Plenty of beauty brands claim to be ethical. But here at Kester Black, sustainability and social justice aren’t just glossy marketing buzzwords. They’re the driving force behind our good-weird kind of beauty company: the kind that’s certified carbon neutral, that donates 2% of all revenue to environmental and social causes, and that makes vegan and cruelty-free products that are both all class, and all conscience. Ultimately, they’re what fires and fuels us with enthusiasm – the original renewable energy.
When it comes to making meaningful changes, the last year has shown us the importance of tracking our progress in a marketplace that demands better. In the past, our business practises and KPIs have been rigorously recorded (and commended) for accreditation and certification purposes.
This year, we’re bringing this data to the masses so the whole world can see what we’ve achieved – and what we’re striving for. This isn’t a number-heavy, statistic-laden report, but more of a plan for the ethical, environmental and social goals we hope to achieve by 2025, and our current progress in achieving these ambitious milestones. Looking back at what we’ve already accomplished - the future looks bright.
The climate crisis affects our social, economical and environmental futures, so it’s only natural that our decisions as individuals and as a business are made with consideration for the planet. Growing up on a farm in the lush hinterland of New Zealand has instilled our brand with strong environmental values from day dot. And while 2020 proved challenging for many, it clearly demonstrated the far-reaching impacts of the global supply chain – exposing clear opportunities for improvement.
As a brand within the beauty industry, we regularly disrupt the status quo in pursuit of better. We’ve demonstrated this by being the first beauty brand in the world to be B Corporation certified, and by open-sourcing our innovative formulas for the world to share. Everything we create from products to packaging is developed with a circular mindset, and designed to disappear without causing any harm to our environment or any of the creatures that inhabit it.
GOAL: 100% OF PRODUCTS TO BE CERTIFIED CRUELTY FREE BY 2016
Difficulty level: 7/10
Cruelty Free International estimates that in 2015, 192.1 million animals were used to conduct scientific testing worldwide [Source]. For too long, the beauty industry has conducted inhumane scientific experiments on animals for the sake of human safety concerning finished products and ingredients. However, studies have shown that the results gained from animal testing have proven problematic when applied to humans. So while science has come a long way to help us develop products that are safe for use, millions of animals are still being used for testing globally.
Keeping animals out of it
By being 100% certified cruelty-free, businesses can support market-leading regions in the push to end animal cruelty for good. Consumers are on-board with the movement, actively seeking more cruelty-free products for everyday use.
Globally, countries are stepping up. The EU banned animal testing in 2009, and later banned the sale of any cosmetics or ingredients that have been tested on animals in 2013. In 2015, New Zealand joined the list of nations banning animal-testing - moving the beauty industry further toward cruelty-free products.
However, this regulation can happen relatively slowly, which is why aligning with an international campaign (like Cruelty Free International) allows businesses to hold their products to external standards of ethics on a global scale. With greater visibility and reporting on the source of ingredients, consumers can make more informed decisions about their purchases – using their dollars to fund progressive social and environmental causes.
Kindness is in our DNA
Kester Black has always been cruelty-free and always will be. All of our products are certified cruelty-free, by Cruelty Free International, meeting the world’s most rigorous ethical standards. This means they have never, and will never, be tested on animals or contain any animal-derived ingredients. As a business leading social change, we’ve derived formulas that perform as well as, if not better than, their cruel counterparts; setting the benchmark high for our industry as a whole.
GOAL: 100% OF PRODUCTS TO BE CERTIFIED VEGAN BY 2017
Difficulty level: 7/10
The use of animals in the market, from the beauty industry to the global food system, is increasingly concerning. Since 1970, the collective weight of free living animals has declined by 82%. Instead, a small number of farmed animals (mainly cows and pigs) dominate global biomass. They account for 60% of mammal species by mass, 36% goes to humans, and just 4% are free living animals [Source 1], [Source 2]. Not only is this a problem for biodiversity, causing havoc on natural ecosystems and food networks, it has a devastating impact on the environment. Researchers estimate that 78% of agricultural land globally is used for animal farming, and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions [Source 1].
Kester Black believes that animals and animal products don’t belong in or anywhere near our beauty products. With the scientific breakthroughs and technology available, we need to do better as a global community and shake our dependence on animals for good.
Based on stats supplied by the Vegan Society, if the world went vegan, it could save up to 8 million human lives by 2050 (in the reduced risk of cancers caused by eating meat). Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be reduced by two thirds, from 1.5 billion hectares to just 540 million. And we could even bank $1.5 trillion in healthcare-related savings from avoided climate damages by reducing agriculture-related emissions [Source].
Allies in alternatives
At Kester Black, we’re fixing the problem, not adding to it, by finding a better way to formulate, do business and promote kind ingredient alternatives. Our products perform at the highest level, proving that the future of quality cosmetics is confidently vegan and cruelty-free.
From our nail polishes and removers, right down to our liquid lipsticks, 100% of our products are proudly certified vegan by the Vegan Society. That means none of them have been tested on animals or contain animal derived ingredients. All of our products and ingredient suppliers undergo rigorous auditing by our certifying partners The Vegan Society to ensure compliance.
We maintain this through our supply chain at the briefing stage, making sure that all of our partners understand that vegan formulations are of paramount importance. We then do our due diligence by reviewing all of the INCI (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient) lists at the sampling stage, and again at the production stage.
GOAL: ADHERE TO SEPHORA CLEAN STANDARDS FOR ALL FACE & SKINCARE PRODUCTS BY 2022
Difficulty level: 6/10
From topically applying heavy metals and ingesting radioactive compounds to injecting toxins directly into our faces, humans have long accepted harmful chemicals as allies in achieving cosmetic results. Simply because they seemed effective and rational at the time. And while we may think this behaviour lives in the past, harmful chemicals still go unchecked until it’s too late (as discovered when an alarming number of name-brand lipsticks were found to contain lead in 2008 by the FDA) [Source].
