Beauty that Gives Back: from charity to circular economy

Collaboration, not competition, is at the forefront of Beauty Kitchen’s approach to sustainability

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Best for the World™ B Corp Beauty Kitchen is going above and beyond to trailblaze a movement towards a circular economy within the personal care industry and beyond. We spoke to Jo-Anne Chidley, Founder, to explore the innovations, collaborations and charitable partnerships driving community impact and contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of others. We’re spotlighting UK BFTW B Corps across July and August. These businesses are recognised for a score in the top 5% of one or more of the 5 sections of the B Impact Assessment, showing that competing not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world, is a winning strategy!

Hi Jo! Can you tell us about your ‘Beauty that Gives Back’ ethos and what impact this has on the wider community?

This approach is all about working collaboratively with key industry players to effect global change. We set up Beauty Kitchen to act as a guinea pig of the circular economy because there are only a handful of organisations operating in this space — and it’s also hard! That’s why we provide open source, free and pro-bono work that’s designed to show linear, profit-driven business that their impact can be profit, but also people and planet. We work through pain points and openly share our learnings with other personal care brands, using our experience to minimise the risk of the approach for them.

What is your Return / Refill / Repeat programme?

In the UK over 95% of beauty packaging is thrown away after just one use, and we’re on a mission to change that. Return / Refill / Repeat is a reusable packaging programme that both consumers and businesses can access. We’ve pioneered a process whereby customers can return empties for us to wash and re-use, which is better than recycling! We’ve rolled out this programme across some major retailers (such as Asda and Boots).

We’ve done a life cycle assessment through an independent consultancy which has verified the impact of this approach. For instance, we know that our glass packaging only needs to be returned once to be better than single-use plastic. We recently hit a special milestone of saving over 4 million single plastic bottles from going to landfill through the programme and we have our Beauty Kitchen community to thank for that!

Weve got a standing commitment to donate 2% of our sales to charity partners, and last year we gave over £55,000.

We know you do a lot of work supporting charities in your wider community. Can you tell us more about your approach?

In my opinion, donating money and products is the easy part! I’m always keen to work with charities where we can help in more than a purely financial way. I do pro bono work and sit on committees for the Plastic Soup Foundation to aid their research into plastic pollution and work to drive policy change. I’m also working behind the scenes with The Seahorse Trust UK to help them become carbon positive, and support their research into the health of British seahorses. I’m keen to help bridge the gap between global issues and local communities, which is why we work with In Kind Direct. They have the connections and expertise to be able to distribute our product donations where they’ll have the most impact.

Bigger charities like the Plastic Soup Foundation create impact reports which help us to understand their outcomes on a global scale. With smaller ones, we tend to provide support for specific projects and keep track of our impact on a project-level. We also work with Uganda-based charity partners on a much more personal level, where we know the individuals involved and keep the dialogue open to foster local connections.

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You recently gained an extra 50 points when you recertified back in June, which is an impressive leap! Can you tell us a bit more about how you’ve grown and improved at the same time?

Although we have grown, our mission, vision and strategy has never changed. When we first certified, the main gap was in the Environment section of the BIA — as a start-up, we didn’t have many reporting or measurement systems in place. In the intervening 3 years, we used the BIA and Cradle to Cradle frameworks to give us direction on where we could improve. We saw this process as a core part of new product development and future-proofing.

I’m the main custodian of B Corp — in a small business, sometimes it just has to be you! When going through recertification, I gave each section of the BIA to a couple of team members to encourage dialogue, to hold a mirror up to myself and challenge my own perceptions of where we were at. This organic process really helped us to identify areas for improvement, and I generally think that the more people involved the better.

We want to be pioneers of change within the beauty industry and beyond in other consumer goods categories by bringing our reusable packaging to everyday products.

A small handful of huge corporations are responsible for the 280 billion pieces of plastic generated by the personal care industry each year, and if our Return•Refill•Repeat initiative can help to change just a small percentage of that, the impact would be huge. We’re already working with some of these organisations (such as Unilever), and will continue to demonstrate that, for us, sustainability is about collaboration, rather than competitive advantage.

The entire Beauty Kitchen team couldn’t be more excited to celebrate and shout about being a Best for the World B Corp. We are telling anyone and everyone with pride from our families to our retail partners to our local council!

If you are a B Corp, get in touch with Jo on the B Hive with any questions and share any tips or experience you have on supporting your community.

If you aren’t yet a B Corp, get started on the B Impact Assessment today and start measuring what matters most! Use this tool to assess your impact on your workers, community, environment and customers.

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