Industry Insights · 23min read
16 Exciting Sustainable Cosmetics Brands
Discover the latest clean and conscious cosmetics brands that are revolutionising the vegan, fair trade, organic and zero waste categories.
It is no secret that sustainable practices are taking all sectors by a storm. And the cosmetics industry is no exception. But sustainability comes in many shapes and forms. Ingredients, for example, can be sustainably sourced—meaning they are either natural, organic, produced using low-emission practices, or all of the above. Packaging can be compostable, circular, recyclable, plastic-free, organic or refillable. Formulas can be ecological and animal-friendly. Production facilities commit to fair trade practices. The list goes on.
Today, we would like to introduce you to 16 exciting sustainable cosmetics brands in four leading sustainability categories—vegan cosmetics, fair trade cosmetics, organic cosmetics, and zero waste cosmetics.
Fair Trade Cosmetics Brands
Fair trade practices come in many shapes and forms. Today, the most reputable independent certification body is the FAIRTRADE mark. Companies that make fair trade claims commit to ensuring decent working conditions and payment terms for farmers and workers along the entire supply chain.
Fair Squared | fairsquared.com
Staying true to their claim and brand name, Fair Squared has been committed to fair trade practices and activism since day one. Be it by condemning child labour and animal testing or fostering a multicultural working environment and ensuring proper trading conditions, Fair Squared is committed to social and environmental acceptability across the globe.
Today, Fair Squared’s product range features +80 certified vegan and natural products whose ingredients are sourced from 15 fair trade partners worldwide and sold across Europe. The German cosmetics brand recently took its sustainability practices to new heights by introducing returnable glass jars and bottles to promote the circularity of its products.
i+m | iplusm.berlin
Guided by four core principles—FAIR, ORGANIC, VEGAN, BRAVE—the team at i+m has been fighting for fairness, environmental awareness and animal welfare since 1978. As an industry leader and innovator, i+m is deeply committed to supporting social causes and utilising Fairtrade certified materials in its natural cosmetics formulas. i+m’s limited FAIR Editions are specifically designed and produced to support eco-fair projects. As a result, i+m donates profits made from these editions to select projects around the globe. These include a horticultural project, sewing workshop and orphanage in Zambia, the animal rights organisation PETA, and a humanitarian project in Ethiopia.
The Body Shop | thebodyshop.com
It’s been over 30 years since The Body Shop first launched its first official fair trade initiative, Trade Not Aid. Three decades later, the internationally leading cosmetics, skincare and perfume company has extended its commitments further with the help of its very own bespoke fair trade programme, Community Fair Trade. This programme has successfully established itself as the biggest fair trade programme in the entire cosmetics industry.
Community Fair Trade ensures The Body Shop’s commitment to paying fair prices and offering favourable trade terms while fostering personal relationships with its suppliers and providing them with additional funding to support their communities. In doing so, The Body Shop is determined to have a positive social and environmental impact on the entire world. Community Fair Trade is independently audited by ECOCERT, and The Body Shop is B-Corps certified. The latter is one of the highest social and environmental standards for people and the planet.
Odylique | odylique.co.uk
Beautifully fair—Odylique is an award-winning natural skincare brand from Suffolk, England. Not only is Odylique proud to call itself one of the UK’s first certified organic cosmetics brands, but in 2009, it became the first British brand to launch skincare certified to both organic and Fairtrade standards. In 2016 Oylique went on to launch the UK’s first both Fairtrade Foundation and Soil Association certified sunscreen. All Odylique’s products are handmade, natural, and vegetarian, and the vast majority is also vegan, the only exceptions being those which contain organic honey or beeswax.
Organic Cosmetics Brands
To be certified organic in the EU, products must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic ingredients while the remaining 5% must adhere to a similarly strict list of conditions. A comprehensive list of independent European certification bodies can be found here on the European Organic Certifiers Council's website.
