My journey into the beauty industry was unorthodox. Before founding Emma Lewisham, I was the sole female senior executive for a multinational technology company. It was during this time that I realised my true passion and purpose were in problem-solving.

I founded Emma Lewisham to set a new benchmark in beauty, and having been on the market for only 19 months, I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve from New Zealand in this short time. I truly believe that we can thrive by giving more than we take and that we can profit from preventing problems, not creating them. 

In 2016, when I started to lean into the idea of manufacturing my skincare brand, I began to uncover the bleak reality of the beauty industry’s insidious waste problem. The linear economic model behind this unprecedented amount of waste is responsible for an estimated 120 billion units of beauty packaging produced globally every year. Almost all of this ends up either in landfills or our oceans, or burnt, creating greenhouse gases. This is because the economics are just not there to justify recycling it. 

Like most businesses, recycling is a model that is underpinned by supply and demand, and the demand for the types of recycled plastic that make up beauty packaging is low to non-existent. So, despite most packaging being “technically” recyclable, unless someone is prepared to cover the cost of having it recycled, it is destined to be single use. And the result of this single-use packaging is that it is single-handedly responsible for the largest quantity of carbon emissions produced by the beauty industry.
So, this is how the seeds were sown for the world-first achievements we at Emma Lewisham have announced. We are proudly the world’s first certified carbon-positive and 100% circular-designed beauty range. And, in addition, we have shared the intellectual property from these achievements industry-wide.

Being carbon positive means that we take more carbon emissions out of the atmosphere than we put in, which creates a positive environmental impact. We spent 12 months working with world-leading environmental certification agency Toitū Envirocare (a subsidiary of government-owned Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research) to measure the carbon emissions emitted at each stage of our products’ life cycle in order to become independently verified as carbon positive at a product level.

Being 100% circularly designed means that all of our packaging can be refilled many, many times before being recycled through our specialised recycling partner. This eliminates waste and reduces the inherent carbon footprint of our products by up to 74%. Both of these achievements have taken our team more than 18 months of relentless research and development to bring to life. 

Although we’re the first to adopt a circular and carbon-positive model in beauty, we can’t be the last. That’s why we’ve decided to share industry-wide our Beauty Blueprint, which contains the intellectual property surrounding our circular and carbon-positive achievements, in the hope that it can help drive the necessary change the industry desperately needs. 

Our Beauty Blueprint includes refill packaging designs, sterilising processes, recycling and returns processes, packaging-supplier connections, take-back procedures and carbon calculation guides. From Sept 29, all brands have had access to our extensive research, processes and innovations free of charge.

The decision to share our IP is not one I made lightly. I am an entrepreneur at heart, but this decision was so much bigger than me. Our Beauty Blueprint is undoubtedly one of our brand’s competitive advantages. We’ve established ourselves well before today as a leader in sustainable beauty, but, to be honest, none of it matters unless other brands join us in this movement. We won’t be able to make a dent in the beauty industry’s waste and carbon problem on our own, but if we collaborate instead of compete, we have the ability to create real change.   

Multinational beauty companies invest in proprietary systems that ensure their brands stay ahead of the pack. To remain competitive, the renowned brands that likely come to mind have kept close to their chest technology that could help reduce the industry’s impact. As a result, we had to invest significant amounts of time and money in developing our own refillable product moulds, as there were none on the market that weren’t already patented by the multinationals. 

In sharing these moulds as part of our Beauty Blueprint, we hope other brands can capitalise on our innovation and investment to accelerate their transition to a circular model of beauty. We hope to remove obstacles that might overwhelm our competitors, in order to help them join our movement.

As governments around the world struggle to meet the stringent global climate goals set in the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement, businesses will play a decisive role in ensuring their respective countries meet the agreed targets. 

It’s estimated that we have less than 10 years left to avoid the worst effects of climate change. However, there is a solution. Businesses must start operating in a circular and carbon-positive manner. They must collaborate, share knowledge and break down the barriers of competition for the greater good. They must act now, because if we wish to leave Earth in a state that can be enjoyed by generations to come, we must meet these climate goals. 

I am so proud of what we at Emma Lewisham have managed to bring to life today. I am surrounded by people who believe in the greater good, who take only what they need and give what they can, and who put our planet and its people before profit. 

Our world-first achievements have been endorsed by renowned environmentalist and United Nations Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall. Jane’s endorsement is a dream come true, but nothing would mean more to me than if other businesses engaged with our Beauty Blueprint and we started to see transformative change. 

We can’t compete if there is nothing left to compete for; we have to stand together. And if we are to create a truly beautiful beauty industry, this has to be the future of beauty.

Emma Lewisham is the founder and CEO of Emma Lewisham skincare.