The continued use of non-clean and harmful ingredients is an alarming trend in the beauty industry, and one that highlights the risk of the unchecked production of cosmetics. While government regulation can be effective, gaps in legislation can result in low-to-no standards in relation to cosmetics. For example, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act passed by the US Food and Drug Association in 1938 renders ingredients in cosmetics largely exempt from the organisation’s regulatory reach. This means that dangerous ingredients, identified too late and without a required recall, can have nasty results for customers. With modern advances, higher standards in ethics and regulations, the beauty industry has an obligation to give consumers greater transparency around the ingredients they use.
Global beauty retailer Sephora has established the Clean at Sephora range to help consumers understand what ingredients their products are free-from (like harmful irritants, allergens and hormone disruptors). While giving them more agency, the range gives consumers more clarity in their purchases. Visibility and education around ingredients helps brands build credibility as experts in the field and bolsters the credentials of suppliers through the chain. By committing to cleaner ingredients (natural, organic, free from allergens, irritants, heavy metals, radiation, and known toxins), cosmetic businesses are creating a better way forward for the category.
Sorting the clean from the clutter
Clean cosmetics aren’t an established or standardised industry just yet. There are still many inconsistencies between categories, applications and formulations. As a colour cosmetics brand, it’s challenging to navigate which standards are consistent and credible.
For example, our liquid lipsticks met CertClean standards during their award campaign, but does not meet current criteria which fluctuates frequently. The North American organisation deems colour ingredients as potentially harmful due to possible trace contaminants. However, our lipsticks undergo rigorous heavy-metal and trace contaminant testing, using much stricter European standards, as part of their formulation.
Kester Black has reviewed our ingredient lists against many market-leaders, spotting disparities between lists and the leaders themselves. We’ve developed our own list of ingredients excluded from all of our products, featuring some of the nastiest chemicals commonly found in cosmetics like toluene, camphor, and formaldehyde.
For any and all products that come in direct contact with your face (lipsticks, eye pencils, skincare, etc) we can and do meet all applicable guidelines for safe application.
However, we exclude our nail products from our ‘clean’ claims due to standards being developed specifically for skincare, not nail enamel. Nail polish is unique as it does not sit on the skin itself, and is made of solvent; a chemical compound that exists in all nail polishes globally and cannot be removed. The only way for Kester Black to meet 100% adherence across the range, would be for us to discontinue all nail polish products.
GOAL: REMOVE ALL MICROPLASTICS FROM OUR FORMULATIONS BY 2021
Difficulty level: 5/10
Microplastics are a huge, environmental, ecological, and ethical problem. These small particles, identified as any plastics smaller than five millimeters in size, are broken down into two categories: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are designed for commercial use, while secondary microplastics are created through the decomposition of larger plastic items.
Worldwide campaigns, such as Beat the Micro Bead, have recognised more than 500 of these primary micro plastic ingredients widely used in cosmetics. Products like glitter, hair spray, and nail polish are known sources of microplastics and with no filtration systems in place, these types of tiny non-biodegradable plastic particles flow through our sewer and water systems threatening our oceans and marine wildlife [Source].
On average, 4,000 microplastic fragments can be found per square kilometre of ocean, with concentrations of up to 23,000 particles in some areas [Source]. Microplastics have even been found in drinking water, as standard treatment facilities aren’t built to filter out these tiny particles. In a study completed by Orb Media, plastic particles were detected in 83% of drinking water sources sampled worldwide - making this a problem for all lifeforms, human or otherwise [Source].
All that glitters is not gold
While not the largest contributor of microplastics, glitter is a widely-used ingredient in cosmetics and has been found to directly affect aquatic life; plants and organisms [Source]. By cutting out 100% of these tiny plastic particles from our formulations, we can be confident that we’re not adding to the problem of primary microplastics and the harm they do to our environment. By reducing our use of plastics in general throughout our products, packaging and postage packaging, we can begin to limit our impact on our oceans and waterways for good.
Reducing our impact
Like most glitter-enthusiasts, Kester Black was keen to replace microplastic glitter with environmentally safe bio-glitter. However, we encountered traceability issues with these ingredients, so have decided the safest option is to discontinue any glitter products.
We are 90% of the way towards achieving this goal as these old SKUs diminish for good. Our latest formulas are officially microplastic-free and forego glitter until a more ecologically viable and high-performance option exists. Kester Black is also proudly phthalate free; a known endocrine-disrupting plasticizer. Microplastics have no place in our bodies, waterways or ecosystems.
GOAL: AVOID PLASTIC IN A MINIMUM OF 30% NEW LAUNCHES BY 2023
Difficulty level: 8/10
Since plastic production began on a mass scale in the 1950s, over 8.3 billion tonnes have been made. Sadly, 91% of this sits in landfill, floats in our oceans or has been burned [Source]. Many animals mistakenly ingest plastic believing it to be a source of food. This can cause chronic injury, suffocation, starvation and often death. Plastic contaminates our air, land, sea and can enter the human body through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.
The low cost and durability of plastic have driven its demand: plastic is almost indestructible and therefore a serious threat to the natural environment. The vast majority of plastics are made from finite fossil fuels extracted from the earth. Plastics do not break down. Instead, they ‘break up’ into smaller and smaller pieces, creating microplastics and nanoplastics.
While our awareness around plastics and their ongoing impact on our planet is growing, there’s still work to be done on replacing everyday plastics with refillable, recyclable, more environmentally-friendly alternatives wherever possible.
The beauty industry’s excess baggage
Annually, the beauty industry alone produces an excess of 120 billion units of packaging globally [Source]. Collectively, if we were to avoid using plastic in all of our new products, we would be preventing billions of tonnes of plastic from ending up in our waterways. Consumers are also actively making purchases based on their values; option for low-to-no waste products, with recyclable, refillable or recycled packaging.
