Credo Beauty's New Sustainable Packaging Guidelines Are Addressing The Beauty Industry’s Plastic Problem

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In its early days of being a newbie beauty buzz word, "clean" could have almost been used interchangeably with "healthy." Toxic chemicals were the original villains, but then the increased popularity of wild-harvested ingredients quickly gave rise to a conversation about ethical sourcing. Now, the clean beauty umbrella reaches even farther. Credo's fresh set of Sustainable Packaging Guidelines is evidence that it's more than just what goes inside of a product that matters.

The $500 billion global beauty industry has historically lived in the pocket of single-use plastics. According to the UK-based campaign Zero Waste Week, the global cosmetics industry alone creates upwards of 120 billion units of packaging per year, many of which are expected to outlive us all in landfills.

Certain brands — Lush with its beloved package-free bath bombs and shampoo bars and Kjaer Weis with its new reusable, compostable compacts — have taken initiative to reduce their own carbon footprints. Meanwhile, Credo, whose Clean Beauty Standard is now considered to be the ultimate rulebook, is addressing the industry as a whole.

On Earth Day 2020, the retailer rolled out a new set of eco-credentials to its 135-plus brand partners, including Goop, Herbivore Botanicals, Tata Harper, and Kosas Cosmetics. They include elimination of single-use masks and wipes, replacement of new materials with recycled materials, refillable formats, and reusable packaging, all over a years-long series of phases.

"We have to reduce the amount of 'wish cycling' (throwing stuff in the blue bin that will never be recycled) and 'pretend-sustainable' packaging," Mia Davis, Credo's Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, told The Zoe Report over email. "Greenwashing is never cool."

The first phase of its new Sustainable Packaging Guidelines will require brand partners to eliminate single-use masks and wipes by June 2021. It also aims to expand packaging take-back programs and will prohibit PVC, PFAS, and BPA, which Davis says most (if not all) Credo-complaint brands have already done away with.

Phase two will require partners to replace virgin petrochemical plastic with 50 percent or more recycled plastic (or non-plastic material) by June 2023. Phases three and four are "ongoing," and will focus on providing customers with clean disposal instructions ("disallow(ing) brands from implying packaging is compostable or recyclable if it is not"), and working on what Davis calls a circular system in which reusable, refillable packaging will become the norm.

"As a society, we need to stop making/buying stuff we only use once, but stays on the planet for thousands of years," Davis says. "Credo is rolling up our sleeves, and we hope others in the beauty industry will join us; it is going to take all of us to reduce impact in a meaningful way."

Credo announced in June that it will partner with Ulta Beauty, the largest beauty retailer in the U.S., to incorporate more clean brands into the franchise's already-extensive offering. Davis says the industry as a whole "has a long way to go," but Credo is taking a precompetitive approach to the eco-initiative.

"We want to work with others in the industry to improve sustainable packaging options," she said. "In fact, collaboration is imperative if we're going to reduce the massive impact beauty has on the environment."