💥 #2 - Impact Initiative: Evolve Beauty’s already Plastic Negative, now it’s working to be regenerative. 

Featuring Laura Rudoe, Founder and CEO.

This feature is created in partnership with ENSIGHT. 

Evolve Beauty are Plastic Negative, removing twice as much plastic from the environment as they purchase. They don’t stop there; their aim is to become a truly regenerative company - having a positive, restorative impact on the planet, your body and your mind. They’re working towards this through 5 impact pillars:

  1. Zero Carbon - Become carbon neutral and eventually climate positive.

  2. Zero Waste - Reduce all of our waste to zero and become circular as a business

  3. Clean Chemistry - Keep our natural environment and our customers healthy with zero harmful chemicals or materials.

  4. Kind to All - Respect, be kind and give back to both animals and people as we do business.

  5. Protecting the Biodiversity - Champion the preservation of forests and wildlife through sourcing of sustainable and organic raw materials.

For 11 years, they’ve been paving the way for other consumer goods brands to follow in their footprints. We spoke to Laura Rudoe, the Founder and CEO of Evolve Beauty. 

It’s about questioning the way suppliers do things, what their greenest options are and what their sustainability policies are. The questions all add up and compound to creating momentum for them to address sustainability more seriously. We get a pull from end consumers to go green, we need to transfer that to suppliers as business owners too. 

👉 When did you start delving into more sustainable practices as a business? 

It actually all started before I even founded Evolve. I went to Harvard Business School in 2003 and it drove me crazy that people didn't use recycled material. Across campus, single-use plastics were everywhere. As a student, I advocated for greener materials to be used at the university. I’m now happy to see that they have a huge green initiative!

👉 What steps have you taken to lighten your environmental footprint? 

We’ve done so many things as a brand and it’s been an ongoing journey since the business was founded 11 years ago. We started by taking small steps and more recently took larger steps to become more sustainable. 

It all started with using recycled packaging material. Our next focus was on ingredients, where we looked at certifying our cosmetics. In 2020, we measured and offset our carbon footprint, went plastic negative and published our first impact report!

To break this down, one of the first things I did with my business in terms of sustainability was to look at our packaging. Back in 2009, we were one of the first companies to use recycled plastic in certain types of packaging. For example, many airless pumps back then weren’t made of recycled material and they were mixed materials making it hard to recycle them - so we made our airless pump from recycled PP which is made from recycled milk bottles. Plus we made sure that it was always super clear on the labelling how to recycle our packaging after use. One of our key principles is to always be transparent and to help people understand how your product impacts the planet.

Our sustainability initiatives in-house landed us two awards because of our innovative packaging including the Star Pack Award. It’s super key to look at your materials today and set things up properly as a founder! Eventually though, as more research was done, we realised that recycled plastic still had issues and we have shifted towards using glass where possible, although we do use 100% recycled PCR for our shower products where breakages are an issue.  

👉 How did you measure your carbon footprint? 

We gathered data in a short time frame last year, as we wanted to publish something at the start of 2021. However, given the time constraints, we managed to footprint quite a lot. This included our operations, team commutes, our packaging and also our workspace - covering Scope 1 and 2. The great thing about foot-printing our packaging was that we have one supplier that provides the bulk of the material and it was relatively easy to collect information from them. 

Did you include aspects of Scope 3, like your ingredients?

We didn’t include our ingredients within the measurement and this is our next big challenge for 2021. The main difficulties I think we’ll encounter with measuring this section of our supply chain is from needing to gather data from over 30 different suppliers who will, in turn, also need to collect data themselves. There are multiple supply chain steps from farmer to ingredient supplier, so it’s a lot harder to get accurate and speedy data. 

💥 ENSIGHT’s INSIGHT: Evolve have offset 110% of the emissions measured so far with Earthly by supporting their BAM REDD+ Brazil Nut Concessions project in the Peruvian Amazon. This project aims to reduce deforestation in over 300,000 hectares. 

Evolve's 2020 Sustainability Report

👉 How have you gone Plastic Negative as a brand? 

To go Plastic Negative we first had to collect data on the amount of plastic we produced. This was relatively easy to gather as this sort of data lay within our internal computer systems. To understand exactly how much plastic we were purchasing, we weighed our packaging to get exact weights. The focus here was on units we purchased rather than sold as you don’t often sell everything you order. All in all, it was a relatively easy calculation exercise we did in-house. 

From there, we partnered with rePurpose Global on a project in India that removes multi-laminate plastic films polluting the environment. We made the decision to remove twice as much plastic as we produced, and this included our recyclable plastics. The reason behind this was that recyclable plastics aren’t always recycled properly and if recycled, are often downgraded into lower quality products! Roughly, it costs three times more to plastic offset than to carbon offset - for the carbon and plastic we have measured so far. 