Taking plastic out of the equation
Removing plastic at the design stage of a product is much easier than reengineering a plastic-free product that already exists in-market. From formulations, to production and manufacturing, multiple elements need to be analysed, revised and redesigned retrospectively in order to be entirely plastic free.
Kester Black is investigating ways to remove plastic from our current products, and designing new products with reimagined packaging that is recycled, recyclable, or refillable. We have products launching soon that are 100% plastic-free, made from home-compostable materials (like wood) with caps made from aluminium, that are 100% recyclable.
GOAL: INTRODUCE 100% PLASTIC FREE PRODUCTS BY JULY 2021
Difficulty level: 4/10
Every year, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from our coastal nations. That’s the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world.
While a lot of the world is shifting to refillable, recyclable and recycled packaging, 91% of plastics in the world never actually get recycled [Source]. Even if we were to use 100% recycled plastics, the end of life for these products is not drastically different to conventional plastics.
Additionally, a majority of the plastics ever manufactured have only been made in the last 15 years, with exponential increase in production expected to double by 2050 (from 448millions tonnes annually, 2015). The types of plastics we use today are also much stronger than before, containing additives to make them more flexible and durable. While these additives extend the life of these products, they also extend the time needed to break down (generally exceeding a minimum of 400 years).
Glass is often considered as a great alternative material for housing refillable products due to its longevity. However, it does come with its own disadvantages in terms of fragility and functionality. Glass also tends to be much heavier than plastic, carrying a greater carbon footprint throughout its lifecycle. A happy medium could exist in a hybrid solution where a glass vessel is paired with a recycled lid or a refillable packaging made out of HDPE and PET (the two most recyclable plastics across AU and NZ); crafting packaging from waste.
Removing the choice
In the context of the current recycling landscape, by taking plastics out of consumer choices entirely, we know we are contributing to a world with less waste. As a business, we need to look at alternatives at scale, that degrade easier, faster, and without any adverse effects on our waterways. From an accessibility point of view, the alternative we choose needs to be recyclable at a local level (i.e. curbside recycling) or backyard compostable.
Kicking our plastic habit
Ideally, eliminating plastic from our manufacturing needs to be considered at the design stage, as it’s much more challenging to retrospectively remove plastics from in-market products.
In 2021, we have been designing products that our customers already know and love in a reimagined format. We are launching products that are 100% plastic free, made from home-compostable materials (such as wood) with caps made from Post Industrial Recycled (PIR) aluminium - designed to be 100% recyclable.
We’re also exploring refillable packs made from aluminium and external packaging made from mushrooms.
GOAL: ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY PLASTIC IN SECONDARY PACKAGING AND FIND A SUITABLE SOLUTION FOR SHIPPING PACKAGING BY 2022
Difficulty level: 4/10
One of the biggest issues with plastic packaging is the demand: it’s estimated that packaging accounts for around 40% of the global demand for plastics. The rise in e-commerce, with more than 2.1 billion people shopping online in 2021, means that this typically includes secondary packaging (E.g. the unit carton or the shipping bag) [Source 1], [Source 2].
Given that the majority of plastic packaging is used for a very short period, in comparison to other industries such as construction, the distributed impact on the environment is significant [Source]. Another important fact to consider about soft plastics (like shipping envelopes) is that most curbside recycling doesn’t have the infrastructure to manage it, so these can’t be recycled in most parts of AU and NZ.
Additionally, one of the problems with removing excess secondary packaging is that global labelling regulations prohibit brands from launching products without a box - all that regulatory information has to go somewhere and it often won’t fit on small products; adding another tier of complexity to product design. At Kester Black we think the addition of a 100% recycled or FSC box is better than a plastic shrink wrap that will almost certainly end up in landfill or our oceans.
Cutting out the middle man
Over 30% of all the plastic used in packaging is not being collected or recycled, which means it’s more important than ever to eliminate unnecessary plastic from our offering altogether. By eliminating excess plastics in our packaging, and utilising sustainable solutions for shipping packaging, we can contribute to a reduced demand [Source].
Changing the unboxing experience
As a business, we’ve explored a range of alternative secondary packaging solutions, with ranging success rates. Originally, we used regular plastic postage bags to ship products to far away places. Then we partnered with Better Packaging, a company making better than the norm shipping packaging, but had to find another solution after discovering that customers couldn’t actually recycle their soft plastic curbside. Then we switched to paper shipping bags, which was a logistics nightmare, resulting in 90% of customers over a 3-week period receiving empty paper shippers without products in them.
We’ve since moved back to a box-style shipper to provide better reduce product damage in transit and have a solution which can also be used to ship nail polish internationally.So when it comes to delivering our considered cosmetics, our parcels are uncoated, made with FSC-certified and recycled stock and vividly printed with soy inks. Currently in New Zealand our tape and print out labels are recyclable, and we’ll be implementing this in Australia very soon.
Legal requirements dictate that we ship our removers in a leak-proof plastic bag (sad face).
GOAL: 90% OF PLASTIC IN PRIMARY PACKAGING TO BE RECYCLED OR, RECYCLABLE BY 2024
Difficulty level: 10/10
Plastic lasts forever in some form, meaning it increasingly clogs the environment as it continues to be produced, used, discarded and broken down into finer particles. It’s been estimated that more than 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging are produced worldwide per year, contributing not only to plastic pollution, but also to the loss of millions of acres of forest [Source 1], [Source 2].
Most cosmetics packaging can’t be recycled through home recycling programs due to the complex material composition. For example, a standard lip gloss packaged in multiple types of plastic may feature a bottle that’s unique to the lid, and an applicator wand that’s composed of different plastics to its tip. When considered as a whole, there can be several different plastic materials present in one pack alone and we could guarantee that none of these are HDPE or PET, the only two recyclable plastics in New Zealand. The standard plastic for make up packaging and lids is PP because it’s a higher density material.
