Beyond Net Zero Hero: Jo Chidley, Co-Founder of Beauty Kitchen

Image of Jo Chidley on right in circle. Turquoise background with dark blue lettering reading 'Jo Chidley, Beauty Kitchen', above the text, 'Beyond Zero'

“If you’re a certified B Corp, you have the framework, you have the support, and you very much have the community to be able to learn from other businesses.”

Jo Chidley, Beauty Kitchen Co-Founder

Jo Chidley, Co-Founder of cosmetics company Beauty Kitchen, relishes the ‘inclusive space’ that the B Corp movement offers, allowing companies to learn from each other. Joining the B Corp movement, she explains, gave her “the framework to understand what Beauty Kitchen is really good at – and then where our gaps were.”

Finding those gaps led to a pioneering scheme spearheaded by Beauty Kitchen – Return•Refill•Repeat – in which customers are encouraged to return their empty cosmetic bottles and containers. Beauty Kitchen then wash the packaging and reuse it, resulting in less waste.

“Within the beauty industry in particular, 95% of beauty packaging is only ever used once before it’s either recycled or thrown away,” explains Jo. To help reduce this number, the brand focused on making their reusable packaging “aspirational” in order to attract consumers, and get more people invested in reusable packaging. “The beauty industry is very much about self-confidence, and self-esteem,” adds Jo, “and packaging is a very big part of that.”

Now Beauty Kitchen is paying their knowledge forward by educating other businesses and signing them up to the “#ReuseRevolution”. Unilever are on board, and other businesses are set to follow – including those in the home care and food sectors. “If [Unilever] introduce one reusable piece of packaging, that’s millions of pieces of packaging,” Jo explains, highlighting the impact that knowledge-sharing can have on bringing sustainable business practices into the mainstream.

“With sustainability, you cannot see it as competitive advantage. If you see it as competitive advantage, you’re not being sustainable.”

Hear more from Jo Chidley, Co-Founder of Beauty Kitchen, about the benefits of collaboration in reaching net zero, by listening to the full interview:

Jenny Briggs, Greenhouse PR (0:08)
Welcome to the Beyond Net Zero audio series.

We are at a critical moment. According to the IPCC, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. It’s essential that we cut net global carbon emissions by 45% in the next decade, reaching net zero by 2050. But, what if businesses could go one step further, reaching net zero and beyond by 2030. We’ll be interviewing game changing organisations throughout B Corp month to find out how we can create and communicate a net zero future. The B Corp accreditation has huge potential to inspire more businesses to drive positive and meaningful action on climate change. So please tune in and listen to a series of business pioneers leading the way.

Hello, my Net Zero Hero guest today is Jo from pioneering B Corp, Beauty Kitchen. Their mission is to create the most effective natural and sustainable beauty products in the world with a particular focus on driving a reuse revolution. Over 95% of beauty packaging is thrown away after just one use, which led them to develop a groundbreaking return, refill and repeat programme. Welcome, Jo.

Jo Chidley, Beauty Kitchen (1:34)
Hi, Jenny, it’s really good to be here and be able to talk about what I get really excited about.

JB (1:42)
Brilliant, so good to have you. This audio series is about championing the B Corps that are committed to going beyond net zero and adopting regenerative business practices. With this in mind, what role do you think the B Corp movement could play in the UK achieving and exceeding its net zero targets?

JC (2:01)
So if I just give a little bit of background, I’m Jo Chidley. I’m the co-founder of Beauty Kitchen. And we’re a personal care company. So we sell things like skincare, bath and body and gifts. But what I found going through the personal care industry is it’s not really known for sustainability. And one of the big things that we focused in on was reusable packaging. And that’s where we created Return, Refill, Repeat. And I will come on to that. But it’s about reusable packaging.

And the reason why I wanted to talk about that is that becoming a B Corp certified business really gave me the framework to understand what Beauty Kitchen is really good at, and then where gaps were. And that’s where this reusable packaging came into play. We know that through both Cradle to Cradle Institute, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that reuse and having reuse models and products as a service is one of the easiest ways to be able to reach this goal of net zero. So just wanted to give a little bit of context about why I’m here.

And when it comes to the B Corp movement, how can they play, you know, a role in this? Well, one, if you’re a certified B Corp, you have the framework, you have the support, and you very much have that community to be able to learn from other businesses. And that’s one of the things that I can work well with is if there’s a framework of telling me as a business, what I’m really good at and what I’m not so good at. So the actual movement will give that information not just to B Corp certified businesses, but to anyone who wants to touch base with the B Corp movement. It is a very inclusive space to be in. And what they have done already, is they have created a variety of different communication and storytelling ways so that people can understand what is net zero really about and what difference can I make, not just as a business, but as an individual?

