EXCLUSIVE: Ren Clean Skincare Leads #WeAreAllies Sustainability Campaign

A new multibrand beauty campaign aims to reach sustainability’s tipping point in prestige beauty.

Ren Clean Skincare has joined forces with Biossance, Caudalie, Herbivore and Youth to the People. Dubbed #WeAreAllies, the campaign, timed to Earth Day, represents joint sustainability pledges across the brands. The effort was spearheaded by Arnaud Meyselle, chief executive officer of Ren Clean Skincare.

Meyselle said a series of meetings on refillable packaging spurred the idea. Ren’s own sustainability efforts geared up in 2018, when it pledged to reach zero-waste status by the end of 2021 via recyclable or refillable product packaging. Under the initiative, each ensuing brand will vow the same by the end of 2025.

The campaign has been in the works for years, Meyselle added, noting that its initial launch date in 2020 was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. “On our own, we cannot move the needle. I believe that collaboration is the new competition, so I reached out to my direct competitors, and after 30 seconds, each of them said they were in,” he said. “We are five brands, but we should be 50, or 500. It’s about raising the awareness, and changing the products behind luxury beauty.”

Meyselle reasoned that packaging with a luxurious weight and feel is just as important to consumers as sustainability, and shifting public conceptions of “luxurious” packaging required lifting from multiple brands. “We believe that luxury packaging is heavy, so we need to shift the paradigm, we need to do things differently and we want to inspire more brands to do so,” he said.

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“Prestige beauty is obsessed with packaging: luxurious packaging, wasteful packaging. But with more demand, brands are starting to realize that there’s no unsustainable future. The future has to be sustainable, or you cannot deliver great formulations,” Meyselle said.

Speaking from personal experience, Meyselle said education was a pillar of the campaign. “It takes some time and it takes education to understand, but it’s education in a cool way, because it can be very boring. I was not into sustainability before. I’m 50, I’m a big advocate now, but I was not born an activist.”

Samples are what Meyselle coined a dark secret of the beauty industry, often meeting less favorable ends than full-sized products in recyclable materials. “One hundred twenty-two billion samples are produced every year, and they are winding up in landfills because they’re not as certainly recyclable,” he said, adding that Ren Clean Skincare will introduce recyclable samples in July.

Demand from brands is driving packaging innovations, Meyselle said, and has made it easier in recent years for brands to reinforce their commitments. “When you used to ask for recycled plastic, it was something with very limited quantities,” Meyselle said. “There’s new technology, you get plastic that looks like virgin plastic that can be recycled infinitely.”

Ren has seen consumer demand rise firsthand — its first product housed in ocean plastics sold out almost immediately. When rethinking packaging for its preexisting shower gel, sales multiplied by five. “Our brand has grown double digits through the pandemic, and sustainability is the new luxury,” Meyselle said. “Millennials and Generation Z, they want sustainable products, and cannot stand the idea of products — even if they’re cool products — going into a landfill. They want products that are going to be a part of a circular economy.”

The upward trend toward sustainable materials has also given Meyselle reason to push the envelope. “Five years ago, I remember a study in the U.S., about the reasons to purchase and beauty products. Sustainability was around 5 percent. The low end of this test, now, is more than 50. This is the future, beauty must be sustainable,” he said.

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