I Choose What I Use…and I Choose to be a Beautiful Business
For many Beautiful Businesses, breaking into a corporate dominated industry like cosmetics can be a daunting task. But when you are driven by values and a personal ethic it can make the task both simpler…and harder. Decision-Making may be easy-come easy-go for some businesses but for Sue Shaw-Pollard of I Choose What I Use, the decision-making process can pose some very real dilemmas. The cosmetics industry has been riven by a range of moral ‘conflicts’ for many years and doing it right can become a personal mission. I Choose What I Use founder and owner Sue has been a Vegetarian for 23 years. She has had an equally long interest in natural beauty and alternative therapies and though she was employed in the financial services industry, had dreamed of owning a Vegetarian related business for many years. The planning (and saving) started in earnest in 2010 and the online business, I Choose What I Use, was launched in 2012. Natural compromises? She says there can be,
‘Our Vegetarian principles come first…two examples which spring to mind are animal hair in makeup brushes and carmine (a red colouring obtained by killing cochineal beetles and widely used in cosmetics) , in both cases we’ll take a synthetic over a natural‘
Perhaps more than any other, the cosmetics industry has led the way in helping us change the way we think about business and the way we consume.The change-leader Anita Roddick and her work with the Body Shop broke the mould of how we think about this huge industry, clearing the way for beautiful innovators and small businesses driven by values rather than profit. This continues to be a huge task in an ethically ambiguous and money rich industry. The data is staggering and sales hardly ever falter. The European cosmetics market is expected to grow at approximately 4.4% per year over the next decade whilst Japanese market is expected to grow 3.1% over the next ten years and the U.S. is in the middle of the pack at 5%. Currently, the ten largest cosmetic corporations such as Proctor & Gamble and L’Oreal, combine to control over half of the cosmetics market. According to Global Insight a number of trends in the cosmetic industry are evident; the Anti-ageing skin care is a growing with the ageing of the baby-boomer generation; Men’s growing acceptance of the importance of being well groomed; the growth of Natural cosmetics and the increased preference of consumers for less synthetic and more “natural” or “botanical” products; coupled to this, an increasingly awareness of the risks posed by different ingredients used in cosmetic products; and finally technological advances have allowed for the creation of multi-functional products with a strong emphasis on value for money. So, how can smaller businesses engaged in the cosmetic industry compete with the monopolistic tendencies of the big corporates? Its obviously hard, but given the growing mistrust towards big business, small businesses have something which is essential as we move forward…values; the ability to connect with consumers, working closely with producers such as farmers with closer attention to supply chains; ultimately more intimate, with stories to tell and bring us closer. As Global Insight remark,
“Large international firms and their subsidiaries dominate the cosmetics market, receiving over half of the entire industry’s sales. Nevertheless successful small businesses are making their presence felt. Some of these firms have been able to change the core values of the cosmetics industry by offering consumers the opportunity to make purchase decisions based on their enthusiasm for these innovative ways of doing business” http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise
I Choose What I Use. I Choose…to be beautiful
Making choices in business can be hard. Weighing up a range of factors, facing pressures, pulled this way and that. Perhaps we should let values direct us and make it personal. I Choose What I Use are instinctually driven and believe in their choices, many of which are formed around their own lifestyle ethics, being big supporters of Vegan, Fair-trade and Organic products. As Sue says,
Well, we’re Vegetarian – that must give us a head start in the beautiful stakes! We believe that beauty doesn’t have to be an ugly business. We follow three core principles; the haircare, skincare and beauty products we select for our website must be Vegetarian, naturally derived and cruelty free”
Driven by her values, Sue gets excited by the possibilities and the challenge of making choices such as sourcing and choosing packaging. Making sure all the orders they send, use recycled, recyclable or biodegradable materials. Having an eye for detail and consistency, Sue makes sure all their paper and business stationary are from recycled sources too. This is a beautiful business making an effort to be fully appreciative of the complex and interwoven nature of the business process.
Image: Alva ICWIU
The use of chemicals in the cosmetic industry has been a long running issue too. In the world of skincare and beauty, making something suitable for Vegetarians or Vegans can be a challenge. But for Sue, the principles are simple,
“Your body absorbs much of what you put on your skin (otherwise Nicotine patches wouldn’t work would they?) so if you care about what you put in your body, it’s logical to us that you care just as much about what you put on your body too…with a quirky twist…We aim to cater for the whole family, whatever their age, and our pet section shows we haven’t forgotten your 4-legged member of the family either. We’re not just here for Vegetarians, we’re here for anyone who wants the products they use on their bodies to be natural and cruelty free. We love to search out new or less well known artisan products as well as offering some of the more mainstream natural brands people are familiar with”
Taking care with the choices in the product range is important for Sue. She is responsible for curating a range of products which attempt to salvage the reputation of the beauty and cosmetics industry. Brands like Alva….best-selling, certified organic, anti-ageing moisturising day cream is rich in cold-pressed organic sea buckthorn oil. It is Vegetarian, Natural, Cruelty Free, Organic. Or the Visionary Soap Company, deeply committed to fair-trade principles and fair-trade certified, they make soap which is registered with the Vegan Society and uses mainly organic ingredients. This is a company which ticks all the boxes and is part of Sues vision to bring beautiful cosmetics together under the I Choose What I Use umbrella.
Image: Visionary Soap ICWIU
In many of the beautiful businesses we have covered, the chance to make connections between people and product, has been a special one. Stories of success, achievements and connections are made more poignant. Personal is something beautiful businesses can do and corporates can not. I Choose What I Use is about the choices we make… knowing we can trust these businesses to help us along the way.
For more information on their product range and their story, see http://ichoosewhatiuse.co.uk/