Reframing the way we use plastic
Unfortunately, some plastics have been purpose-designed and can’t be replaced - that’s why we’re so committed to changing the way we use them. However, ensuring that the majority of necessary plastics in our packaging is recycled, refillable or recyclable not only reduces the production of virgin plastics - it also means that we’re able to minimise our end-to-end impact.
When we say ‘recycled’ we are referring to a range of different material processing techniques. For example, a lipstick bottle could be made from Post-Consumer Recycled/Regrind (PCR) plastic, Post Industrial Recycled/Regrind (PIR) plastic or even ocean-waste materials. Note: Recycled plastics can come in a range of compositions. For example, if it’s 50% recycled then the other 50% is made from virgin or ‘new’ plastic resins.
When we say ‘recyclable’, we mean materials that can be placed straight into a residential recycling bin and processed at the nearest recycling facility. These may include mono-material plastics, which only use a single kind of plastic throughout, so the entire thing can be recycled.
PCR plastics are usually made of the same bottles you dispose of in your weekly curbside recycling. The production of PCR plastics starts with the collection of post-consumer waste, through specialised sorting (manual or otherwise), cleaning, reheating and grinding until a PCR granule is produced. These granules are then used to make new products.
Post Industrial Recycled plastics (or PIR) is composed of the perfectly fine excess material from the manufacturing of other plastics. The PIR is cleaned and moulded to form new containers, preventing leftovers from reaching landfill.
Our game plan
Currently, our lipstick bottles are made of post-consumer recycled packaging (but only up to 74%). We have been looking for a better option and will be testing packaging stability (how well the formulas work in different sorts of packaging) in late 2021-2022.
The biggest problem we face are our nail polish bottle lids and brushes. We are currently looking for a better option for these components. The brushes are complex, hard to manufacture, and unless there is a global push from customers to see this change, manufacturers are reluctant to test a more sustainable material.
By 31 Dec 2024, Kester Black has a target to make all primary packaging (where the plastic can’t be eliminated completely) from recycled plastics or recyclable-friendly in standard domestic home recycling programs. The reason why we can’t implement our plan today, is simply because the technology is just not mainstream enough yet.
It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to conduct testing around recycled plastics, so manufacturers are only likely to invest when there is high demand. The testing is costly as new tooling is required to create new packaging. For example, a recyclable compact mirror could cost anywhere between $5,000 - 10,000 USD to make per mould, and that’s if the mould comes in a common shape. Custom requests and packaging often needs to be paid for by individual companies and most can't afford the capital outlay. E.g. To craft a new bespoke bottle could cost up to $30,000 USD for the tool alone.
Then all formulas need to have packaging compatibility tested, which means the bottles need to be filled with the formula, and then placed on a shelf for anywhere between 3-months to a year. If the packaging fails, it’s a very costly trip back to the drawing board. Very quickly, the cost to retrofit existing packaging stacks up. This is why we are approaching new products with recycled and recyclable packaging in mind.
Kester Blacks’s Product Development Philosophy
To frame discovery and iterations, we use the following set of questions when designing a new product:
GOAL: CHART A COURSE TO ACHIEVE CARBON NEUTRALITY BY 2017
Difficulty level: 3/10
The single largest contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG), carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 90% since 1970 and continue to pollute our atmosphere [Source]. Over the last 50 years, global temperatures have risen by 2% due to the rising emissions from mass industrialism. This rise has been connected to an increase in droughts, flooding, and other natural disasters causing famine, human suffering, as well as devastation to our wildlife. It is therefore vital that we, as a global community, act towards reducing carbon emissions.
While governments across the world are taking action to reduce them, organisations in market economies like Australia need to take responsibility for their own carbon footprints if we are to see meaningful results. The concept of becoming carbon neutral is commonly considered to be industry best practice in this respect. The aim of reaching ‘net zero’ emissions also aligns with many of the sustainable development goals set out by the UN in 2018, including climate action and sustainable cities and communities [Source].
Carbon neutrality can be achieved in a number of ways: through tree planting, forest conservation or soil management programs, by investing in renewables, and other energy efficient programs, to name a few. It’s important to remember that these aren’t mutually exclusive - businesses can invest in renewable energy, while also taking part in carbon offset programs, like that offered by the Carbon Reduction Institute. Initiatives can offer businesses an accessible and impactful method of more sustainable operation. Through being certified 100% certified carbon neutral, we can be confident that, in every aspect of our day-to-day, we’re reducing our impact and supporting the movement of mindful consumption.
Beyond carbon neutral
Kester Black is 100% carbon neutral as accredited by The Carbon Reduction Institute (NoCo2). We’ve taken a good look at our business emissions in order to reduce, remove and offset them. But we’re not stopping there. Our next step is to review our emissions audit and see where we can reduce our impact even further.
GOAL: OFFSET MORE CARBON THAN WE EMIT TO BECOME A CARBON NEGATIVE BUSINESS BY 2021
Difficulty level: 1/10
With population levels rising and resources diminishing, humans need to foster a more symbiotic relationship with our planet. After achieving carbon neutrality, it left us wondering what the next step was. While most businesses are looking at ways to reduce their impact on the environment, many are looking to reverse their impact entirely by offsetting more carbon than they emit. This behaviour is considered ‘carbon negative’ but is also marketed as ‘climate positivity’ or ‘carbon positive’ for an added layer of confusion.
Carbon offsets are credits which can be purchased to counter the damage caused by industrial emissions. These credits can be purchased through globally-recognised bodies and go towards remedial activities and initiatives, including: reforestation by reclaiming and replanting vast carbon-reducing forests, bioremediation using plants to restore and rehabilitate contaminated land, and reinvestment into renewable energy and renewable energy systems.
