Emma Lewisham is a skincare brand that has become something of a phenomenon in its two years in existence.
Created in Auckland by Lewisham herself, its high-performance skin products created with some of the best natural ingredients available, have become well known for delivering on their promises, as well as transparency on how they are created.
Going further than just great products, the brand has always made clear its intentions to be a leading skincare brand worldwide, while aiming for lofty, self-selected goals to create as little impact as possible on the earth, it’s environment and its inhabitants.
That has meant committing early on to carefully selecting suppliers and ingredients, finding ways to ensure packaging is easily recyclable and then developing refillable products in a bid to tackle the industry’s significant waste and pollution contributions.
Now, while it is continually pushing forward with ways to meet and better standards, the brand has announced it had claimed the status of the world’s first carbon positive beauty brand, with the world’s first 100% circular-designed product range.
Lewisham spent 12 months working with an 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.
This means the organisation is responsible for offsetting more greenhouse gases, also know as carbon, than it emits. All of Emma Lewisham’s products are refillable and are designed to fit within a circular system.
“’Circular designed’ means designing out waste, keeping materials in use through reuse, repair and recycling, and regenerating the environment,” explains Lewisham. “It is no longer acceptable for brands to claim recyclability and rely on differentiating local curbside recycling programs. 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%,” says Lewisham.
To make the ‘world first’ claim, Lewisham says they looked at a number of avenues.
“We’ve done an extensive search globally and asked Toitū who have access to the certification bodies globally and they have confirmed there isn’t another beauty brand registered climate positive or carbon positive at a product level. “
Now Lewisham and her brand are calling on other beauty companies – small start ups and the behemoths of the industry alike – to rise to the challenge and do the same. But while the brand has spent much of the past 18 months understanding and developing processes and to achieve this, Lewisham herself has decided to reveal how she did it, so others can get there faster.
Today she has revealed what she calls her brand’s ‘beauty blueprint’ on her website, gifting all the intellectual property behind the brand’s achievements to anyone interested. The blueprint includes refill designs, sterilising processes, recycling and returns processes, packaging supplier connections, take back procedures and carbon calculation guides.
“There was no roadmap to follow in becoming a circular-designed luxury skincare brand,” Lewisham says.
“We have had to reimagine our business processes, technology and our product packaging. 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.”
Lewisham stresses the need for the industry to prioritise refills over recycling, given that almost no current curbside recycling systems are able to effectively recycle beauty packaging.
“The industry seems to have become so focused on recycling. However, a solution that has a significantly lighter environmental impact – is to reuse – in our case, refill. There must be investment industry-wide into refillable models and reuse of material – recycling should be the final port of call.”
Environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall has given her endorsement to Emma Lewisham and her brand for its efforts, her first for a beauty brand and also for a New Zealand brand. Image (left): Michael Collopy
Regarding the climate positive status, Lewisham agrees terms currently used by the industry can be confusing.
“Unfortunately, there is no globally agreed terminology relating to an organisation offsetting its emissions, also known as a carbon footprint, by more than 100%. The three most commonly used terms are ‘carbon positive’, ‘carbon negative’ and ‘climate positive’.
“Essentially, they all mean the same thing – an organisation is responsible for offsetting more greenhouse gases , also known as carbon, than it emits. However, there is also no agreed-upon amount above 100% it needs to be to make these claims. For example, there are organisations outside of the beauty industry that offset their emissions by 200% and others like us who offset by 125%. Both can claim they are ‘carbon positive’, ‘carbon negative, or ‘climate positive’. It’s important to note that offsetting emissions is not just the amount that an organisation offsets by, the quality of the offset projects they are supporting is critical too. You cannot be climate positive without being carbon positive essentially. After doing our research into the terms used in the beauty industry and among other industries, we have decided at Emma Lewisham to use the term carbon positive.”
Lewisham has allocated 75% of its carbon offset credits to regenerating New Zealand’s Puhoi Forest Reserves, 12.5% to support Gyapa’s Cook Stoves technology in Ghana and 12.5% to Malya’s Wind Power Project in India.
Underlining the brand’s achievements, renowned environmentalist, ethologist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall, has given her endorsement to the brand for its efforts.
“New Zealand beauty brand, 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.”
“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.”
Recognising the brand still has challenges to overcome, Emma Lewisham has set out future goals in an updated sustainability report.