Emma Lewisham is now the world’s first carbon-positive beauty brand

From their 100% circular designed product range to collaboration in favour of competition, JONES caught up with Emma Lewisham to mark the milestone and uncover exactly how the brand is paving the way to a better beauty industry.

Since 2019, Emma Lewisham has been committed to finding carbon positive and circular solutions. Scientifically backed, her namesake beauty brand set a new standard for skincare with its range of luxurious, highly efficacious and 100% natural products. Today, Emma Lewisham sets another benchmark with the announcement that it’s the world’s first carbon-positive beauty brand and its new 100% circular designed product range. With the goal of bringing transformation to the beauty industry, today also marks the day that Emma Lewisham publicly releases its IP for its 100% circular designed product packaging and carbon positive model. Endorsed by iconic environmentalist, ethologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall, the brands move marks a powerful shift by demonstrating what it means to be a truly sustainable business.

The woman behind the world’s first carbon-positive beauty brand, Emma Lewisham

Emma Lewisham emerging as the world’s first carbon-positive beauty brand is an incredible moment in history. Can you share with us your journey to reach this milestone?

To jump back to the start of the Emma Lewisham story, when I was pregnant, I was told to stop using a product called hydroquinone as it was ‘toxic’ and questionable for people’s health and it put me on a path to natural skincare. I was used to using high tech, luxury skincare, and when I went looking for the natural alternative with the same science, I couldn’t find it. There was a compromise that existed in natural skincare, so I set out to create my own.

While looking at the beauty industry critically and from the knowledge I had in sustainability, I had a eureka moment where I could see how broken the current beauty model was. The model was linear, brands took from the Earth, made something (packaging – through fossil fuels), then consumers threw it away – take, make, waste. This model is responsible for 120 billion units of beauty packaging produced globally every single year AND why this number is alarming is that despite people thinking and being told beauty packaging is recycled, almost all of this ends up in landfills, oceans or is burnt due to the economics not being there to recycle it. This packaging is also the single largest contributor of carbon emissions in beauty.

So since our inception, I have been determined to create a circular model of beauty, where we reuse what already exists – keeping our resources in circulation, eliminating packaging waste and significantly reducing our carbon emissions.

Today we not only have the best products on the market, but a 100% circular designed beauty model, and products that are all certified carbon positive. We believe this is the future of beauty.”

Emma Lewisham

To become certified Carbon Positive, we worked with Toitū Envirocare, who are a world-leading independent environmental certification agency. Over 12 months we measured the carbon emissions emitted at each stage of our products’ lifecycle including growing, harvesting, transportation, product packaging and end-of-life. This allowed us to clearly see where we could reduce carbon emissions and enabled us to implement an extensive carbon reduction strategy as a first point of call. After reducing each product’s carbon footprint as much as possible, we then offset our remaining carbon emissions by 125%, to become certified Carbon Positive under Toitū’s Climate Positive programme.

This reduction strategy is a really important part of our certification as we don’t believe that jumping straight to offsetting is the answer. Once carbon is measured it can be simple to say, ‘okay, now we are just going to pay to offset this’, but we are committed to firstly reducing our emissions as much as possible prior to offsetting. Our goal is by 2023 to halve our products’ carbon footprints and cut them to virtually zero by 2035. We are committed to being in a position where we eliminate the need to offset altogether.

Launching just only two years ago, the Emma Lewisham brand has garnered incredible momentum. What do you believe has been the reason the brand has been able to connect so intimately with customers and their values?

I truly believe that it is because we have excellent products that work. We believe that if we can create products that perform equal to or better than the status quo while building them on a foundation of sustainability – these products have the ability to disrupt and truly transform an industry. 

If we look at electric cars, they’ve been around since the 1800s, but had a stigma of being slow, unreliable and ugly, and then Tesla came along with cars which are better than the status quo in every way, and changed the game – so a good product is critical, to bring about true transformation to an industry. 

It’s the same with beauty. If you think about why people use skincare – it’s because they want to see results. As much as people want to buy sustainable and natural skincare, it first and foremost has to work. I feel until now, this is where there has been a huge gap in the market. I know this first hand, as I created Emma Lewisham because I was looking for a natural, high performing product that was also sustainable, and found that it didn’t exist. So, I believe our success lies in that we aren’t asking people to compromise between their values and a product that actually works.  By providing people the option to choose a more sustainable option of equal quality, we are empowering them to change the world through their purchasing decisions. This is where true transformation happens. 

Your iconic purple packaging reaches beyond simply beautiful design, rather playing a pivotal role in mindful beauty consumption. Now completely circular, how important has packaging become to the Emma Lewisham brand?

From a sustainability perspective, packaging is one of the, if not the most important parts of our business. Our circular packaging has enabled us to reduce our carbon footprint by up to 74% and completely eliminate waste. However, beyond all the sustainability elements that underpin our packaging, how our packaging looks is also incredibly important. If eyes are the window to the soul, then packaging is the window to Emma Lewisham. It is the visual representation of everything that we stand for and it is our iconic purple packaging that people will picture whenever Emma Lewisham comes to mind. It is likely the first element of the brand they will be introduced to, and after making it part of their life, it is what will pop up in memories of their sacred self-care routine or sunbathing on their towel, saltwater crystallising having reapplied post-swim. 

