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What’s Cooking in the Beauty Kitchen?

A Q&A with Jo Chidley.

issue ten : icons & iconoclasts

Our tenth issue of Untainted Magazine celebrates the history makers and the rules breakers of the beauty industry, and Beauty Kitchen absolutely fits the bill, having just won Skincare Brand of the Year at the inaugural Sustainable Lifestyle Awards. 

While Beauty Kitchen has not yet featured on Untainted, I’ve been very aware of this award-winning brand and its pioneering leader, Jo Chidley, for some time. This feels like the perfect opportunity to talk to Jo about the brilliant, groundbreaking work she and her team have been doing with the brand and beyond.

Q. What inspired you to start a beauty brand, and why did you feel it needed to centre around natural and organic ingredients? 

Beauty Kitchen was inspired by my own personal search for sustainable products. I was shocked to find that some products were not as ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable’ as they first appeared and those that claimed to be were either ineffective, expensive or just plain boring. So, I enlisted the support of industry experts and created Beauty Kitchen with the sole aim of making the most sustainable beauty products in the world. My overall goal is to pioneer and inspire more businesses and consumers to create and buy sustainable products, not because they think they should, but because they really work.

Q. Did your decision to use natural Ingredients motivate you to build a sustainably-minded business or was it the other way around?

It was definitely the other way round – Beauty Kitchen’s mission is to be the most sustainable business in the world. For us sustainability isn’t a trend, it is a necessity. We believe that multi-attribute certification gives the highest standards. First we became B Corp certified, which confirms we have a sustainable business model, we then focused on ingredients & packaging using Cradle 2 Cradle design principles to confirm we have overall sustainability. Finally we added single attribute ingredient led certifications, for example Cruelty Free & Vegan, which are commonly used by beauty businesses as marketing tools to appear natural and sustainable when in fact these do not mean this at all. Last, but by no means least, was partnering with Plastic Soup Foundation to campaign against microplastics in beauty products and single use plastic beauty packaging. There are 120 billion single use plastic toiletries products produced every year, with less than 30% of those products recycled in the UK alone. If every beauty company changed only 1 product packaging to reusable think of the environmental impact that would make immediately.  Using natural ingredients was a must, but just being natural isn’t good enough – they need to be sustainably sourced and also they need to really work. Our SHP+ and Abyssinian Oil ranges are award winning and 4 out of 5 customers noticed a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles after just 3 days.

Q. In five descriptive words, can you share your personal and professional ethos with us? Assuming the same values drive you in both instances, of course.

Curiosity, critical thinking, designing, doing, repeat.

Q. In 2016, you became the first beauty brand in the UK to be B Corporation certified. Could you share a bit more about that and what it has meant for your business?

Becoming the first beauty brand in the UK to be a certified B Corporation is probably one of my proudest moments with Beauty Kitchen, because it’s about having a purpose and playing a part towards a much bigger goal for ourselves and future generations. The B Corp values are at the core of every aspect of our business. We donate 2% of all sales (not profits, to ensure that we are always giving back) to charity, including The Seahorse Trust and the Plastic Soup Foundation.  All of our ranges are cruelty free, not tested on animals, contain zero microplastics and are made with only sustainably sourced ingredients.  Everything is made in the UK except our Konjac sponges (konjac grows only in Asia so makes sense to produce them there & start to develop our employment within emerging markets) to not only reduce our carbon footprint but also to create jobs in local communities.

Q. We love your Return, Refill, Repeat recycling initiative. In what other ways are you breaking the traditional mould of the beauty industry in terms of sustainability? And 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?

Beauty Kitchen exists to pioneer change so that the rest of the industry can follow. Our vision is that by creating a working reuse model for beauty products it will be easier for others to do it or even use the systems, packaging and processes that we have designed. We have set the benchmark using Cradle 2 Cradle principles for all of our products, which means that everything is designed to be waste free and all aspects of the product can be reused or go back to the earth.  Our collaborative approach is breaking the mould. Normally companies seek competitive advantage from innovation but we promote open source & transparency, openly discussing and advising other businesses including some big blue chip organisations & retailers as to how they can do what we do.

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?

Conscious beauty is becoming mainstream because companies are seeing the commercial opportunity in the market, however, true sustainability is still niche. Unfortunately most ‘conscious beauty pioneers’ are marketing themselves as more good than they actually are, which is a major problem for the future of our planet. Using single attribute certifications or product features to market ‘less bad’ products as ‘more good’ is creating consumer confusion about what is sustainable. A vegan product that is full of microplastics or a natural product in single use packaging that cannot be reused is just ‘less bad’!

Q. How do you envisage the future of the UK beauty industry as a whole in terms of sustainability and ethics?

We hope that the industry is going to come together and stop using sustainability and ethics as a marketing tool to drive commercial gain. We believe it is the beauty industries responsibility to collaborate, find ‘more good’ solutions, drive multi-attribute certification and communicate sustainability messages consistently to the masses. Packaging reuse models are critical in this and we have to find a way to for beauty companies to take their empty packaging back to reuse rather than recycle it.

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?

As a scientist factfulness is what is most important to me and everyday is a school day! B Corporation certification and Cradle 2 Cradle principles help us to sense check what we are doing and make sure that it is genuinely ‘more good’ rather than just ‘less bad’. We believe that putting the environment and people at the heart of every decision will mean that the commercials look after themselves, so as a founder owned business we can make the right choices rather than financially motivated ones.

Q. You’re more than just a brand founder, with skills and acclaim as a sustainability expert, chemist and herbal botanist in your proverbial toolbox. Do you feel that these skills give you an edge in the beauty industry?

The only skills that gives me an edge are curiosity, my desires for ‘more good’ and willingness to take action. It’s very easy to accept the status quo and make beauty products but slightly less bad and with a different claim and label. My passion is doing it differently. Striving for 100% good.

Q. What is one thing that gets your blood boiling about the beauty industry that you wish consumers knew about?

Microplastics are still legal and used in so many beauty brands and products, even those that seem natural! The problem is that consumers think that microplastics, the tiny plastic particles, are already illegal, but it was Microbeads (the big visible bits) that were banned. That’s why we are giving 1% of all sales to Plastic Soup Foundation to campaign to get a list of 500 types of microplastics banned. Check out www.beatthemicrobead.org

Q. Who is your personal and/or professional icon and why?

It has to be Anita Roddick. She pioneered the natural beauty revolution and we’ve come so far since then. I only hope that we emulate her in our drive for truly sustainable beauty.

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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