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Driving necessary change: Emma Lewisham shares sustainable IP with beauty brands across the globe

In a world-first for a beauty brand, Emma Lewisham proudly announces today its carbon positive product range and 100 percent circular designed business model. 

Since launching, New Zealand’s leading luxury beauty brand has made waves in the industry due to its new way of thinking. The seeds of Emma Lewisham’s eponymous brand were sown when she uncovered a product she had been using for her own personal skin concern (hyperpigmentation) contained the ingredient ‘hydroquinone’ that, although effective, was questionable for people’s health and banned in non-prescriptive products in many countries.

After three years, and 52 iterations, Emma Lewisham entered the market in 2019 with the cult-status Skin Reset for hyperpigmentation and skin brightening, which is natural, and scientifically proven to outperform the most recognised vitamin C and brightening products on the market.

Three years later, Emma Lewisham proudly rivals the most recognised luxury brands in the world while being a global leader towards a circular and carbon positive beauty model. Lewisham continues to be on a mission to make a meaningful, lasting difference in the beauty industry through innovative thinking, natural, science-backed products and being at the forefront of the circular and carbon positive beauty movement.

“I guess when you do see something that isn’t working and it’s broken, you choose to be either a bystander or do something about it. And I’m the sort of person that takes on those challenges and wanted to do something about it,” says Lewisham.

Today, Emma Lewisham will publicly release its IP for its 100 percent circular designed product packaging and carbon positive model, enabling small and large competitors alike to capitalise from Emma Lewisham’s investment and to start making widespread change within the beauty industry.

The beauty industry currently produces 120 billion units of waste every year, with the majority of this being non-recycled; this has the largest impact on the industry’s carbon emissions. Emma Lewisham’s circular, carbon positive business model is the only viable solution to the beauty industry meeting global climate targets.

“We have less than 10 years to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and we very much see it that if we keep trying to do things alone, we’re never going to make it on time,” says Lewisham.

“By us sharing our blueprint, it means we can accelerate the industry’s move to a circular and regenerative model, which will bring about significant change and hopefully transform the world.”

Validating this incredible achievement, iconic environmentalist, ethologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall, has sent a letter of endorsement to the brand.

“Emma Lewisham is demonstrating what it means to be a truly sustainable business,” says Dr Goodall.

“Through their carbon positive and circular business model, the brand 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.”

Carbon Positive at Product Level

Lewisham and her team spent 12 months working with world leading independent environmental certification agency, Toitū Envirocare, to measure the carbon emissions emitted at each stage of its product’s lifecycle and have the brand independently verified as carbon positive at a product level.

The brand sought to measure its emissions throughout its entire supply chain, including the harvesting and production of raw ingredients used, transportation, product packaging and end-of-life for each product in order to put reduction plans in place before positively offsetting what could not be reduced. Aligning with the urgent objective of the United Nations 2015 Paris Agreement of halving CO₂ emissions by 2030 and reaching net-zero by 2050, when it came to offsetting, Emma Lewisham was clear that it did not just want to neutralise its impact; it wanted to create a positive one as the future of sustainability lies in regeneration.

The company decided to offset its remaining emissions by an additional 25 percent to become the world’s first beauty brand to be verified carbon positive at a product level.

Emma Lewisham

Emma is also clear that offsetting should be the final port of call; reduction should be the priority, saying:

“It’s not just about measuring and then offsetting our impact. We are focused on reducing our carbon footprint to the lowest number possible and implementing strategies, such as moving to a circular business model to illustrate this is more than just offsetting for us. We are doing the work. We’d love to be in a position where we eliminate the need to offset altogether.”

Emma Lewisham has allocated 75 percent of its carbon offset credits to regenerating New Zealand’s Puhoi Forest Reserves, 12.5 percent to supporting Gyapa’s Cook Stoves technology in Ghana and 12.5 percent to Malya’s Wind Power Project in India.

All of Emma Lewisham’s products are manufactured using 100 percent renewable energy. The detailed research, audited by Toitū Envirocare, also established that Emma Lewisham’s refillable product vessels have up to a 74 percent smaller carbon footprint than that of the original packaging. 

