If you’re in-tune with your own personal impact on the planet, human rights and the future of the air that you breathe, then yes: sustainable perfume is the next vital switch you need to make on your dressing table.
There isn’t a day that goes by without the S-word landing in our inboxes like at least a dozen times. But can sustainability apply to perfume too? What does it even mean for fragrance and, if we’re all honest here, do we even care?
Here’s everything you need to know so that you’re clued-up, spraying with a conscience and smelling incred.
What even is sustainable perfume?
It’s more than just having organic petals in your bottle. A truly sustainable perfume brand (and any beauty brand for that matter) should uphold a genuine respect for its ecological and social impact by doing the following:
1. Use methods that do not cause damage to the environment, so that the creative process can continue over a long period of time with minimal impact on the planet.
2. Replace, reuse or recycle the ingredients, packaging and waste from their entire manufacturing process.
3. Reduce carbon footprint by choosing local suppliers and reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
4. Work with suppliers (eg glass manufacturers, ingredients growers, graphic designers for their packaging) who also follow a socially-conscious, sustainable and fair-trade ethos.
Naturals vs Synthetics
Here’s where we’re torn. Sustainability also means reducing environmental and resource consumption. So surely the growing and removal of natural ingredients is actually more damaging to our planet than using synthetic ingredients made in a petri dish?
“I totally understand this dilemma and questioned it myself,” says Mona Maine de Biran, co-founder of clean, cruelty-free and conscious perfume brand Kierin NYC which arrives this month in the UK.
“The dynamic of taking and not giving back needs to change. Right now there is a lot of irresponsible activity in perfumery, from deforestation to river pollution. But it’s changing: manufacturers are leaning towards more transparency, being cleaner and having a conscious eco-impact. We only work with suppliers who share our values, such as Robertet [a fragrance ingredients company] as they are leaders in sustainable raw materials and have the lowest environmental footprint as possible. They support the villagers who grow their ingredients by replanting and replacing instead of just taking, giving them an opportunity to lift themselves socially and contribute to the community.”
As for synthetic ingredients, while they may sound minimally invasive it’s the bigger picture we need to look at. “Do naturals and synthetics both have the same ecological impact? From our extensive research, the answer is no,” says Mathilde Breithaupt, co-founder of the new luxury vegan candle brand, Iumé.
“The essential oils that we use are cold-pressed or made from gentle steam distillation. This is minimally polluting compared to synthetic molecules made by petrochemical reactions, producing fuel emissions and environmental pollution – plus they’re rarely biodegradable.” And just so that we’re totally clear: “In our opinion, synthetic fragrance production causes more toxic waste than the production of the natural raw materials that we certify,” says Emma Dawes, technical specialist at The Soil Association.
Who’s doing it really well?
In today’s modern beauty landscape, being cruelty-free, socially fair and eco-friendly should be a given for all brands – no exceptions, no excuses. But some are taking it a step further, whether that’s by giving back to nature, finding innovative ways to reduce pollution or tangibly transforming communities. And we are so here for these beauty powerhouses, who are make every spritz symbolic: