Becoming a Sustainable Clinic

By Ron Myers / 17 Mar 2022

Business development consultant Ron Myers explores the emerging importance and advantages of sustainability in aesthetic medicine and tips for starting out

As the daily news stories concerning COVID-19 ease, the airtime given to sustainability issues will arguably increase, as the Government tries to implement and enforce the targets that they have committed to in relation to the 17 United Nations Global Sustainability 2030 Goals.1 Certain sectors are already grappling with huge consequences to their business models, with the proposed gas boiler ban in three years’ time followed by combustion engines in 2030.2 When I was growing up, environmental activism was almost exclusively known as ‘green issues’ and was limited to a few deeply committed organisations such as Greenpeace, who were often not represented in the best light in national media. In the last few years however, campaigners like Greta Thunberg have mobilised a new generation of ‘young activists’ to participate in school strikes and rallies throughout cities in the UK and around the world. Some of these demonstrations have been aimed specifically at aspects of the beauty and aesthetic sector, with a ‘Plastic Free Beauty Day’ march on June 17 planned for this year in London.3 The consumer can no longer ignore the importance of sustainability and how their daily lives and habits can affect the planet, and this feeling is driving their behaviour. Business owners working in the aesthetic specialty must therefore think about this if they want to compete in this sustainability focused age.  

Modern attitudes and adaptations 

This is a significant shift from what consumers wanted five or 10 years ago when the gold standard for brands was to deliver a great product or service. Now companies (large and small) are expected to go much further to stand for something beyond their products. Beauty and aesthetic brands and companies will increasingly have to prove that there is a reason for their existence beyond profits, one that contributes in some way positively to the environment, to society, or to supporting individual expression. This requires CEO leadership, deep thought and a commitment and focus on inward investment in both time and money to address sustainability issues relevant to that business. Ex Unilever CEO, Paul Polman, is a case study worth reading on what can be achieved over a decade whilst also keeping shareholders happy.4 A recent study by the British Beauty Council found that of 23,000 beauty shoppers, almost half (48%) are looking for more information, clarity and transparency about beauty brands’ values and commitments to the environment.3 In fact, the British Beauty Council has launched a Sustainable Beauty Coalition with a wide range of industry leaders (including Boots) represented to address sustainability issues, which has resulted in the publication of a 48-page sustainability report called ‘The Courage to Change’.The report highlights compelling reasons for taking action noting that ‘current industry efforts are too patchy and uncoordinated’, and that the sector ‘must move together, from the smallest independent, to the largest corporate brand’.5 In addition, they released a ‘Planet Positive Guide’ aimed at the consumer, with a headline stating that ‘our planet is in a code red situation’.6 Within the guide they highlight claims made by skincare brands and educate consumers about how to avoid ‘greenwashing’ – where ‘green’ marketing is used deceptively to persuade the public that an organisation’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly. 

Even as far back as the 80s beauty business like the Body Shop were championing environmental and suitability causes. More recently skincare powerhouses such as L’Oreal (the largest skincare company in the world) have joined the cause – with ‘We Fight Climate Change’ emblazoned across their website and commitments to sustainable development goal targets including: ‘by 2030, 95% of our ingredients will be bio-based, derived from abundant minerals or from circular processes’ and ‘by 2025, 100% of our plastic packaging will be refillable, reusable, recyclable or compostable’.7 The pressure to incorporate sustainability goals into future plans for companies quoted on stock exchanges around the world is also being driven by investment houses. In 2022, 

Larry Fink, the CEO of Blackrock, the largest investment management company in the world managing over $7 trillion of funds, wrote an open letter to CEOs warning them about a fundamental reshaping of finance in relation to climate change.8 Companies can no longer ignore this subject as it is becoming a greater determining factor in deciding where huge sums of pension fund moneys are invested with a resultant impact on share price. Smaller ‘disrupter’ companies are entering the sector with claims that aim to resonate with consumers such as ‘palm oil free’, ‘vegan’, ‘recyclable or refillable packaging’ and ‘sustainable ingredients’.

Embracing sustainability

In talking to practitioners, clinic owners and suppliers in recent months, I think a lot of inaction comes down to a lack of understanding of what they can practically do to make a difference, alongside a belief that this subject is not yet an important factor that their customers take into account. Here are some ideas as to how you can make your start towards a more sustainable business in aesthetics.  

Become more educated 

The first step is to understand more about sustainability issues and practices through reading articles, books and watching videos on YouTube (just type in sustainable business ideas). There are also

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