While many businesses globally have measured their Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF), very few have dedicated the time and resources to measuring the Product Carbon Footprint (CPF).

Circular Designed Beauty

All of Emma Lewisham’s products are refillable and 100 percent designed to fit within a circular system, the pinnacle of sustainable achievement. “Circular designed” means designing out waste, keeping materials in use through reuse, repair and recycling, and regenerating the environment. It is no longer acceptable for brands to claim recyclability and rely on differentiating local curbside recycling programmes.

Packaging is the beauty industry’s number one contributor to carbon emissions, and by moving to a circular model, beauty brands could lower their carbon emissions by 70 percent. Emma Lewisham has invested heavily into the research and development of innovative packaging, machinery and business processes that allow each product to be refilled and to ensure packaging end of life is kept in circulation and diverted from landfill.

“It’s really hard when you take a path that’s not established and there was no blueprint for us. So it was sort of reimagining everything in beauty packaging,” says Lewisham.

“This is a new model of beauty. It has required strenuous investments in both time and capital; however, there was no other option for us. We believe businesses are uniquely placed to drive change and possess the power to use their resources for the good.”

Emma stresses the dire need for the industry to prioritise refills over recycling, saying “At the moment, beauty brands sell a product and then they forget about it, it’s someone else’s problem. We don’t, we go, ‘Okay, it’s still our problem to take that material back and ensure that it’s reused.’ “

Emma is also passionate about educating brands and customers on the unaddressed reality of recycling – that almost no ‘recyclable’ beauty packaging is actually being recycled. For Emma Lewisham, recyclability is defined not by the potential but by what actually happens in practice.

“What people don’t know is that virtually no curbside recycling systems actually recycle beauty packaging. Although products might ‘technically’ be recyclable, the economics just don’t stack up – so to landfill it goes.”

“If we are to ensure packaging is recycled, we (brands) must take ownership of our materials and work with our customers to take back all packaging globally to be recycled through specialised recycling partners who ensure this happens. Labelling a beauty product ‘100 percent recyclable’ without a take back programme and reputable recycling partner in place – should be considered an irresponsible business practice.”

Sharing the Blueprint

Although the first to adopt a circular and carbon positive business model in beauty, Emma Lewisham doesn’t want to be the last. With the hope of accelerating the movement towards a circular beauty industry, Emma Lewisham has shared all intellectual property surrounding the achievement of a circular and carbon positive model with beauty brands around the world on emmalewisham.com/beauty-blueprint.

The blueprint includes refill designs, sterilising processes, recycling and returns processes, packaging supplier connections, take back procedures and carbon calculation guides. From today, all brands have access to Emma Lewisham’s extensive research, processes and innovations.

“I admire Emma Lewisham’s passion for creating lasting change. Sharing their sustainability IP industry-wide is a powerful step, and I urge all brands to follow their lead. When someone reaches out with a helping hand, I always hope that it can be taken. This is when true change begins – when we work together,” says Dr Goodall.

“Emma Lewisham may be setting a new benchmark in beauty, but they are also setting a benchmark for how all industries should be operating – circular, waste-free and carbon positive. I wholeheartedly endorse Emma Lewisham’s Beauty Circle and all the systems they have put in place as a business striving to make the world a better place.”

Lewisham says since her teenager years, Dr Goodall has always been someone that she has looked up to and admired. She says receiving an endorsement from Goodall is truly a dream come true.

“For me, having her read about the work that we have done would have been an honour, and for her to try Emma Lewisham product. It is incredible that she now uses Emma Lewisham and has come back with her endorsement.”

Circular Business

For a business to truly be sustainable, it has to be circular. This means designing out waste and pollution, keeping the materials used in circulation, and regenerating the ecosystems that the business operates in. And all of this is to be powered using renewable energy.

Emma Lewisham has designed its products so that all of them come as refillable, meaning customers can buy an original product and top up without the need to rebuy more packaging.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring about a truly beautiful beauty industry, which would be circular, regenerative, and transparent. If we can play even a small role in achieving that, that’s what it’s about for us,” say Lewisham.

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