Attention, rightly so, is currently very much focused on the future, but a fundamental part of the incredibly multifaceted challenge we face is how to effect change while still meeting the needs of our communities now – ‘the meeting the needs of the present’ bit. This part of the sustainability task is one our clients and the broader beauty community come face-to-face with on a daily business: performance must be equal to or greater than non-sustainable options. Luckily, innovation is in our corner and the definition of sustainability is evolving. And along with that is the thinking around the whole process of sustainability.
Economists, business consultants, and leading entrepreneurs are expanding our understanding. New value is being placed on more than just sustaining the planet. It is now recognized that sustainability must include looking after an organization’s staff and financial wellbeing as much as the environment (locally and on a global level) to ensure its survival. This isn’t a cop-out on protecting the planet; it is acknowledging that the triple line of People, Planet and Profit, are inextricably linked.
Our industry is pretty good at looking after people. Working in beauty is fun, and there are plenty of opportunities to flex our creative muscles among like-minded peers. Yet fewer and fewer young people are choosing it as a career, making it difficult for many salons to continue to offer an outstanding service to clients. It is a real challenge to the sustainability of the industry. Brands and associations, such as Beauty Changes Lives, are promoting the positives of industry, and doing a good job. And an army of proactive salons is pushing beauty’s profile by talking up the benefits, offering excellent training, developing opportunities to be creative, imaginatively rewarding success and, ultimately, evolving systems that allow flexibility. Meanwhile, the innovators and scientists are developing products and tools that allow our people to continue to offer excellent services while reducing our impact.
Unquestionably, many on the front line of the beauty industry are struggling with profitability, with margins shrinking and competition from within and without the industry rising. The power of Amazon isn’t suddenly going to disappear, bringing waves of customers back for shampoo and conditioner. Salon owners and independent stylists need financial security for themselves and others. They also need to know that if they move towards more eco-considerate products and tools they will strengthen their profitability. Keeping an open mind and being ready to embrace the new is one characteristic of a successful business owner, such as recognizing that the Ping isn’t just about making the stylist’s life easier (which it does) but also about cutting down on product used and thereby saving money. Lower margins, higher profit.
When we come to the planet, well, we really, really suck. There are some individuals and salons that have totally got it when it comes to the environment, but cumulatively, as an industry, we are careless about pouring chemicals into our water sources. We expend huge amounts of energy on lighting and heating water. We produce a lot of waste that is not biodegradable and simply ends up in a landfill. According to the guys over at Green Circle Salons, North American salons generate 877 pounds of waste per minute. But we can change. Signing up with Green Circle Salons is one way, cutting down on energy and plastic use is another, and there any many other, manageable alterations that will reduce our impact on the planet.
The question is – can we change? And would focusing future planning and decision-making on the three Ps of sustainability help? At Sustain Beauty Co we reckon so; that’s why we’ve come together to create a community that will make being more sustainable easier, without compromising on service or quality.
Increasingly, clients and professionals of all ages are waking up to the challenge of sustainability, and they want salons that are on the same page. Demand for vegan color and paraben-free shampoo is up, but so, too, is demand for products with less plastic and packaging or with water-saving capabilities of which can be recycled. Pushing the three Ps to the forefront of our thinking will do more than help the planet; it will also help profitability by attracting more clients and allowing employers to retain more talent.