Green People | greenpeople.co.uk
Over the past 24 years, Green People has successfully established itself as one of the UK’s leading organic lifestyle brands for natural beauty products and cosmetics. From the very beginning, Green People’s Founder, Charlotte Vøhtz, pledged never to sacrifice ethical ingredients for profits. Hence, to this day, Green People’s team fosters close and transparent relationships with its product manufacturers. In addition to being certified organic, Green People’s formulas do not contain any aggressive ingredients, synthetic chemicals, synthetic fragrances or colourants.
Incidentally, Charlotte has always been so committed to her cause that way back in 1999 she approached the Soil Association (SA) and encouraged the certifying body to introduce organic standards for beauty products. Not only was she then invited to join SA’s team to help ideate and design the first set of standards, but Iain Taylor, Green People’s Cosmetics Scientist, made substantial contributions to the creation of further regulations in the years that followed.
Maria Åkerberg | mariaakerberg.com
Pure organic ingredients from the plant kingdom merge with natural minerals in Maria Åkerberg’s formulas. The Swedish skincare company takes great pride in its open communication practices. Transparency has served as the brand’s core pillar since its founding in 1995—a time in which this was much more the exception than the norm. Two and a half decades later, Maria Åkerberg publishes detailed insights in its annual product catalogue. The plant-based skincare company also maintains an up-to-date overview of all its ingredients’ certification bodies on its website.
Neal’s Yard Remedies | nealsyardremedies.com
This self-proclaimed modern apothecary is an award-winning, global leader in natural and organic health and beauty products. Neal’s Yard Remedies’ formulas contain ethically sourced herbs, botanicals and essential oils. The brand handcrafts its products in its renowned eco-factory in Dorset, England. In 2014, Neal’s Yard Remedies was the first brand in history to be awarded a score of 100 by The Ethical Company Organisation. Neals Yard Remedies is certified by the Soil Association, CarbonNeutral® and Cruelty Free International.
MÁDARA | madaracosmetics.com
The team at MÁDARA believes that luxury goes deeper than skin—the Latvian brand is dedicated to ensuring its formulas contain effective ingredients, its products only make honest claims, and its packaging is environmentally friendly. Taking great pride and drawing inspiration from its northern roots, MÁDARA artfully seeks to redefine luxury as “raw, pure and precious natural ingredients refined to their highest potential”. All of MÁDARA’s formulas are ECOCERT and COSMOS organic certified. Its products are also cruelty-free and vegan friendly, and the brand utilises a range of different sustainable packaging solutions.
Zero-Waste Cosmetics Brands
The zero waste movement has formed around a set of principles by which companies design their products in ways that promote conscious life cycles. The concepts “reuse, reduce, and recycle” form the core of these practices. While not all of the companies listed in this category have achieved 100% zero waste goals yet, they are characterised by the implementation of innovative measures which bring them closer and closer to this goal.
Buff Natural Body Care (BUFF) | buffnaturalbodycare.com
Buff Natural Body Care makes its products from natural, vegan and cruelty-free ingredients. All the body care and candle brand's jars and bottles are 99% plastic-free and 100% recyclable. With the final 1% still in the works, Buff Natural Body Care's team has openly stated that it will not rest until it can make a 0% plastic claim in all its packages and processes. The last 1% is a result of the company's use of polypropylene labels in products where the natural oils do not react well with paper. Having ensured that all new products which have been developed and launched since 2018 are 100% plastic-free, the team is well on its way to reaching the 0% plastic goal it has set for itself.
UpCircle | upcirclebeauty.com
Regenerative design is the heart and soul of UpCircle’s business. With 99% plastic-free packaging—and refill options for the remaining 1%—UpCircle has uniquely positioned itself as one of the cosmetic industry’s leading natural and sustainable skincare brands committed to waste reduction. UpCircle was initially founded on the idea of salvaging leftover coffee grounds for skincare products. Today, the brand’s commitment to minimising waste and recycling materials goes much further than simply the contents of its products. UpCircle even goes as far as to ensure that all its print marketing materials are made from recycled coffee cups; even the tape used in its packaging is derived from recycled fibres.
