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In conversation with Emma Lewisham: what her recent announcement means for the future of beauty

3 October 2021

As the namesake founder of the world’s first carbon positive and 100% circular-designed beauty brand, we caught up with Emma Lewisham for her take on this impressive feat.

Emma Lewisham

Emma Lewisham is now the world’s first carbon positive and 100% circular-designed beauty brand, and with this announcement comes a bold move—the brand is sharing its sustainability blueprint with the wider industry. 

And if that wasn’t all, the brand is also the first in the beauty industry (and from Aotearoa) to be endorsed in writing by iconic environmentalist Dr. Jane Goodall. 

So, what does this really mean for the future of beauty, and what do we as consumers need to know? We got up close and personal with founder Emma Lewisham to find out more—as well as the ins and outs of her skincare routine and what inspires her. 

What were the challenges faced in achieving a carbon positive and circular-designed status? 

The biggest challenge was understanding every aspect of our supply chain in order to gain the complete transparency needed to measure our carbon emissions. This means knowing where each of our 150 ingredients are grown, harvested, transported, stored, packaged, and so on. While this may seem like reasonable information to have on hand, it is incredibly rare that a beauty brand would have this information. The beauty industry has typically operated with a veil of secrecy for a very long time, so it was incredibly difficult to achieve this transparency. 

However, this step was crucial, being the foundational step in determining our carbon emissions. Reducing our carbon emissions must be our primary focus if the beauty industry is to play its part in meeting global climate goals. This includes reducing the industry’s 120 billion units of annual packaging waste through a refillable and circular model—which could reduce our carbon emissions by up to 70%. 

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Why does the beauty industry need to shift away from recycling and towards refilling? 

While recycling is part of circularity, reusing (in beauty’s case refilling), must always come first. Typically, refilling requires significantly less energy and resources, and therefore emits significantly less greenhouse gases. Further, what most people don’t realise is that despite most beauty packaging being ‘recyclable’, this requires specialised systems. The majority of beauty packaging cannot be recycled through local kerbside recycling. So, unless someone is prepared to cover the cost of having it recycled, it ends up either in landfills, scattered through our oceans, or burnt into greenhouse gases—unbeknownst to customers who believe they are doing the right thing by putting their packing in their recycling bins.

By sharing your sustainability blueprint free of charge to enable other beauty brands to effect widespread change, how do you think the industry will react? 

Sharing our Beauty Blueprint wasn’t a decision I made lightly, as it is undoubtedly one of our brand’s competitive advantages. However, none of this matters unless other brands join us on a circular and carbon positive path. The problems we face are so much greater than the success of one business or brand, and if we are going to solve them, collaboration is key. We won’t be able to make a dent in the beauty industry’s waste and carbon problem alone, but if we collaborate instead of compete, we have the ability to create real change.

I understand that change can be uncertain and I genuinely endeavour to support other businesses as best I can. In our open letter to beauty brands sharing our blueprint, we have invited them to discuss challenges they may be facing or challenges we are facing as an industry, so we can find solutions together. 

How have customers responded to your Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle initiative to return their packaging for refilling?

Our customers continue to inspire us with their enthusiasm and commitment to making a difference. Since launching The Beauty Circle, the vast majority of our customers have engaged with our refill programme, and since launching our new refillable moulds, we have seen even greater support and engagement. 

It doesn’t matter how perfectly designed our refillable packaging is, if it isn’t coming back to be refilled—it isn’t truly circular.

For readers looking to incorporate the Emma Lewisham range into their skincare routine, which product would you recommend starting with, and why? 

I would recommend starting with our Skin Reset Serum. It has become a cult favourite for its results in evening skin tone, combating hyperpigmentation and restoring radiance. 

Tell us about your morning and evening skincare routine. 

It’s all Emma Lewisham of course! In the morning I start with our Illuminating Oil Cleanser with vitamin C and E, then I apply Skin Reset which works to repair and prevent hyperpigmentation and even my skin tone (this was one of our two founding products and one of my personal favourites). Following this, I apply our Illuminating Brighten Your Day Créme which is super hydrating and gives the most incredible glow, then I use our Supernatural Vitamin A Face Oil, followed always by our SPF 30 Skin Shield. In the evenings my routine is similar, except after cleaning I use our Illuminating Exfoliant with AHA and BHA to gently exfoliate. I follow this with Skin Reset (as it really is the best), then I swap out the Illuminating Brighten Your Day Créme for our collagen boosting Supernatural 72-Hour Créme, and finish with a generous application of the Supernatural Vitamin A Face Oil. I like to use an organic bamboo muslin cloth when cleansing as they are naturally anti-bacterial and provide a really gentle exfoliation.In addition to my Emma Lewisham products, I always make sure to drink lots of water and eat a predominantly plant based diet with lots of fruit and veggies.

Who do you turn to in your life when you need wisdom, reassurance, inspiration, or simply a helping hand? 

My husband, Andrew, is my rock through everything, and always the first person I turn to for wisdom, strength and a helping hand. Andrew is also Emma Lewisham’s COO and I am fortunate to have him by my side every day. 

What are your favourite Aotearoa brands?

My favourite sustainable brands born from Aotearoa are Allbirds, Kowtow and Maggie Marilyn. For a small country, I truly believe we are leading the way across so many industries when it comes to sustainability. 

Find out more about the Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle initiative to refill products and take back packaging for recycling here

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