There are people who care about sustainability, and then there’s Mia Davis. A veteran in the beauty space, Mia has dedicated the last 15 years to helping brands and organizations realize the impact of their products on our bodies and the environment. As the VP of Sustainability and Impact at Credo Beauty, she’s been instrumental in establishing the retailer as one of the leaders in clean, impact-driven brands.We recently sat down with Mia to discuss some of the myths and mistakes she sees in this space and what sustainable practices beauty brands and retailers should be adopting.
Novi: Sustainability seems to be a loaded term. As a leading expert in this space, what are some of the myths you frequently hear?
Mia: That if it comes from a plant it must be sustainable! The thing is, you can grow and harvest crops in a very unsustainable way—like palm oil and its many derivatives. Sure, plant ingredients can be the best, most safe, and sustainable ingredients, but that’s not true for all. Instead, brands and consumers should be concerned with where it came from, its growing practices, etc.
Novi: Is there anything that brands do that they think is sustainable but really isn’t?
Mia: Oh, sure. Sometimes brands just go for the ingredient or packaging that has a “green” symbol like a leaf on the marketing materials. Just because the manufacturer implies it’s a more sustainable choice doesn't mean it actually is. And I get it, this can be hard for brands to navigate.
Novi: Any other nuances you’d like to see cleared up?
Mia: Well, in addition to the green leaf misnomer, there’s still the belief that cleaner, greener ingredients and packaging must cost a lot more, and/or that they can’t compete on performance. That’s true in some cases, but it’s not necessarily true for all materials. I really hope that different industry stakeholders will innovate and scale new, more sustainable ingredients and packaging that are more affordable. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s also good for business.
Novi: We’d like to think we can help connect people to those resources *wink wink*. So, with all you know about this world, if you were starting your own beauty brand today, what are the kinds of things you would be thinking about?
Mia: Well, first I’d focus on formulas. I’ve been pushing for safer, more sustainable ingredients since I started working in this space in 2006. Formulas need to be made without ingredients known to cause harm. This is the “free of” mentality. But ideally, consumer brands should be going much deeper than that. I would be evaluating every single ingredient for its potential health and environmental impacts.
Next, I’d look at my packaging. We have cleaner product formulas on the market, and they’re more accessible than ever before, which is a huge step in the right direction. But beauty packaging—even in the ‘clean’ space—is in desperate need of an overhaul. So much waste, so little recycled. I would be building my brand to re-utilize refillable components, and to reduce reliance on plastic as much as possible.
Novi: How would you go about finding the right Contract Manufacturer to help with this?
Mia: Finding the right CM is like dating. Sometimes it seems great at first, everyone’s excited, butterflies, honeymoon. But then you realize that you’re not speaking the same language, or that they’re not a very good listener, and it can all fall apart. I would look for a CM who’s willing and open to sit down with me and my team to fully grasp our ingredient and packaging restrictions and our goals. They might be a diamond in the rough, but I’m searching for the CM with staff that can think outside of the box.
Novi: You would be a brand’s secret weapon. But you also know so much on the retailer side. What do you think needs to be top of mind for retailers when it comes to sustainability?
Mia: Packaging, big time. We’re truly in a packaging waste crisis; less than 10% of plastic packaging is recycled and far too much of it is ending up as pollution. Credo is paving the way with our industry-leading Sustainable Packaging Guidelines, which banned single-use plastic and has strong goals for more sustainable formats moving forward. We’re also glad to see Sephora releasing some great new policies for its clean assortment. We hope to see packaging sustainability become a focus for all retailers and for all products—not just the “cleanest” ones.
Interested in sourcing more sustainable ingredients and packaging? Find all of the information—and materials—you need right on Novi.