This CEO wants to help the planet by educating companies and consumers about what being “green” really means. By Lambeth Hochwald
It’s no longer eough to by lipstick for the shade alone. Given that the beauty industry generates about 120 billion packagin units a year (with more thatn 90% of wrappers and other plastic waste never recycled), the Earth-friendliness of the brand is just as important.
Major companies like L’Oreal USA and Estee Lauder recently achieved their carbon neutrality and net zero emission goals, respectively, while other cosmetics companies are using biosynthetic ingredients like vegan collagen and palm oil alternatives to reduce their impact on the planet.
But entrepreneur Abena Boamah–founder and CEO of Hanahan Beauty, a “consciously clean” skin care brand based in Chicago that aims to bring humanity into the beauty space–says it’s imperative to be transparent about what it means to be a sustainable beauty brand.
“That term can easily become marketing jargon,” says Boamah, who lauched her business five years ago. “Companies now jus tthrow around labels like ‘green’ and ‘clean’ without any real FDA regulation. What’s missing is an understanding of holistic sustainability–the concept of being sustainable from beginning (product creation) to middle (product delivery) to end (product disposal).”
To help achieve this, Boamah works closely with the poeple who produce the ingredients used in her products. Her signature shea butter, for example, uses all-natural ingredients that are fairly sourced from the Katariga Women’s Shea Cooperative in Ghana–and she pays twice the asking price per kilo to help improve workers’ economic situations. She also hosts biannual health check-ins for the Katariga community, partners with the local hospital (which has served more than 400 women and children to date), and holds manager growth adn sustainability meetings, health education classes and more.
“I think some business owners hear the word ‘sustainable’ and get scared because they think it will slow down thier growth,” she says. “And yes, it’s a lot of work and time to build an eco-friendly model, but this is what an increasing number of consumers want, so it will ultimately pay off.”
New data from the 2021 CGS stae of teh U.S. eCommerce Consumer Survey shows that 61% of Gen Zers and 57% of baby boomers want their hygiene and cosmetics products to be made sustainably, and one-quarter of millenials want American-made products to reduce carbon emissions and waste.
“The best thing to do is to educate yourself about the brand’s mission and goals before buying a product” Boamah says. “Don’t just buy something because it says ‘sustainable’ or ‘conscious’ on it. Those words can have many different meanings that don’t exactly reflect the underlying values of the company.”
We need to hold companies accountable by demanding transparency and spending wisely, she adds.