More than skin deep: meet the person behind the UK’s first B Corp skin care brand
Find out how life’s challenges have directly impacted one CEO’s approach to business and embedded a commitment to standing up for LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
For Boris Zatezic, life’s challenges have directly impacted his approach to growing a skincare business — for good! With a passion for natural remedies, animal welfare and human rights, Boris ensures MuLondon’s award-winning skincare range is designed with considerations of people, communities and the planet at its heart. We caught up with Boris to find out how his own battles with self-confidence with his appearance and sexuality have inspired him to create a positive impact through business. And we find out about his work on RuPaul’s Drag Race!
Hi Boris, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
Boris: I have always believed in the power of nature. When I was growing up, my mother would often talk to me about medicinal plants, showing me there was a natural remedy for virtually everything. In my early 20s, I developed eczema and psoriasis which seriously affected my appearance and my self-confidence. After trying everything, I went back to my roots and learned as much as I could about natural skin care, making my own lotions based on the recipes I had learned in childhood. After successfully testing these formulas on myself and friends, I decided to create my own range of skincare products. MuLondon was born!
Now, 12 years later, what’s driving you to use business as a force for good?
Boris: I take a holistic approach to doing business and using it as a force for good. I became a vegetarian at a young age and then later vegan, and I feel very strongly that we shouldn’t abuse animals for things we can make without them. This is why our range is certified cruelty-free by The Leaping Bunny and registered vegan by The Vegan Society. We’re also certified organic by The Soil Association and we’re a member of 1% For The Planet. I first heard about B Corp about 6 years ago and although the certification process was tough, for me it was a real marker of reliability!
On top of your certifications, we know you’ve joined forces with Stonewall. What does this partnership mean to you?
Boris: Up until a couple of years ago, I hadn’t fully realised the importance and impact of coming out and celebrating gay pride. As a gay person, you’re conditioned to hide, and this is something that I internalised for many years. Reading Brené Brown’s work on shame really helped to encourage a change in my approach, as I realised how damaging it can be to harbour secrets. Pride is a way to heal shame, and that’s why we need to celebrate it. A lot of people are afraid to come out, and I don’t want anyone to experience the same challenges I did. I’m proud to stand up and act as a role model for people who don’t feel they fit the traditional gender norms.
As a gay man, it’s important for me to stand up for equality for LGBTQ+ people everywhere. Partnering with Stonewall is key to supporting the societal changes I’m passionate about, which sit so close to my personal experiences. In addition to financial support, we donate products to Stonewall’s annual Equality Dinner and support their campaigns on social media.
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!
What have been some of your biggest challenges to date?
Boris: Brexit has posed a huge challenge to us, as it became very difficult to ship to the EU overnight. As a small business, we were unable to navigate VAT requirements for 25+ separate countries and after suffering huge export fees and handling charges, we had to stop shipping to the EU (where 75% of our customers are located). This remains a pressing issue, but in the meantime I’m focusing on expanding our customer base in places like Canada and South Korea.
We spotted you on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Can you tell us about the experience and the impact of this coverage?
Boris: It was a dream come true for MuLondon to be featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race! We wanted to connect with a show that celebrates acceptance and diversity, and is breaking new ground in mainstream media. It’s also a really fun show to watch and is a personal favourite of mine. We’ve had some amazing feedback from people I admire, and we’ve showcased our products and our certifications to audiences worldwide. It’s amazing that we still get enquiries from people that are catching up on earlier seasons.
B Corps are the building blocks of a new system, creating a solid foundation of positive impact and proving that the model of stakeholder governance works for all of us. If you’ve got a story you’d like us to share about how you’re using business as a force for good, email us at: email@example.com