Kester Black proudly runs on 100% renewable energy as accredited by The Carbon Reduction Institute (NoCo2). More than that, we are on-track to offset more tonnes of greenhouse gases than we are responsible for emitting; to be considered as a carbon negative business by the end of 2021.
GOAL: SWITCH TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY BY 2019
Difficulty level: 1/10
Since 1960, CO2 emissions have quadrupled - the last decade alone has averaged 34 gigatonnes of global CO2 emissions per year. Individuals, businesses and governments have the power to change this by investing in renewables [Sources 1], [Source 2]. With the power and platform to make real positive change, more and more businesses are choosing to run on renewable energy as the norm. Not only are renewables the way of the future, they've become more accessible and affordable than ever for business to back.
A renewed outlook
Purchasing carbon credits and investing in renewables work hand in hand to create real, positive environmental impact. While carbon credits contribute to positive initiatives (including renewables), direct investment in and the use of renewable energy reduces our reliance on fossil fuels.
Electricity and heat production were the biggest contributors to CO2 emissions in Australia for 2016 [Source]. Renewables are completely transforming energy systems by supplying the grid with clean power while preventing a significant amount of carbon emissions along the way. They don’t simply undo our past mistakes but actively reduce our impact in the long term. By the end of September 2020, renewable energy’s share of electricity generation hit a record 26.5% of the market. This change has contributed to an almost 14 million metric tonne decrease of carbon dioxide equivalents from electricity generation, gas use and transport for the year [Source].
Renewable energy systems are by nature inexhaustible and infinite. Strong winds, steady beams of sunlight, abundant plant matter, heat from the earth, and fast-moving water can each provide a vast and constantly replenished supply of energy.
Early adopters of the renewable revolution
Leveraging wind and water (hydro), Kester Black business is proudly powered by 100% renewable energy, provided by local renewable energy supplier Powershop. Consider this goal achieved, naturally.
GOAL: TRACK AIR MILES FROM 2016 AND OFFSET ALL CARBON EMISSIONS CREATED VIA AIR TRAVEL
Difficulty level: 2/10
While the global pandemic has encouraged the accelerated adoption of remote working practises, air travel and air freight can often be an unavoidable necessity when operating a business on a global scale. While there isn’t a greener alternative available at the moment, businesses can choose to offset their travel emissions by purchasing carbon credits and tracking their air miles to reduce their carbon footprint.
Jet setting offsetters
For a business to achieve carbon neutrality, it needs to adhere to rigorous auditing and reporting and to track and manage their emissions. By tracking air miles, businesses can then assess their travel based on necessity and take steps to reduce trips. This accountability leads to a real reduction in carbon footprint, rather than a quick-fix of purchased offsets.
Our yearly migration
When we completed our first NoCO2 audit back in FY17, flights were our second biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, making up just under 27% of company emissions. We’ve since shaved this back to only 10% of company emissions.
Before 2020, Kester Black would visit with European manufacturers on a regular basis. On average, a return flight for one team member would produce about 6.5 tonnes of CO2 emissions. With this being an unavoidable part of bringing customers the latest in product innovation, we needed to factor this into our carbon offsets, travelling the responsible way.
As part of our yearly NoCO2 audit, we assess all company flights taken for the year, the distance travelled, and consequent CO2 emissions. As we can’t use an alternative means of travel for these trips, we’ve offset the emissions by purchasing carbon credits. We also assess the necessity of flights, and try to make the most efficient use of our air miles each year, consolidating visits to manufacturers and trade shows into the one trip where possible, making the long haul flight worthwhile.
GOAL: MONITOR ENERGY USAGE AND HAVE SET INTENSITY TARGETS FOR REDUCTION
Difficulty level: 3/10
Though relatively low, renewable energy still has an impact on the environment - through the production and installation of the facilities, land use, and challenges to wildlife [Source]. As a business scales, a continual decrease in emissions becomes more and more difficult to achieve, and a plateau effect can occur. Planning for continual progression rather than perfection, businesses can set intensity targets, relative to growth, in order to keep their impact in check for the long run.
Switching off to save
Even though we use renewable energy, this does not come without an impact on the environment. So reducing our energy footprint reduces our impact on the environment. Reducing energy consumption, not just off-setting it, is the most direct and effective way to reduce our impact on the environment.
From July 2021, our target is to achieve a 5% reduction in energy usage intensity YoY. To set our intensity targets, we assess energy usage in kWh (kilowatt hours) annually relative to $ of revenue. Lowering it is achieved through monitoring our direct consumption in Kester Black office spaces/leased premises, and cutting back primarily through more efficient lighting, heating and cooling systems.
So far, we achieved a 17% reduction from FY17 to FY18 and a 3% reduction from FY18 to FY19. FY20 will be calculated as part of our No CO2 audit in June 2021, but we’re expecting to exceed our 5% reduction target.
GOAL: MOVE FROM SINGLE-USE TOWARD REFILLABLE PACKAGING FORMATS WHERE POSSIBLE BY 2023
Status: 10% (Design and Development phase has commenced)
Difficulty level: 8/10
15,000 plastic bottles are sold per second, worldwide, and only 7% are recycled (meaning that of the 480 billion bottles sold per year, 93% ends up in our waste and in our waterways) [Source]. And less than half of all glass bottles, which are one of the more effectively recycled products, are recovered for recycling [Source 1], [Source 2].
Refillable packaging is a more viable long-term option than recyclable as the raw materials used go much further in their life. The end of life is ideally with the customer, and even if they don’t continue to refill with the original product, the vessel can be repurposed for other things. The carbon footprint relative to product usage is drastically lower than single use items, and continues to decrease with every time a refill occurs.
A case for top ups
Moving toward refillable packaging means reduced production - leading to a smaller footprint. According to one study, up to 70% of the CO2 emission by the beauty industry could be avoided if refillable containers were used [Source]. Refillable product formats also lead to significantly less waste, avoiding further pollution of our waterways.
