issue ten : icons & iconoclasts
We are not unfamiliar with Evolve Organic Beauty here at Untainted Magazine, in fact, we have featured a number of their products over the years and are delighted to have an opportunity to interview the founder and iconoclast behind this iconic brand, Laura Rudoe.
Having recently won Beauty Brand of the Year at the inaugural Sustainable Lifestyle Awards, it’s serendipitous timing with the launch of our tenth issue, The Icons & Iconoclasts, which Evolve Beauty certainly fulfil the essence of.
Q. What inspired you to start a beauty brand, and why did you feel it needed to centre around natural and organic ingredients?
I have Romanian heritage and natural and organic living was a huge part of my family‘s lifestyle growing up. As a teenager and into my 20s I suffered from acne and I turned to natural medicine and natural eating as a way of improving my skin and my health.
I have also always been interested in ethical business and how businesses can do well financially as well as doing good for their community and the planet. After I left Harvard Business School in 2005 I became the founding employee of one of the first natural luxury brands: NUDE skincare. I discovered I absolutely loved working on natural skincare products and I spent all of my free time educating myself about natural ingredients to become an expert.
At the time, organic and ethical beauty products – apart from being few and far between – were either expensive and unaccessible to everyone or ineffective and unattractive, and this is what inspired me to create a range of highly effective skincare at affordable prices that also helps people become a little greener in their everyday lives, which is when Evolve Beauty was born.
Q. Did your decision to use natural ingredients motivate you to build a sustainably-minded business or was it the other way around?
The decision actually came in hand in hand, as for me caring for the environment has been an interest for me as long as using natural and organic products has. Since launch 10 years ago we have been using recycled plastic and eco friendly materials – the plastic in the first version of our packaging came from reused milk bottles.
Q. In five descriptive words, can you share your personal and professional ethos with us?
Honesty, fairness, trust, care, innovation
Q. What is something you wish more people knew about sustainable beauty?
I think few people fully understand what certified organic beauty actually means. We are currently in the process of certifying Evolve Beauty organic with Ecocert to the Cosmos standard and this isn’t just a measure of how much organic material is in the products, it’s a broad ranging independent verification of how clean and green our products are.
Every ingredient is checked by Ecocert to make sure it doesn’t contain any toxins, contaminants, genetically modified organisms, materials that are not sustainably sourced, and only a few safe synthetics are allowed in small quantities. All packaging is checked to make sure it’s eco-friendly, our supply chain is checked to measure our waste and energy policies, and the quality of our production is also checked.
Q. Do you believe the conscious beauty pioneers like yourself are succeeding to radically change the face of beauty or is it still a niche market? And if so, how?
In the 15 years I have been working in the natural beauty space I have seen radical changes in the size of the market, the materials available to us as product designers, and customers awareness of the issues involved.
When I first started at NUDE, many of the natural ingredients we wanted to use were preserved with preservatives we wanted to avoid. It took several years for suppliers to start making new versions of these materials with different preservatives but eventually the industry did respond, and now there is a much wider palette of natural ingredients to choose from. I believe the same thing will happen with green packaging materials but it will take a bit longer for suppliers to respond than customers expect – they want green packaging now!!
In terms of the size of the market, NUDE was one of the first natural and ethical brands to launch into a mainstream department store in 2005. We launched into Selfridges and Wholefoods simultaneously. Now of course every retailer from Harrods at the top to supermarkets are interested in stocking natural products. This is hugely exciting for me as my mission was always to bring natural and organic products to the mainstream.
Customers have also become very much more well-informed over the past 15 years. We recently conducted a survey with our customers and we found that more than ever they are interested in the sustainability impact of the products they buy and also the potential health impact of any toxins in those products. We now often hear from customers who are completely removing plastics from their lifestyle and turning to much greener beauty consumption habits.
Q. In your opinion, what are the top 3 things that all beauty brands should focus on in order to promote and execute radical and long-lasting impacts for environmental and social sustainability?