KINDBEEUTY | kindbeeuty.com
The team behind KINDBEEUTY is dedicated to helping its customers make cleaner and healthier choices. Its ‘Return, Refill, Reuse, and Repeat’ scheme incentivises people to save and return packaging so that the company itself can ensure that its bottles are refilled and circled back into use. KINDBEEUTY does not use any harmful chemicals, such as parabens, detergents, sulphates, synthetic fragrances and mineral oils, in its products and promises only to rely on the finest natural ingredients in its formulas.
White Witch | whitewitch.ie
This organic and ethical skincare brand ensures all its packaging is plastic and thus BPA-free so that customers can be sure that the organic products they order do not unknowingly come in contact with any unwanted chemicals. With the exception of three, all of White Witch’s ingredients are certified organic by the Soil Association. The close-knit team is committed to ensuring it maintains personal relationships with its growers and suppliers to guarantee the quality of its ingredients. White Witch also proudly carries The Vegan Society’s trademark.
Vegan Cosmetics Brands
For a cosmetics product to be labelled ‘vegan’, it cannot contain any animal ingredients or animal-derived ingredients, such as beeswax or gelatin. While this is, surprisingly, not a fixed criterion for veganism, all the brands listed below are also ‘cruelty-free’.
PHB Ethical Beauty | phbethicalbeauty.co.uk
PHB Ethical Beauty is considered by many to be a pioneer in the ethical beauty business. Veganism and cruelty-free practices have been a key part of the family-owned, Birmingham-based business’s products since the start. Not only does PHB Ethical Beauty not test on animals and refrain from utilising any animal-derived ingredients but it also guarantees that all its products are palm oil-free—the latter is critical in many animal rights activists’ eyes as palm oil plantations are responsible for widespread animal habitat degradation.
Furthermore, PHB Ethical Beauty abstains from alcohol-based ingredients, toxic synthetic chemicals, or GMOs. Right down to every last mineral, all ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced, and in many cases, organically certified. PHB Ethical Beauty’s products are handmade in the United Kingdom, and the company donates 20% of its profits to charities.
Lovely Day | en.lovelyday.de
Hailing from Berlin, Lovely Day works to combine organic botanical oils and extracts with active ingredients and vegan formulas. Each product is developed, tested and produced in small batches in Lovely Day’s laboratory in Neukölln. Lovely Day provides customers with a comprehensive overview of all its ingredients as well as a transparent list of social projects it has donated to since its founding.
HEJ organic | hejorganic.com
HEJ organic was built on the belief that skincare should only contain the best natural products and organic ingredients. Not only does HEJ organic carry the NATRUE and an organic seal, but it is also certified by The Vegan Society, meaning that all products have been produced without animal testing, but also by The Leaping Bunny, ensuring its products and ingredients are 100% cruelty-free. HEJ organic’s products are all free from PEGs, SLS, parabens, synthetic colour and fragrances, paraffin, silicones and mineral oils. All active ingredients are of plant origin.
Love Beauty and Planet | lovebeautyandplanet.com
As its brand name aptly states, Love Beauty and Planet is committed to developing skincare products that deliver great beauty results for customers. Customers especially appreciate that its products are formulated and packaged with respect for animals and the planet. In the US, the brand is independently cruelty-free and vegan certified by the internationally acclaimed animal rights organisation PETA. Further sustainability commitments include minimising the company’s CO2 emissions, packaging products in plastic bottles made from 100% recycled materials as well as a strong focus on certified organic ingredients which are ethically sourced and produced under fair conditions.
Imagery: (1) UpCircle, (2) Joshua Newton, (3) Fair Squared, (4) The Body Shop, (5) Diana Akhmetianova, (6) Maria Åkerberg, (7) MÁDARA, (8) Swapnil Dwivedi, (9) UpCircle, (10) White Witch, (11) Sharon McCutcheon, (12) Lovely Day