Special Edition: Natural Ingredients & Claims
Natural cosmetics must create ‘net environmental good’ amid global biodiversity crisis, says Wildlife Friendly startup Seilich
Founded in 2018 by plant conservation scientist Dr Sally Gouldstone, the Scottish-based indie brand offered a range of floral water face mists and skin care sprays made using a selection of home-grown meadow flowers, including wild roses, yarrow, chamomile and peppermint. Available online, all products were certified Wildlife Friendly because its one-acre meadow was considered a shelter for wildlife and contributed to the survival of pollinators in the area. Seilich only harvested 50% of its wildflowers to make its natural cosmetics, leaving the rest for the local bees, butterflies and beetles.
Beauty has an ‘opportunity to make change’ during this biodiversity crisis
Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Gouldstone – who has 20+ years of plant conservation expertise – said Wildlife Friendly was a highly relevant and valuable certification in today’s world.
“Given the global biodiversity crisis, I just feel there’s such an opportunity here to make a change,” Gouldstone said.
In Europe, many parts of the natural beauty sector were “trading on the idea of nature, whilst at the same time degrading the systems which [it] relied on for ingredients supply”, she said. “…I think the conversation needs to change around natural ingredients – away from definitions and how much processing should be allowed, to the environmental impact.”
The Wildlife Friendly certification Seilich worked with offered industry this chance to shift the natural and sustainability story “away from human benefits to environmental benefits”, she said.
Gouldstone said some of the more common sustainable skin care certifications remained largely skewed towards consumer benefits, despite many including good biodiversity aspects, and others had only a light focus on biodiversity.
Flower crop farms versus wild harvesting – ‘create net environmental good’
Many parts of the natural beauty sector, she said, also operated foraging and wildflower harvesting models that just took from nature.
“We have so much land set aside for growing crops, yet we’re going into these tiny areas of wild land and still taking. I just think: why are we doing this? And consumers are buying into it – it’s being marketed in a way that you’re getting this very pure product and connection with nature.”
She said rather than continuing this, industry ought to instead focus on transforming existing crop models and making these eco-friendly and placed for positive environmental change. Seilich’s meadow farm model, for example, was sustainable because it was carefully managed and contributed to local biodiversity, and it was a model that could certainly be mimicked on a larger scale by bigger businesses, Gouldstone said.
“[With Wildlife Friendly], we’re not causing degeneration and then offsetting the impact or giving money to charities; we’re trying to create net environmental good, and it’s a very different thing.”
“…Rather than going for ‘no net loss’, which a lot of the others do, I really want to show environmental gain and I don’t think there’s another certification out there that is so clear on that.”
Wildlife Friendly certification – ‘being part of something bigger’
The Wildlife Friendly certification, therefore, was “absolutely central” to everything Seilich did, Gouldstone said.
“I had to create my wildflower meadow; I had to work out which of our native, naturalised botanical species can be used in skin care; I had to work out how much of my crop I could be harvesting and what I should be leaving. I also had to work out where to site my crops (…) There were a lot of pieces that had to come together to get the certification.
“Of course, I could have done all of that without the certification, but there’s something about having a logo and being part of something bigger that gives you strength as a brand,” she said.
It also helped consumers find your brand and understand your sustainable values, she said – particularly those seeking out such products. “There’s something about the wellness and cosmetics industry – consumers are just ready to buy into this; I think they’re ripe for buying into these ideas. I think we’ve got the audience there already, so there’s so much opportunity.”
Industry just had to distinguish between environmental benefits and ‘not having a negative impact’, she said. “The pieces are all already there, it’s just a slight shift we need – awareness building.”
Collaboration key to transforming science into action
Gouldstone said as Seilich slowly expanded, she would “love to work with other brands and businesses” interested in Wildlife Friendly models that were ready turn scientific knowledge into actions.
“I love working with other local growers and also talking to other skin care companies on how we can work together.”