Many beauty brands large and small are starting to look at their product life-cycle impact on the environment. At the moment this is largely confined to packaging, but to truly understand the total impact it is also important to understand the supply chain right from where the materials were produced and all the way through to what happens to the packaging after the product has been used.
I believe that control over the manufacturing process is also very important. 95% of brands outsource their manufacturing but at Evolve Beauty we manufacture the products by hand with our own highly skilled team of artisans. This gives us full control over our energy choices: we use 100% green wind powered energy, our total energy usage: we use sustainable materials and lighting at our eco-studio, and we are also able to ensure that our production is completely ethical as we only employ permanent highly skilled artisans in our production process. This also avoids needing to move products and materials around within the manufacturing and distribution process which saves on carbon miles. Making sure that materials are non-toxic and biodegradable is also very important in my view. This is important both for our own health and also for the health of aquatic ecosystems and the entire food chain. This can most reliably be ensured with independent verification to an organic and natural standard like Cosmos.
Q. How do you envisage the future of the UK beauty industry as a whole in terms of sustainability and ethics?
We recently carried out a survey of over 1000 respondents and the subject of most concern was sustainability in the beauty industry and the lack of response to it. This concern was significantly higher than it was 5 years ago so if the public makes a point of voicing this concern, bigger companies will start to listen and do more about it as if they don’t respond then I think more people will turn away from them to find more sustainable options.
Q. Greenwashing and misinformation (on both sides of the beauty fence) are rampant at the moment. How do you ensure that the information and education you are providing to your customers is transparent, factual and informative?
We have always been completely open and honest about what we use in our products. Our packaging states the percentages of natural and organic ingredients in every product. We are now taking this further with independent verification to the organic Cosmos standard, as well as Vegan Association accreditation and Cruelty Free International accreditation.
When it comes to packaging, I think it is important to be honest about what is possible and what is not possible yet at this point as customers do not always understand how complex it is to make sure every single material is eco-friendly but we are doing everything possible at this point and we will continue to innovate when new materials are available.
Q. Can you share with us some of the things that you take into consideration when creating a new product?
From a sustainability perspective, our compliance with organic standards is nonnegotiable, as is our compliance to vegan and cruelty free international standards. We then start looking at commercial things like current demand, customer suggestions, market trends, and products missing in our current lineup. Of course we also have to make sure we are able to manufacture the products in our studio and fill the products we come up with into sustainable packaging.
What are your thoughts around the stigma towards ‘green’ beauty products, from those who believe it impedes the efficacy/aesthetics?
It is true that the infancy of the natural beauty industry, there were very few materials available to use which made it difficult to achieve the same performance. Over the past 15 years this has completely changed though and in most segments of the market there is no reason why performance should not be the same or even possibly better than using synthetic materials. The only exceptions to that, where synthetics give significant performance advantages are for example in hair and make up which are more technically challenging.
Q. What is one thing that gets your blood boiling about the beauty industry that you wish consumers knew about?
That just because a product says ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ on the label or because it has leaves on it that its natural!
Q. We love your approach to “green science”. Do you think people would care more about their products if they had a better understanding of the chain/process of production and ingredients – where they came from, etc? If so, how do you think the industry needs to band together to communicate this effectively?
Palm oil is an issue at the moment but there is a danger that if people avoid this material, it will just shift the problem into other raw materials. The industry has effectively collaborated to create responsible palm oil initiatives to try and use this material sustainably. More initiatives of this kind are helpful.
I think connecting people with the source of where their products come from is the way to raise awareness of issues throughout the supply chain and if we can shorten the supply chains to buy direct from the grower this is much easier to do.
Q. Lastly, who is your personal and/or professional icon and why?
My professional icon is my mother. Growing up my mother had her own business and she was a huge role model to me in how to be an independent woman entrepreneur at a time when this was not a common thing to do. She told me that working hard and having a vision is the way to achieve your dreams, and I’m very grateful for the example she showed me.