4 mistakes beauty brands make when talking about sustainability.

It’s no secret that consumers care more about sustainability than ever.

Millennials and particularly Gen Z shoppers use their dollars like their vote: supporting brands they feel align with their values and passions.

It’s great news for the planet. For brands? Well, that depends on what you’re doing.

green flags

The reality of running a commercially viable business is that sustainable and eco-friendly options can often be trickier and more expensive to introduce. And we get that no-one (or no brand) is truly perfect.

But wherever you are on your sustainability journey, there’s a right way to approach it. And that’s how you talk about it. 

Here are the 4 most common mistakes beauty brands make when it comes to speaking green.


1. Overpromising.

You’ve got great intentions. We love that. But there’s nothing more frustrating than a brand overpromising… and under delivering. 

With educated customers and curious questions, if what you’re saying doesn’t match what you’re doing, someone’s going to connect the dots. And while consumers may eventually forgive – they won’t forget. 

So if you say all your packaging is 100% recyclable when you have a non-recyclable outer lid, or that your product is easily biodegradable but actually requires industrial equipment to do so… well, you can see how it could play out.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to fit the finer details on a tiny bottle. But there’s no reason key information shouldn’t be available in your FAQs or on your website.

It’s much better to be upfront about where you are currently and be open about the sustainability goals you’re working towards in the future. To start small and do what you can do, rather than claim big and have to clarify or retract later on. Sure, it might not be enough right now for the truly dedicated eco-consumer, but you’ll have the trust and respect of the rest of your customers – who are likely on a similar journey towards living more sustainably. 

See: Gelato Messina. Okay, they’re not skincare but their ice cream offerings are scoops of beauty. They talk about packaging and their sustainability goals in an open and engaging way – and it pays off.


2. Greenwashing

This is one dupe beauty lovers aren’t fans of. 

Whether it’s overtly eco-friendly looking packaging and branding without the concrete actions to back it up, or very careful use of actually meaningless words like ‘green’, ‘earth-friendly’, or ‘natural’, consumers have a savvy eye to see through the masquerade. 

A number of common words or phrases in the sustainability chat are just marketing jargon with open definition. While tempting to use, such contentious buzzwords can actually work against building trust in your brand for that very reason.

Again; honesty really is the best policy. 

That doesn’t mean you have to ditch them completely. But pair them with transparent communication, justify which definitions or conditions you believe they mean, or reference the definitions defined by other organisations or bodies, such as Sephora’s ‘Clean’ standards, so you’re open about exactly what you’re claiming. 


3. Outrage.

Anger at a problem or injustice is good. Passion is even better. But outrage without action? Well, it just leaves everyone feeling sad and empty. 

If you’re a genuinely sustainable brand, it can be frustrating seeing your competitors using or hiding behind any of the above. Acknowledge it, sure, but in a positive way. Focus on educating the consumer and heroing what your brand does and why it’s good, rather than channelling all your energy on name-calling and shouting about the sins of other brands.

It’s the best way to be a leader in making the industry more sustainable.


4. Thinking too big.

If you can, do. But don’t forget that sustainability is as much about people and community as it is the big wide world. 

Keep an eye on closer to home, too. Are you growing and training your teams in a sustainable way? Are you ensuring the sustainability and traceability of your supply chain? Is the value of sustainability reflected in the practices of your HQ or office? 

Most importantly, if a customer asked about any of these, do you have that information on hand and can you confidently talk about it? What about your customer service reps or your social media coordinators?

As it becomes an expectation rather than an added extra, putting your energy into just appearing to be sustainable is not enough.

Do what you can, openly and honestly, while you work up to what you wish you could.


Greenwashing? Not a sustainable strategy.

Engaging W&B to build a brand, TOV, or content strategy that talks about sustainability right? Very attainable.

Hit us up [here].