As a brand we’re actively shifting towards more reusable and refillable packaging formats. With consideration for a product’s complete life-cycle (including disposal) coming into play during the design phase, we’ve been able to develop an exciting range of refillable products to be added to our collection in 2022.
GOAL: 100% OF PRINTED MATERIAL AND SHIPPING PACKAGING TO BE MADE FROM RECYCLED OR FSC CERTIFIED STOCK BY JULY 1 2021
Difficulty level: 4/10
During the turn of the millennium, businesses switched to digital in order to curb unnecessary office printing. However, it’s estimated that paper still accounts for 26% of landfill waste and over 199 tonnes of paper is produced every 15 seconds. While plastic seems to be our number one enemy, paper is still regularly used in the same way as single-use packaging and plastics are, with 50% of the waste that businesses produce composed of paper. If this page were printed instead of digitally published, it would have taken 10 litres of water to create before any inks were involved. And when it’s time to recycle, paper and cardboard can make up over 50% of the weight of a standard household recycling bin in Australia, but only around 60% of this waste is recycled [Source].
In order to get products from the factory to customers, packaging must satisfy regulatory requirements for consumer goods, as well as shipping and protection of products in-transit. Recycled, responsibly-sourced cardboard is still one of the best options available for many ecommerce businesses, offering the durability, safety, and lightweight qualities required for postage.
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international organisation that has developed a certification system so that both businesses and customers are able to purchase and use stock that has been responsibly sourced. Using 100% recycled or FSC certified stock means that we can help mitigate the degradation of forests globally, as well as support the efficient use of natural resources - both in materials and production activities.
Certified tree huggers
The paper we use is precious. At Kester Black, all of our printed material and shipping packaging is recycled, is recyclable, or printed on FSC-certified stock using soy inks. Our tissue paper is 100% acid-free and our labels are compostable. We decided very early on in our business that our packaging would not only look beautiful but do favours for our forests. When developing our products we assess the necessity for paper, and are actively looking to reduce the amount of secondary packaging wherever possible.
The only thing holding us back from 100% completion, are the few remaining ØPACK Mailers used for shipping lipsticks in NZ. Once these have been depleted consider this goal achieved.
GOAL: DEVELOP A NAIL POLISH THINNER TO PROLONG PRODUCT LIFE AND REDUCE WASTE BY 2018
Difficulty level: 1/10
By nature, the solvent in a nail polish will evaporate over time especially with the lid left off. This means that a nail polish will always end up thicker than the day you bought it and it’s almost impossible to finish a bottle without this occurring along the way. Most people add nail polish remover to the bottle to remedy this, but don’t realise that remover actually destabilises the chemical makeup of the nail polish.
When a product flaw or problem arises, businesses have the opportunity to innovate and develop solutions that restore consumer trust. Additionally, returned or broken products cannot be resold and must be disposed of - ultimately creating more waste for businesses. If a brand solves a genuine consumer problem and fulfills a need, they position themselves as experts in a field who hold a consumer’s interest in-line with their own.
Good to the last drop
Rather than capitalising on the evaporated solvent and selling more nail polish, Kester Black developed a thinner made from the base of our nail polishes that allowed customers to restore old polish instead of throwing the product away prematurely. This solution prolonged the life of their nail polish, supporting the consumer’s interest in buying better, less often. From a waste perspective, the nail polish can be used till the last drop and the bottle washed for recycling - rescuing the glass from landfill.
We are in the process of redeveloping this product to be made from 100% plant-based ingredients (made from the byproducts of the food industry) and packaging it into a smaller bottle, more appropriate for use. Previously this came in 125mL bottles, which we found to be far too much for the average nail polish user. By making this product in a smaller pack, we reduce the likelihood of consumers throwing out excess product or the product evaporating before they get to use it.
GOAL: MODIFY OUR PR STRATEGY TO REDUCE SAMPLE WASTE BY JULY 2021
Difficulty level: 1/10
The conventional PR model, loaded with free samples, miniatures and testers, results in huge amounts of waste. The reality of scatter sampling (sending product to a mass audience in hope that it will pick-up free press) means products might get only used once, then forgotten about, and tossed into landfill. Not only is this a waste of perfectly good product, it uses up shipping and packaging resources, contributing to carbon emissions.
A change of tact
The digital age has warranted a change in the way we PR products. Now coverage comes from sources who don’t necessarily require a physical sample. The same result can be achieved through content sharing and publications don’t get sent products by default. By adopting this strategy, Kester Black estimates a reduction in our PR send-outs of up to 75% – saving some valuable transport miles and emissions and, of course, product.
Today, Kester Black only sends digital press releases to media, welcoming interested parties to request samples where applicable. This method preserves product, packaging and freight resources, allowing us to curb waste. It also demonstrates how we remain true to our values through and through, inviting like-minded businesses to join the movement.
GOAL: DONATE AT LEAST 2% OF REVENUE TO REGISTERED CHARITIES EVERY YEAR
Difficulty level: 6/10
Kester Black’s business model is built on a foundation of social, ethical and environmental responsibility. This means that our products and processes should not only be kind to humans, ecosystems and the environment, but their prosperity directly supports the mutual wellbeing of all three.
As a female-founded business, Kester Black is invested in charities and initiatives (like the Victorian Women’s Shelter) that support and uplift women within our local and global communities. While our products are designed to help our customers (who predominantly identify as women) look and feel great inside and out, we believe more can be done to support our customers’ livelihoods, social security, and basic needs.
Empowering consumers to choose better
As a company, we have the potential and the platform to make larger donations than the average individual. By encouraging consumers to make more conscious purchases, not only will this grow our capacity to impact positive social and environmental change, it empowers our community to factor-in social-responsibility across the rest of their consumer behaviour.
