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June 6, 2022
Policies & Claims

A Breakdown of Clean + Planet Positive at Sephora

Yashi Shrestha

Seeing a product featured on those iconic Sephora’s shelves is a moment beauty brands long for, and the convenience consumers are on the hunt for. Sephora actively drives innovation in the beauty industry, and its Clean + Planet Positive program is no exception. It’s a trusted guide for customers shopping in the largely undefined and saturated clean beauty market.

While the similarly-named Clean at Sephora label also closely examines ingredients in a product, Clean + Planet Positive builds on those requirements with four additional categories—responsible packaging, climate commitment, sustainable sourcing practices, and environmental giving—calling on brands to take their environmental commitment seriously.

Responsible Packaging

by ARTFULLY79 via Canva

Any product a customer buys under Clean + Planet Positive is reducing, recycling, and reimagining its long-term packaging impact. Brands undergo extensive vetting to do the following:

Reduce packaging where applicable

Brands need to clearly define how they plan to reduce their existing packaging. Ideally, they educate customers by publicly reporting on primary and secondary packaging of their products. Primary packaging is what holds the product, like tubes and bottles. Secondary is what covers or contains the primary, like cartons.

Additionally, brands should rethink their entire packaging process: using lighter materials, creating designs that ship and store more efficiently, and eliminating use of tertiary packaging (think cardboard boxes and shrink wrap).

Set clear goals for recycling

Brands must make a conscious effort to make packaging more recyclable, and even educate their consumers on how to properly recycle their products. Currently, 50% of all packaging is required to be recyclable, and that number increases to 75% in 2023 and 90% in 2025.

It creates a relationship between customers and brands that can make recycling seamless. Since 2021, all products must designate How2Recycle with clear instructions on how to dispose of them. And because the primary and secondary packaging is made from no hassle materials, customers can dispose with ease (1).

Reimagine their products for the present and into the future

Consumers can discover ways their purchases are rethinking and reducing impact by meeting at least three of the following:

  • Packaging uses at least 30% of post-consumer recycled materials.
  • Packaging uses biomaterials — think biodegradable, bio-based or compostable.
  • Primary packaging is made of at least 75% materials that can be recycled.
  • Avoid materials that can’t be recycled or have no end market.
  • Incorporates refillable components — refill pods and trays, or in-store refill options.
  • Paperboard must be 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified.
  • Inks are 100% vegetable, water, or UV based.

Climate Commitment

by pedrosala via Getty Images

Classic marketing lists all the reasons a single product is sustainable. Clean + Planet Positive takes it a step further by requiring brands to commit to reducing their impact in at least one of the following ways:

  • Commit to using 100% renewable energy in their offices and centers of operations.
  • Commit to targets that reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and develop plans to remodel their operations.
  • Commit to carbon neutral operations, which means calculating a carbon footprint and balancing internal and external measures to reduce it to zero.

Brands can use this opportunity to connect with customers over shared values and how the brand is scaling to meet those values long-term.

Sustainable Sourcing

by microgen via Getty Images

This program invites customers to explore a world of responsibly sourced ingredients. It creates moments that connect the individual to their relationship with the planet. This relationship starts a “banned ingredients” list, called “Formulated Without” by Sephora’s program.

Microplastics are everywhere—even in remote alpine water and air. Starting 2022, they are completely prohibited in rinse-off and leave-on products alike. Microplastics are less than or equal to 5 mm in diameter, think the size of a stud earring. Customers can rest assured that brands featured in this program have made products free of 19 different microplastics or microbeads (2).

If you find palm oil and palm kernel oil on any label of a Clean + Planet Positive product, then 100% of that palm-derived ingredient is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). They also certify 75% of any derivatives of palm oil and palm kernel oil according to the mass balance mandatory, which is mixing certified and uncertified palm oil products.

Spot MICA on that list? Brands are only sourcing this ingredient through fully vetted suppliers, and ****asked to ensure it’s sourced responsibly by avoiding child and forced labor. Brands can take that extra step with membership in the Responsible MICA Initiative (extra points for their suppliers being members too!).

Cruelty-free certification becomes a non-negotiable for all products beginning in 2022.

When the popular ingredient CBD is featured on a label, the brand must meet Sephora’s CBD standards, which ****governs its quality, potency, and sourcing.

Many brands already exclude these ingredients when formulating products, so these exclusions serve to start conversations between brands and customers. Eventually it could lead to creating bigger industry shifts.

Environmental Giving

by jorgelum via Getty Images Signature

An ingredient list only scratches the surface of a brand’s commitment to the planet—it’s also the way they engage and invest in the community. Clean + Planet Positive brands demonstrate this with commitment to at least one form of community giving. This can look like regularly donating at least 1% of their profits (or $100K per year minimum) to credible giving programs. This also looks like becoming a Certified B-Corp brand, meaning they meet a high standard of transparency, social and environmental responsibility, and accountability.

Programs like Clean + Planet Positive invite a conversation between customer and brands to better define clean beauty through education—making more savvy shoppers to shape the clean beauty industry itself.


  1. “No hassle” materials for recyclable packaging include uncoated fiber-based paperboard, plastic made from PET, PP, LDPE or HDPE, easily separated materials, no mixed materials, glass, and aluminum.
  2. Prohibited microplastics and microbeads include Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Polytetrafluoroethylene Acetoxypropyl Betaine, Polyurethane Crosspolymer-1, Polyurethane Crosspolymer-2, Polyamide-5, Nylon-6, Nylon 6/12, Nylon-12, Nylon-12 Fluorescent Brightener 230 Salt, Nylon 6/12, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Polyethylene Isoterephthalate, Polybutylene Terephthalate, Acrylates Copolymer, Acrylates Crosspolymer, Ethylene/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Polystyrene, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, and Polylactic Acid, according to their INCI names.
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