Sustainability important to 91% of UK beauty consumers but 83% want more transparency
The majority of UK consumers find sustainability and ethics important when choosing a beauty or wellness product, yet most think brands need to be more transparent about the claims they make, found a new report.
The data, from sustainability marketing and software company Provenance, found that 91% of Brits found sustainability and ethics-related considerations important when they are buying beauty and wellness products.
However, 83% of British beauty shoppers think the industry should be more transparent about the impact of products and only 16% think beauty brands’ sustainability claims are “very trustworthy”.
Provenance’s Skin Deep Beauty Report 2022 surveyed 1,500 beauty consumers globally, including 500 based in the UK, 500 in the US and 500 in Germany.
It found that British shoppers are even more likely (18%) than German (16%) or US shoppers (12%) to consider sustainability information as the single most important factor when making a beauty purchase, above price and efficacy.
This may come as a surprise after separate recent research showed that more than £1 billion in wasted skincare products is sitting in homes across the UK.
Which sustainability and ethics factors are most important to beauty buyers?
Globally, the most important sustainability and ethics-related consideration is Nature and animal welfare, e.g. reef safe, organic, cruelty-free or vegan, with this factor considered either very important or important by 77% of beauty consumers.
This is followed by waste, e.g. recyclable or compostable packaging (76%); treatment of workers, e.g. living wage, Fairtrade, B Corp (73%); Climate change impact, e.g. renewable energy, net zero, carbon footprint (70%); then commitment to community, e.g. diversity, donates to charity, family-owned (54%)
44% of Gen Z say that sustainability and ethics-related considerations are very important when buying beauty and wellness products – twice as many as those aged 55+ (22%)
Which sustainability and ethics terms are most confusing?
The report also found that 71% of shoppers aren’t sure what is meant by “environmentally friendly” and 69% say the same for “eco-friendly” claims.
Other vague terms that confuse consumers include “clean” (64%) and “green” (62%).
In fact, only 25% of shoppers said they find it very easy to understand the criteria behind sustainability and social impact claims, and 79% have doubts about whether to trust the beauty industry’s sustainability claims.
More than 85% trust an independent verifier, putting this source of information ahead of others such as on-pack or in-store information as a trustworthy source of sustainability information.
Find out what the differences are between natural and organic in our beauty jargon busted guide.
How should beauty brands prove their sustainability and ethics claims?
When asked, “What can beauty and wellness brands do to win your confidence that a sustainability claim (e.g. ‘organic’) is accurate and true?” A full list of ingredients (61%) and use of an independent verifier (52%) were the most popular answers among beauty consumers.
Next most important were sharing evidence, such as photo and videos from supply chain; and having industry sustainability awards (41% each).
Provenance founder Jessi Baker said, “This is the whole foundation of Provenance, to protect people and our planet by giving consumers a better understanding of brands’ sustainability claims, and access to proof that they’re legitimate – the opportunity to prevent greenwashing, something that in recent years has become a huge issue with the beauty industry and beyond.”
It's not just greenwashing that is a concern for beauty consumers, many feel that too many beauty brands are "woke-washing" and are sceptical about brands supporting worthy causes that are trending too.