“Emma Lewisham is demonstrating what it means to be a truly sustainable business. Through their carbon positive and circular business model, Emma Lewisham is creating environmental prosperity and showing their peers that this business model is not just possible but paramount if we are to make a meaningful difference.”

Dr Jane Goodall

With the hope of accelerating the movement towards a circular beauty industry, you chose to share your IP. In an industry that closely guards their beauty secrets, what encouraged you to share yours?

By sharing our Beauty Blueprint we hope that other brands can capitalise on our innovation and investment to accelerate their transition to a circular and carbon positive model. A huge barrier, especially for smaller brands is the significant cost of developing refillable technology. The decision to share our Beauty Blueprint is not one I made lightly. I am an entrepreneur at heart, but I am also a mother, daughter and friend – and this decision was bigger than me. Our Beauty Blueprint is undoubtedly one of our brand’s competitive advantages, but, to be honest, none of it matters unless other brands join us on our circular and carbon positive movement. We won’t be able to make a dent in the beauty industry’s waste problem alone, but if we collaborate instead of compete, we have the ability to create real change. 

The LCA centre has reported that as an industry, we could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 70% by moving to a circular model. And with climate scientists estimating that we have less than 10 years left to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis, we no longer have the luxury of time. I have a young daughter, and on a personal level, I just cannot imagine not doing everything in my power to ensure that I am creating a better future for her.  

Dr Jane Goodall by Michael Collopy

Your incredible announcement of carbon positivity has been endorsed by the inimitable Dr Jane Goodall. How was this incredible partnership formed?

I personally reached out to Jane, as I have always looked up to her and simply hoped that she would read about our work. To be honest – I wasn’t actually expecting a reply! So, having her endorsement for our circular and carbon positive path has been one of my proudest moments. I hope that it helps other businesses and consumers understand how paramount these foundational changes we are making are. 

What is your advice to consumers who wish to be more principled when it comes to sustainable beauty?

The best way to be more sustainable is to consider your choices before purchasing a product – firstly look for products that have the ability to be refilled (or composted) as these will always have the lowest environmental impact. Following this, look to brands who have take-back programmes in place for recycling empty packaging. At the moment, virtually no kerbside recycling systems actually recycle beauty packaging (even those labelled 100% recyclable), so unfortunately if you put your empty packaging in your home recycling bin it likely ends up in landfill. So, look out for brands who have take-back programmes and partnerships with specialised recyclers in place to – this is how you know they are actually walking the recycling talk. 

We know there are limited options at the moment, and we really encourage everyone to put pressure on their favourite beauty brands to offer refillable solutions – refills have to be the future of beauty if we are to reduce the beauty industry’s unprecedented amount of waste and carbon emissions. Remember, as customers, you have so much more power than you might think. 

I think when you see something that is broken and damaging, you have a choice to be a bystander and accept it, or you can choose to do something about it. Each and everyone of us has the potential to bring about change. Every individual can make a difference – I truly believe that. Think about the consequences of all the small choices you make every day – what do you eat?; where did it come from?; did it harm the environment?; was it cruel to animals?; is it cheap because someone in the supply chain paid the true cost?  Being a sustainable and conscious consumer is simply the accumulation of all these little choices. Choose to make ethical choices daily and teach people around you to do so too. We all have the ability to bring about change in the world. Don’t give up – we need you! 

In creating skincare that has a positive impact on our skin, our wellbeing and our planet, what is your process for conceptualizing and researching your products?

When it comes to our products, we spend a lot of time developing a really robust framework for how we assess the ingredients we use. We are focussed on having the most efficacious products on the market, so there’s a lot of time spent looking into clinical data on the all-natural ingredients we use. We also dig deeply into the supply chain to ensure there’s fair treatment of all people our products touch, and to understand if there’s any biodiversity effects of using the ingredients – we take ownership for all decisions we make and how they can impact the planet. To achieve all three – efficacy, natural, ethical – is a huge technical challenge, but it is also what makes what we are doing truly ground-breaking.  

What does the future look like for Emma Lewisham?

We are dedicated to leading an industry wide movement towards circular, carbon positive and transparent beauty. As we strongly believe that this business model is the only viable solution to the beauty industry meeting global climate targets. We will also continue to share our knowledge and innovations as they grow in hope that this can help other businesses speed up their transition. I also hope to see a beauty industry where we are solving these problems side by side, sharing resources and collaborating for the greater good. 

Finally, as a business, I want us to create lasting value – and to only grow while having a positive impact. Profits, to me, are only rewarding if they don’t come at an expense to people or the planet. I truly believe that we can thrive by giving more than we take. That we can profit from preventing problems, not creating them. 

“We genuinely want to see change. The problems we face are so much greater than the success of one business or brand, and if we are going to solve them, collaboration is key. We must tear down the barriers of competition once and for all – unifying around a greater vision where future generations may thrive. This has to be the future of beauty.”

Emma Lewisham