Our ongoing commitment
Every Kester Black purchase enables us to pay it forward. As a certified B Corp, we’re committed to regularly donating a minimum equivalent of 2% of revenue (in cash or in-kind product donations) to charitable partners each year. Over the last 4-years, these contributions have exceeded our 2% of revenue commitment, reaching up to 15% in some years. This has supported some of the following partners: Greening Australia, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Women’s Community Shelters, Every little Bit Helps, Foodbank Bushfire Recovery, CARE.
GOAL: ACHIEVE 80% SUPPLY CHAIN TRACEABILITY ON STAGE 1-2 SUPPLIERS BY 2022, AND FULL TRACEABILITY BY 2023
Difficulty level: 8/10
‘Traceability can verify certain sustainability claims about commodities and products, helping ensure good practices and respect for people and the environment in supply chains.’ - Ursula Wynhoven, general counsel and chief of governance and social sustainability at the UN Global Compact.
We live in an information age where consumers desire more transparency from the brands they interact with everyday. From ingredient sourcing to who the products impact along the way, customers deserve clarity around a material’s journey from raw to ready-to-use. Who Kester Black works with reflects how we do business, and it’s simply good business to make sure our partners are value-aligned, holding them to the same high-standards that we maintain day to day.
Why traceability remains top of mind
Modern slavery is still a global issue. It is estimated that at least 24.9 million people are currently trapped in forced labour worldwide. Of them, 16 million are exploited in the private sector, linked to the supply chains of the international businesses supplying our goods and services. Child labor is also an issue within the cosmetic industry, often tied to the popular ingredient mica. Mica is a substance responsible for giving cosmetics their iridescent glow and unfortunately, has an exploitative history of being mined by minors.
Greater supply-chain visibility gives Kester Black more confidence and clarity around sourcing, impact and product claims; bolstering our commitment to better beauty and business practises. It gives us the confidence to say that our suppliers, workers, and employees are protected from modern slavery and that any mica in our products has been sourced ethically; prohibiting child labor.
Our Code of Conduct ensures the protection and prioritisation of safe workplaces, respectful working conditions, and wages over profit.
For consumers, traceability creates transparency, allowing them to make more informed choices when it comes to the products they use and the brands they support. For the environment, it means a reduced impact on ecosystems, a respect for resources and responsible treatment of waste.
Complete traceability can be tricky to achieve due to the complex nature of supply chains within the beauty industry. One product alone might involve several suppliers, all responsible for different ingredients at varying levels of visibility.
All of our product manufacturers undergo Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audits (SMETA) and INTERTEK audits for responsible business practises. These audits are conducted by a member of SEDEX Council against four pillars: labour standards, health & safety, business ethics, and environment. Three out of four current product manufacturers have also received ECOVADIS sustainability medals for excellence in environmental manufacturing practises.
While we haven’t achieved full traceability yet, we’ve divided our suppliers into stages, identified by their role within the supply chain, with a goal to achieve full traceability by 2023. Where we can, we visit our contractors in-person and develop processes to monitor manufacturing procedures.
We currently have full traceability from all of our Stage 1 Suppliers for product manufacturing. We can see where and when every single ingredient and packaging component was manufactured and by who. We have also conducted in-person inspections of all of our stage 1 suppliers.
GOAL: ENSURE THAT 100% OF EMPLOYEES ARE PAID AT LEAST THE INDIVIDUAL LIVING WAGE BY 2014
Difficulty level: 1/10
Plenty of people that earn a minimum wage, still live below the poverty line. So the living wage was established as a more fair measure of the hourly wage a worker should earn to meet their basic needs and participate in life as an active citizen, while staying out of the clutches of poverty. A living wage is set in relation to a nation’s median income (usually at 60%) and calculated independently each year. At Kester Black, we believe that all of our employees should earn a living wage at the very bare minimum, especially when producing products that would be classed non-essential.
Globally, an estimated 327 million wage earners are paid at or below the applicable minimum wage. This is equivalent to 19 per cent of all wage earners, and includes 152 million women [Source].
The living wage reflects the sentiments of a universal basic income. If everyone got paid the individual living wage, it would help lift a lot of people within our communities out of poverty, rejuvenating livelihoods and empowering communities to be active members of society.
We work hard for a living wage
We can confirm that all Stage 1 suppliers pay their staff a living wage, at the minimum, and as a business we are pursuing policies to ensure employees are paid at least 10% above the living wage, reviewed annually in each employee’s country. Where no living wage data is available, Kester Black calculates comparable jobs that pay 10% or more above the minimum wage instead. This ensures that Kester Black employees remain above the poverty line, and have the means to participate as active citizens within their communities.
GOAL: BECOME B CORPORATION CERTIFIED BY 2017
Difficulty level: 9/10
Traditionally, businesses focused on financial rewards for their shareholders – often at the cost of the environment or communities. However, over the last decade, more businesses have taken on the social enterprise model instead, aiming to maximise profits as well as purpose. To combat greenwashing and provide actual evidence behind our messaging, we became B Corp Certified; holding ourselves accountable to the very high-standards of a globally recognised, independent third party.
Companies that are registered as a B Corp must achieve a minimum score in the B Impact Assessment; an evaluation of the company’s impact on its governance, workers, customers, community and environment. They must also make their B Impact Report — the breakdown of the assessment — accessible through the Certified B Corporation website. All of this is overseen by a governing body called B Lab.
The B in better business
Becoming a B Corp enables companies to champion social purpose while scaling their business. This has resulted in a growing number of companies (3,900+ certified B Corps, across 74 different countries) putting their mission at the core of their practises. The B Impact Assessment fosters a culture of continual progress over perfection, striving to lift standards across the board globally. For consumers, B Corp certification is an easy way to spot brands using their business as a force for good in the world, while inviting others to follow suit.
Attainment and accountability
Kester Black was awarded B Corp status on 11 October 2016. It took us over 2 years of bettering our business practices to be able to meet B Lab’s super rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Every 3-years Kester Black is required to apply for recertification and is audited from top to bottom.
