“We’re on a mission to become the most sustainable beauty brand in the world”
An interview with Jo Chidley, founder of Beauty Kitchen, a beauty brand committed to making natural products in the most sustainable way possible
This interview was originally published on Scotland Can B. Scotland CAN B is the first nationwide programme of its kind combining a nation’s vision to become a leader in innovation & entrepreneurship with a global movement to drive business as a force for good.
They have been a Certified B Corp since 2017 and are currently undergoing Cradle to Cradle Certification — a standard which encourages the continual improvement of products, their packaging, and how they’re made. Beauty Kitchen’s revolutionary approach to packaging is particularly impressive as the company now allows customers to return their empty containers to be refilled and sent back to them.
What drives your mission to become the most sustainable beauty brand in the world and what challenges have you faced in your efforts to achieve it?
Stewart and I wanted to set up Beauty Kitchen because we thought there was a gap in the market for effective, natural and sustainable beauty. For example, Argan oil is something a lot of people heard of. It’s a fantastic product — so it’s effective and natural, however, it’s not sustainable because you can only get it from a small part of Morocco. We wanted to use something that was just as good as Argan oil, but sustainable — then we found Abyssinian oil! It’s originally from Ethiopia but can be grown anywhere. We get our oil from the South of Kent and France. It has a short growing season, can be grown around other fields and can increase biodiversity — so it’s definitely sustainable. But the other great thing about Abyssinian oil is that it’s natural and effective — in terms of moisturisation, hydration and so forth, it actually does just as good a job or outperforms Argan and Jojoba oil.
In terms of the challenges — a lot of people haven’t heard of it. So we have the challenge of promoting an ingredient where we could have taken the easy option and used a product that everybody has heard of.
So when you’re trying to live by B Corp standards, generally you are taken a path that is less trodden. However, this challenge can actually be helpful sometimes as we are filling gaps in the market.
Was sustainability always at the heart of BK or was this focus something that developed over time?
Yes. Sustainability is something I have been driving personally for a long time.
I believe that we shouldn’t leave this planet in a worse off state than it was when we were born. Ultimately, for me, it’s about asking how do we sustain something that’s very precious to ensure that we have it for future generations?
So sustainability has always been at the heart. More recently we have been able to articulate that ethos into 3 words — sustainable, natural and effective — and B Corp has definitely helped with that with the language that they use. For example “using business as a force for good” — the little snippets that B Corp circulate has helped us to come up with our overall strategy.
What is the business case for embedding sustainability into the ethos of a business?
In terms of consumerism, if we can say to people this is ‘guilt-free’ buying and that buying a product will actually leave a positive impact on the planet, purchasing one product over another is an easy decision for the customer to make.
Sustainability enables you to future-proof your business. An example of such a product is our Seahorse Plankton+ facial oil. By the end of May, we will know whether this product will be certified as carbon positive. We think it will be as the micro-algae we use actually creates energy that feeds back into the grid. This means that the amount of energy we use to manufacture the product will be less than the energy it produces — meaning it will actually leave a positive impact on the planet.
What I think will be interesting over the next couple of years is that Beauty Kitchen will be able to demonstrate how much easier it is to make sustainable choices for businesses.
Have you found sustainability and profit to be at heads with one another? Has striving for sustainability affected the profitability of the business?
It’s a bit early to say. It has impacted short-term profitability — we’ve had to invest in aluminium cans and glass jars. With our glass jars, they’re not sprayed, they are made in blue glass which is the most expensive glass to make. However you can wash it lots and lots of times before it starts to get brittle — so we know that the investment that we’ve had to put into our packaging and reformulations will affect our profitability, but only in the short term. I like to look at profitability over a longer term and this is about investing for the future. Once we’ve set all this up, everything else will be easy.
A lot of people think if you want to be sustainable it’s going to cost more, but that’s only if you are thinking in the short term — if that’s how you run your business, chances are it isn’t going to be economically sustainable anyway
We believe mainstream businesses need to benchmark and improve their impact. Other than taking the BIA, what would you say that journey looks like?
Simply engaging with the B Corp community would be good. Also taking the 30-minute Quick Impact Assessment would be perfect — because then it’s not as scary as taking the full B Impact Assessment, but rather it will be able to point out what you’re doing right and what you need to improve on. Even having ‘B Corp buddies’ or organisations who have shared values but have not taken the BIA could help to encourage businesses who have yet to start thinking about impact.
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A first step for businesses interested in measuring their social and environmental impact is by using the free B Impact Assessment tool. Any company wishing to certify as a B Corp has its performance assessed by B Lab across all dimensions of its business. These companies are on a journey of continuous improvement to ensure business leverages its power to be a positive force in the world.
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