business as usual. However, understanding how much of a barrier this poses to smaller brands wanting to become circular was a key reason we chose to share the IP for our circular packaging industry wide. We hope that in doing so, it can fast track the transition towards a circular and carbon positive beauty industry.
IR: If you could change anything about the beauty retail industry, what would it be and why?
EL: I would like to see businesses working in collaboration instead of competition, especially when it comes to sustainability initiatives. If we could share ideas and collaborate on processes such as bringing packaging back to be refilled, we would see change so much faster. I would also love to see a reduction in greenwashing, especially around recycling. There has been an influx of businesses leaning on the recyclability of their products as a circular solution. However, almost no beauty packaging is recycled through kerbside recycling systems. So, while most beauty packaging may be ‘technically’ recyclable, in reality it’s being filtered out and sent straight to landfill. It’s estimated that less than 9 per cent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, and the beauty industry is responsible for producing over 120 billion new units of packaging every year. So, recycling simply isn’t the answer. The future of beauty must be a circular model built around refills.
IR: What are your plans for both local and international growth and what’s the strategy behind that?
EL: We will continue to focus on strengthening our direct to consumer growth globally and align this demand with a strategic approach to international stockist partnerships. Our stockist partnerships have always been underlined by assurance that their values align with our own and that they are engaged with our circularity programme. While we have seen incredible growth over the past three years, we believe that slower, sustained growth with the right partners is always smarter than quick growth with a partner who could negatively impact our integrity as a brand.
More recently, we’re proud to be Mecca’s largest New Zealand brand launch in the company’s history. Our launch across Australasia’s largest beauty destination is a milestone for Emma Lewisham, both the brand and me personally. Emma Lewisham and Mecca will push the needle forward in sustainability within the beauty industry and reach new audiences globally. We’re so thrilled to embark on this new journey with Mecca.