💥 ENSIGHT’S INSIGHT: The project provides 150 waste workers and family members with additional income, it diverts 10,680kg of plastic waste from oceans and landfill and 30kg of CO2e emissions have been avoided as a result of the programme.

👉 Once you felt satisfied with the sustainability of the packaging and ingredients, what did you next focus on next? 

Our next focus was on being kind to all. The main focus here was to be kind to animals and that’s when we decided to get a cruelty free certification

A little later, in about 2015, we also made a big switch with our workspace. We went from renting out a studio to finally owning a place of our own to manufacture our products. This meant we finally had a greater say in the way things ran. This helped us move to energy efficient lighting and also switch to a renewable energy supplier for our electricity. We were also more in control of our manufacturing and could explore greener options such as using paper tape for our shipping packages. 

👉 As a small business, how can you influence suppliers to ‘go green’? 

I think the key here is to keep asking questions e.g "do you have {insert green technology}...if you don’t then let us know when you do, thanks”. It’s about questioning the way suppliers do things, what their greenest options are and what their sustainability policies are. The questions all add up and compound to creating momentum for them to address sustainability more seriously. 

We get a pull from end consumers to go green, we need to transfer that to suppliers as business owners too. 

Another point of influence is asking for specific data. This point is particularly challenging as some suppliers don’t have the information you’re looking for or don’t have the time. Data collection was easiest when we were asking it for a bigger certification body, like COSMOS (Cosmetic Organic and Natural Standard). I really hope in the future, certifications like COSMOS will include mandatory carbon accounting. The only problem with these large organisations is they have a lot of stakeholders and change is slow. They’ve taken many years to agree on a standard so changing things over night is not feasible and even detrimental to the certification itself.

I do think though that the next big thing will be to really delve into supply chains and account for the impact our Scope 3 emissions have on the planet. We need to delve deeper into the products we produce and ultimately our suppliers will need to collaborate with us on this. 

💥 ENSIGHT’s INSIGHT: Seek suppliers who are willing to try new ways of working, and don’t be afraid to be their pilot. Many suppliers have better data collection and supply chain accounting in their pipeline. 

👉 Do you have any advice on what founders should consider when it comes to impact? 

Yes, figure out what you want to have an impact on. As a founder, you have limited resources and your main focus early on should be how to become financially sustainable as a business. My advice would be to put certifications and measurements to one side until you’re financially more secure. These things are expensive. However there are lots of free resources available for you to educate yourself and to make product design choices early on. 

What resources or partners have been particularly helpful to you?

Early on, I used WRAP to get access to experts on our packaging. There, I was able to get free advice about the greenest options in terms of packaging for my brand. There is so much out there you can read to get clued up on making greener choices as a business. The key is to educate yourself and become your own source of knowledge; like a ‘super expert’ on everything. A book I was advised to read was Cradle to Cradle. It led me to understand more on materials, durability and how much we really throw away. 

For our organic beauty product certification we worked with Ecocert, and that was a great company to work with as we managed to get certification for our organic ingredients with limited resources. They’ve already certified a bunch of raw materials so it limited the amount of checking we needed to do in order to make sure our specific ingredients complied to their standard. 

What would your advice be to brands who wish to follow in your footsteps? 

Have a clear purpose from the beginning and stick to it.

Define your mission and your vision and then you will align your customers and your team around this goal. 

👉 Have you seen any direct financial returns on your investments to become more sustainable?

I am not sure if the returns from our investment in sustainability will be in direct financial terms. I see it more from a brand and a purpose perspective and that is still very valuable both in terms of aligning us with what our customers are looking for, as well as inspiring and attracting a high performance team. 

👉 Anywhere you could have saved time or money?

So far I feel really happy with the investment we have made and I found our first impact report efficient and enjoyable to create. I am not sure if it could have been done more efficiently or cheaply!

👉 Finally… What’s next? How will you continue to lower your environmental footprint?

We have a couple of goals for the next year:

  • We aim to map, reduce and offset the emissions of the rest of our supply chain by the end of this year, which involves mapping more than 180 ingredients!

  • We plan to switch from wood paper to grass paper cartons later this year, which will save 75% of CO2 emissions.

  • Continue to source more packaging and ingredients locally to reduce shipping emissions.

💥 Impact Resources 💥

  1. WRAP is a great hub for information on waste management. 

  2. If you have unavoidable plastic waste from your products, you can always partner up with organisations like Repurpose Global as you try and figure out better alternatives!

  3. The cruelty free certification we obtained is Leaping Bunny Certified.  

  4. Cradle to Cradle can be ordered here

  5. We carbon offset with Earthly (£4.99/tonne of CO2 offset). 

What’s Next?

This feature is created in partnership with ENSIGHT.