A new report from The Pull Agency, which surveyed over 2,000 people (93% female) across all age groups in the UK, has revealed consumer views about sustainability in the beauty and personal care arena.

The Future of Beauty: Sustainability – Do your consumers really care? report found that nearly three-quarters (71%) of UK consumers think brands and retailers aren’t doing enough to make their beauty and personal care purchases more sustainable, with 69% being confused or not believing brands’ sustainability claims and 94% thinking they should be more transparent about their sustainability credentials.

Of the respondents, 88% (rising to 93% of Gen Z) look for sustainability credentials in their purchases and 32% have deliberately chosen a sustainable brand in the past (35% Gen Z), with 69% willing to pay more for sustainable products – but only if they are still value for money.

Sustainability has become a key element of some beauty and personal care brands’ marketing … but this research suggests many of them still have a long way to go

In addition, 15% would like in-store refill stations (18% Gen Z) and 11% would like in-store recycling bins. However, 87% of respondents say they’ve never heard of the ‘circular economy’, only 9% have sent a jar back to the manufacturer for refills and only 14% have used a refill service.

“Sustainability has become a key element of some beauty and personal care brands’ marketing, especially when targeting younger audiences, but this research suggests many of them still have a long way to go,” comments Claire Rance, head of brand strategy at The Pull Agency. “They may also be focusing on behaviours that consumers are reluctant to actually pursue, like returning containers to the manufacturer for refills or recycling.

“It’s an issue where they will have to be more transparent if they don’t want to get left behind – and the fact that so few consumers have even heard of the ‘circular economy’ doesn’t help their cause.”

The study found that 42% of all shoppers look for the Leaping Bunny kitemark on products and 45% look for symbols to show that products use recycled materials, with two-thirds (67%) having recycled old packaging from those products themselves. But it found other sustainability kitemarks and certifications are less familiar to shoppers – only 8% look for the Soil Association symbol and 12% for Ecocert.

“Consumers are looking for evidence of a sustainable approach, like the Leaping Bunny, but most of the certifications currently aren’t on shoppers’ radar and it suggests those organizations need to do more work to promote their efforts,” says Rance. “Beauty and personal care brands have to see sustainability as an opportunity to better connect and engage with their audiences.”

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