JB (4:23)
Yeah, I think you’re completely right. I think collaboration from the B Corp movement is really what’s going to make the difference. So thank you so much for giving a few more insights into how Beauty Kitchen has been working in partnership with other B Corps. How have you approached your net zero targets as a company?

JC (4:42)
Well, that does come back to the Reuse model. So if we think of Cradle to Cradle principles, which is very much around complementing the B Corp certification of using business as a force for good. When you reuse resources, then it means that you are keeping them in the cycle, and within that circular economy. And packaging has been at the forefront of many people’s minds over the past, not just 12 months, but probably since the blue planet effect is what we call it.

And you mentioned earlier within the beauty industry, in particular 95% of beauty packaging is only ever used once before it’s either going into the recycling, or it’s just thrown away. What we wanted to do is to make it really convenient, we wanted to make it aspirational, you know, the beauty industry is very much about self confidence, self esteem, these are the products that I want to consume, because they make me feel good, and packaging is a very big part of that. And that’s where we thought, well, if we can create packaging that attracts the customer, but it also means that that packaging can be reused, then it means we are bringing to life one of the steps that will create the journey towards net zero.

JB (6:17)
I love that because you’re really turning it on its head. So what’s the problem? You’re thinking actually, how can we make it aspirational? How can people want to have it more than any other product on the shelves?

JC (6:26)
Yes. And one of the things that we’ve just been talking about is the return, refill, repeat programme, Beauty Kitchen is the first customer to that programme, our second customer has been Unilever. And we have other brands that are going to join this reuse revolution. So Beauty Kitchen, isn’t hiding this, we want this to be the way that everybody in the personal care industry understands the reuse revolution, how they can reuse packaging, and how they can do it easier, because we’ve done all the hard work for them. So one of the challenges with sustainability and net zero is, it looks really hard, as a business, where do you start? How do I get involved? And that’s where we’ve looked at not just the personal care industry, we have looked at home care and laundry detergents. And we’re working with some food companies as well, so that they can reuse the reusable packaging that we’ve created for them.

But part of that programme is the consumer understanding the journey that that packaging has been on. And we’ve just spoken about one of the things that gets people excited, is that if they can actually see through storytelling means, where that piece of packaging has come from. So where was it manufactured? How was it filled? How did it end up on the supermarket shelf or how did they end up in my bathroom, then you take ownership of that piece of packaging, and you’re returning it like a message in a bottle, where it gets returned and someone else can follow that journey and put an imprint onto that piece of packaging’s journey.

JB (8:15)
I love that, ‘message in a bottle’. I can see as well the transparencies, not just with your consumers, but also with all of these companies that you want to mimic and take that blueprint and drive it forward. So it’s a really a brilliant way of doing business to make sure that you’re not just pioneering in your own corner, you’re trying to spread that knowledge and that awareness which is going to be key.

JC (8:38)
And Jenny, that’s one of the things with sustainability. You cannot see it as competitive advantage. If you see it as competitive advantage, you’re just not being sustainable.

JB (8:49)
You’re completely right. I think that it’s something that you need to remind yourself of, I think, on this journey and make sure that we are collaborative in in our approach and we’re including those big players, otherwise, we’re never going to achieve anything really.

JC (9:06)
And that’s where the big impact can be for net zero. If you have Unilever for instance, who’s the third biggest personal care company in the world, if they introduced one reusable piece of packaging, that’s millions of pieces of packaging, that just really turns the net zero and sustainability measures on its head.

JB (9:29)
I completely agree. We also would love to hear from you how you see your net zero future. What do you think a net zero future looks like? I think net zero is such a buzzword at the moment and it’ll be good to bring it to life for people what that future world could be.

JC (9:49)
Very much so, so one of the things that I wanted to drop in to this podcast is reading certain books, just to give you that inspiration of what you can imagine a world to be like. But the way that we’ve described it here, at Beauty Kitchen and Return, refill, repeat is imagine a world in the pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle, millions of consumers have switched to reusable packaging, you consume the contents of the packaging, returning their empties to the point of purchase for refill, or to return it for cleaning and reuse. It saves consumers money, businesses money, reduces waste, and most importantly, keeps the planet’s limited resource flowing in continuous cycles of reuse. This is a world where we waste zero. And that for me is the pinnacle, that’s what we’re driving towards.

Yet, within that, one of the things that I didn’t want to lose sight of is the facts of deforestation. When we looked at overall emissions, we already know that the data tells us that deforestation is the biggest driver of the emissions, whereas the everyday consumer probably thinks that the emissions are coming from things like cars, from the energy industry. And don’t get me wrong. They are, but deforestation is one of the focuses for us.

