Big Brand Talks - In conversation with today's beauty leaders
Rituals CEO: Our vision is to ensure luxury, sustainability and social responsibility ‘go hand in hand’
Rituals this week became a Certified B Corporation, placing it amongst a very small handful of beauty companies to achieve this status – a world-renowned benchmark on meeting the highest standards of social and environmental impact. In beauty, Rituals joined two of Natura &Co’s brands The Body Shop and Aesop, as well as several indie brands like Beauty Kitchen, Aromatherapy Associates and Typology with B Corp status.
CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with Raymond Cloosterman, CEO and founder of Rituals, to find out more about the company’s journey towards this certification and future vision of the business.
“Three years ago, we realised if we wanted to become a leading wellbeing brand in the beauty industry, then we should take a more holistic approach to the approach of wellbeing. So, not only concentrating on what we have to offer to our customers, but also how we run our business; how we treat our employees, suppliers and everyone around us. That led to the idea of going towards B Corp,” Cloosterman said.
The entire company and its vast network of production, suppliers and retail touchpoints had been involved, he said, and the biggest challenge had been that throughout the transformation Rituals still lived up to its promise of elegant stores and products designed to make a difference to consumers.
“It was all about how we can make luxury, sustainability and social responsibility go hand in hand. I like that challenge. It’s not easy, because it feels sometimes paradoxal, but it is possible,” he said.
Statement designs and products plus social good and sustainability
Rituals as a brand, Cloosterman said, was dedicated to maintaining its founding principles of wellbeing and luxury, which meant working with the best perfumers in the world; spending lots of time on store and product design; staying passionate about quality; and sharply focused on pampering its consumers. “That doesn’t always go hand in hand with, I would say, functionality and minimum amount of packaging materials and waste,” he said.
It was certainly, however, achievable and had been proven with the company’s B Corp status but also very elegantly executed in its The Ritual of Namaste natural skin care line, made using natural or naturally derived ingredients, packed in luxury marble refillable jars, the CEO said. “That’s a beautiful example on how we believe luxury and sustainability can go hand in hand. But that’s not easy to apply to all of our products. Some products are in your living room as a design statement, in a bathroom or hand bag as a design statement. Then suddenly, if you take all that magic away, what will remain? How can you make a difference? How can you build your brand? I think that’s something we are all struggling with.”
“…I love beautiful things; I love to create beautiful things with my team. And I hope that our industry is able to find a balance between keeping true to the beauty design and luxury aspects whilst at the same time managing the back part (…) I hope we can all keep our identify and all fight our way to making the difference,” he said.
So, what parts of the business exactly had Rituals had to focus on to achieve its B Corp status?
‘There was room for improvement on all aspects’
“We’re a young business still, and a very creative business, and a lot of people are very committed to this whole concept of wellbeing but also this concept of sustainability. So, a lot was already going on, but what we needed to do was make it much more fact-based, and not only with everything we’re doing ourselves,” Cloosterman said.
B Corp had provided a very clear checklist that helped in reviewing the entire company, using data-driven assessments, he said, and so when Rituals started to review the business in this sense, “there was room for improvement on all aspects”.
“…What we’ve learned is that when people talk about Rituals, our customers, we had a very good image in terms of sustainability. And I think, looking back three to five years ago, our performance wasn’t as good as people thought it was, to be honest. And that was a very big driver for us to work extremely hard on outperforming the expectations of our customers. Because in the long run, if you don’t live up to their expectations, it’s dangerous.”
Rituals consumers, he said, were first and foremost seeking luxury and wellbeing, but in balance with products and experiences that were sustainable. “They want it all. They want the looks, the fragrances, but they also want a partner in a brand which is looking after the other stakeholders in the environment as well.”
And Rituals would maintain that balance moving forward with its B Corp certification, Cloosterman said. “We’ll focus on the innovation programme to really surprise people with our products, but in the back-office people should also be able to trust us that we do all the necessary things which need to be done, and more, for the environment.”
The plan, he said, was to also communicate these ‘behind the scenes’ efforts more with consumers – an aspect Rituals had previously been “a bit conservative” on. “We’re going to talk about it more. We’re going to explain B Corp a little better, because for the customers, B Corp is still not very well known.”
Smaller, closer goals to ensure sustainable change isn’t ‘ideological’
Knowledge and understanding around B Corp would gain ground in time, he said, but in the meantime, Rituals would use it as a tool to drive internal innovation and inspiration. And, importantly, he said the B Corp framework would be used to drive short-term change as part of wider, long-term sustainability goals, ensuring “progress” and “momentum”. “…If you set these targets too far away, then it becomes very ideological. To keep them a bit smaller, and closer, it becomes all a bit more practical and nicer to work with.”
Internally, Rituals had set out three pillars – clean, conscious and caring – to guide product development and growth in line with B Corp requirements. This included a push for all formulas to be made using at least 90% of natural origin ingredients by 2023; offering refill options for every collection and by 2025 ensuring all packaging was either refillable, recyclable and/or made from recycled material; and continuing to support social initiatives globally.
“…From that snapshot [three years ago] to where we are today, we have made a huge amount of progress. But the moment you push that button, it really becomes a journey which never stops. It’s a really big commitment,” Cloosterman said.
And the more beauty firms that pushed forward with B Corp certifications, the better the impact globally as widespread best practices were shared and suppliers onboarded.
“Every company, every leader, has to look in the mirror and go at something. For me, it’s not so much B Corp or not, it’s more the intention and practicality of the programmes that count. There’s a lot of talk out there; there’s a lot of greenwashing, and it’s the responsibility of the leaders to make sure we change all of that into action. Because, if we don’t, the reality will catch up,” he said.