Steve's Blog: Microbeads ban is a lesson to sustainability laggards
We were delighted to see the UK government commit this week to a ban of microbeads, but the move caught some beauty brands off guard.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic in cosmetic products. But as waste product they are lethal to marine life when ingested and also get into our food chain. Last year, we joined CIDESCO, the world standard for spa and beauty therapy, in calling for a ban. This move was swiftly followed by Barack Obama confirming the end of microbeads in the US from mid-2017.
However, it appears that the UK Government’s announcement has caught some beauty brands off guard. The ban will take effect from the end of 2017, but it has been reported in the press that some brands won’t meet the deadline and risk being delisted by retailers.
The microbeads ban was imposed as some brands have been slow in bringing through natural alternatives or have sought to circumvent industry guidelines in continuing to use plastics. In doing so, and in the face of growing public and environmental group pressure, they will now have to react to an externally imposed deadline.
This is high risk for a brand, affecting sales if the product cannot be changed in time and potentially increasing cost, as hasty changes to procurement and processes are likely to be more than in a planned programme of change. However, the real damage may be done in brand reputation, particularly in beauty products where shared values are so powerful.
It also demonstrates the risk to an industry where the under-performance of the few can lead to losing control of the sustainability agenda and opening the door to government intervention. Surely, in these more enlightened times, brands can see that it is far better to collaborate, to recognise material impacts and address them with support through the supply chain, NGOs and government?
This is an age for better business. And the exciting part is that you can bring customers with you on the journey, building loyalty and long term benefit.