And we work with an NGO that is called Canopy. And Canopy is a non profit environmental organisation dedicated to protecting forests, species and climates. And what they actually have is a pack for good initiative, and Beauty Kitchen has signed up to that. But what does that mean? Well, what it means is that all of our packaging will be free from ancient or endangered forests, we will help to design to reduce material use, and we will maximise recycled and alternative next generation fibres. So such things as agricultural residues. And this for me is the future alongside the reuse revolution.

JB (12:14)
Oh, thank you for sharing. I haven’t heard of this label actually, this is completely new to me.

JC (12:21)
Canopy as an NGO have been around for a very long time. And if you look them up, they have a rich variety of detail, not just for the everyday person, they have tools and a toolkit for businesses. And that toolkit is free to use. So if you’re wondering, does my business use wood, or wood pulp from endangered forests, this NGO can help you navigate that and let you know which supplier you should be using. And again, we have recently gone through our B Corp recertification and Canopy and the toolkit have played a part in our environmental reporting. So there’s that aspect of helping with your certification as well.

JB (13:14)
Brilliant, it just makes it one step easier. Thanks, that’s really, really useful. I think we’ve touched upon it a little bit, but I’d love to know what you think about the general public, what they think net zero means already and how we can change that perception?

JC (13:30)
I think they don’t really know what it means. I think they go, net zero, it’s something we need to do, but if you ask 100 people off the street, I would be surprised if even one person could give the official answer. However, what I do believe is that the the general public, they understand it’s related to sustainability, it’s related to energy use, to reducing, so I think they would be in the sphere of the things that we need to do to be able to get to net zero, but I think they would struggle to have the actual definition.

So what I thought I would do is give a couple of sentences of what that actually means. So net zero refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere, like a bath with the taps on, an approach to achieving this balance could either be to turn down the taps – the emissions – or to drain an equal amount down the plug by removal of emissions from the atmosphere, which would include storage of emissions such as carbon sinks.

JB (14:54)
Brilliant, I think it really helps bring it to life when you have concepts like the bath that’s obviously found in our homes, we can really understand what that means, because I think you’re right – net zero, if I walked up to anyone in the street today, I don’t think they could convey quite that succinctly what it means and what it means for them personally. Looking to the future, what ambitions do you have for Beauty Kitchen over the next five to 10 years?

JC (15:20)
For us it is reforestation. We are on the cusp of Cradle to Cradle certification, although we have been working with Cradle to Cradle principles since the beginning of Beauty Kitchen. And when I mean reforestation, I definitely mean planting trees. But I also mean, reforestation in every aspect. Think about renewables, think about reuse, and try to understand the concept of waste. And rather than seeing waste is something that is rubbish or something that you throw away, think about it as either an ingredient or resource you haven’t found a use for.

And, the great thing about the digital age, is that someone else’s waste is definitely somebody else’s resource. And that’s one of the great things about the B Corp community is that if you’ve got something that you think, I can’t use this, but maybe another business could, the community will help you find a use for that. And some of the listeners might not be old enough, but I am. And if you remember the Wombles, which was a cartoon, that is really how I try to live my life and I just love some of the crazy little things that you see. So things that we find people leave behind that they use again, and that’s really what we want to be at Beauty Kitchen – we want to find more Wombles.

JB (16:58)
Yeah, I know about Wombles. I think they’ve made a small return, I’ve seen recently on social media, I’d love to see them back on our main screens!

My big change this year, is I’ve got rid of my main bin, I’ve banished it from our home. I’m trying to rethink how we recycle and how I’m prioritising my use of rubbish,

JC (17:21)
That’s a great idea. I hadn’t thought of that. I’m going to try that because one of the things that I’ve noticed over the last 12 months is I’m trying to reduce plastic wrapping. So you know, a lot of fruit and vegetables come in plastic wrapping, there’s two things, that and also not having as much dairy in my diet. And what I found in my black bin was it was mostly plastic wrapping. And that was why I wanted to change that but actually moving the bin, that’s a great idea! Love it.

JB (17:57)
I did it on the first of January. And it’s meant that I don’t have very much to put in it because I know I didn’t have a bin. So I’m just trying to constantly find ways to use that material or make an eco-brick or do something else with it. So I really, really recommend it. It’s really helpful.

Well, thank you so much, Jo, I found that so, so interesting. And I really, really value your input and your opinion from a business perspective, but also from an individual perspective, because I can see that you’re striving to improve in both areas, which is all that we can do. So thank you for your time.

JC (18:34)
No, thank you for having me. And what we sometimes forget as businesses is businesses are made up of individuals and consumers, whatever way we look at it so the two go hand in hand.

JB (18:46)
Exactly. I completely agree. Thank you.

JC (18:49)
Thank you.

JB (18:56)
You have been listening to Beyond Net Zero, a campaign celebrating pioneering B Corporations from Greenhouse PR. Find out more on our website and sign up to our webinar on March 31 with John Elkington, a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development.