As the first company of its kind in the world to be B Corp certified by B Lab, Kester Black leads by example, inspiring other businesses to join our ‘race to the top’; upholding a gold standard for good business globally. By attaining and maintaining this certification through B Impact Assessment, Kester Black is held accountable in creating a positive social and environmental impact with all of our performance tracked and tested. So while we love creating beautiful things, we also believe in being a fierce force for good; balancing profit and purpose.
GOAL: IMPLEMENT A SUPPLIER CODE OF CONDUCT BY 2017
Difficulty level: 8/10
A supplier code of conduct is essential in making sure that stakeholders, across a whole supply chain, are adhering to appropriate standards for working conditions, environmental protection, and good governance. As an ethical business, ensuring our partners are upholding the high standards that we do is essential in maintaining our social, ethical and environmental values.
If one manufacturer within the chain does not adhere to these standards, all other partnerships, processes and products are thrown into question. A sound supplier code of conduct is a sign that a business is accountable and responsible, giving third-parties a point-of-reference when it comes to minimum acceptable standards within a partnership.
A code of confidence
Having a sound supplier code of conduct, that is complete and upheld by all of our manufacturing partners, guarantees that Kester Black, and our suppliers, are not participating in any exploitation, modern slavery or environmental degradation. Consumers benefit by knowing that their purchases don’t contribute to questionable business practices, aren’t detrimental to the environment, and keep social responsibility top-of-mind. As with traceability, greater visibility and accountability forces companies to improve universally.
A collaborative agreement
While Kester Black has created an initial supplier code of conduct early on in our business journey, this document requires some key updates before being redistributed and signed by our suppliers. We have recently refreshed our Code Of Conduct and are in the process of circulating among all new suppliers and existing suppliers for discussion, implementation and ongoing monitoring.
GOAL: SET UP AN EXTERNAL RESPONSIBILITY ADVISORY BOARD BY 2023
Difficulty level: 7/10
External boards and stakeholders are beneficial to any business, as they’re able to view challenges and opportunities more objectively than an employee or founder might. Without any direct investment in the company, decisions about the business can be made without biases. External auditing, both directly and indirectly (e.g. further down the supplier chain with SMETA and INTERTEK audits of our French manufacturers) keeps us honest and accountable at every stage of our business. Accountability and transparency have been ingrained in Kester Black’s DNA since our inception, and the value of these external review processes has been highlighted through our on-going commitment to B Corp and NoCO2 certifications.
Measuring our impact objectively
An external responsibility advisory board ensures that a business proactively, and objectively, addresses and advances a positive impact. From a consumer and supplier perspective, external advisory boards ensure that there are no conflicts of interest which may affect important business decisions. Regular reviews, throughout every aspect of our business, will give us the freedom and confidence to develop, in-line with and ahead of, the market to support our plans to achieve our sustainability goals.
For a long time, Kester Black has relied on the knowledge and expertise of a small group of people for our day to day operations. However, as the demand for greater transparency around our business grows, so too must our business model. We are only just beginning to look into an external responsibility advisory board with plans to implement from 2022. Our external audits through NoCO2 and B Corp currently go part of the way, via identifying areas for improvement, but this board will help us with the next step of implementing meaningful changes.
GOAL: PUBLICLY REPORT PERCENTAGE OF ANNUAL REVENUE SPENT ON RESPONSIBILITY INITIATIVES BY 2021
Difficulty level: 6/10
Publicly reporting on key impact metrics shows the world we’re about more than just the bottom line, and contributes to the growing movement of business for good. By publishing how much we spend on purpose, we’re effectively putting our money where our mouth (and our marketing) is. The more we see SMEs, just like us, disrupting the norm with radical positive actions, the sooner we’ll see the industry giants shift towards better practises.
We’re inviting consumers to hold us accountable, by revealing our progress, setbacks and challenges along the way. Presenting this information in a public space (digitally, etc.) invites other businesses to follow suit, building confidence and company resilience over time. There are also significant advantages to productivity, trust, culture, and morale when you embrace transparency as a business.
Our revenue in review
For the last 4 financial years (FY17 to FY20 inclusive) we have donated an average of 5% of our revenue to registered charities for social and environmental initiatives.
From 2021, Kester Black will compile a yearly impact report, in addition to our required B Corp certification assessment (supplied every 3-years). This is where all percentages of annual revenue spent on responsibility initiatives will be recorded, reported and revised for ongoing improvement. The report will be made available publicly online.
GOAL: MEASURE ENVIRONMENTAL OUTCOMES OVER TIME VIA CERTIFIED THIRD-PARTY IMPACT ASSESSMENTS
Difficulty level: 7/10
Monitoring environmental outcomes over time is necessary in ensuring our impact is minimal, if not, positive. Enlisting a certified third-party to undertake these assessments ensures that Kester Black meets best-practise, and is being held to rigorous environmental impact standards without biases. It also ensures that these assessments are carried out by a professional, globally recognised expert in the field.
Inviting a third-party assessor to undertake this task proves that we’re able to apply external measures to our efforts, bolstering brand accountability, and allowing us to navigate the market in the most responsible, ethical, and considered way.
Partners in climate protection
Kester Black engages a range of external certification bodies to measure our environmental impact. We regularly undergo tri-yearly auditing as part of our B Corporation certification renewal, facilitated by B Lab.
NoCo2 measures carbon emissions yearly as part of our commitment to carbon neutral certification. Down the supplier line, our French manufacturers are rigorously audited by SMETA to ensure their business practises, processes and ingredients meet high ethical, environmental and social standards.
We proudly maintain Leaping Bunny and Vegan Society certifications, which involve audits on a consistent cycle of every 1-2 years. We also consistently monitor both organisations for any regulatory changes.
Additionally, Kester Black plans to set up a dedicated external advisory board to monitor environmental, ethical, and social impacts as a third-party.