THE WAR on plastic waste is on a rapid upward trajectory, the effects of which are being felt by manufacturers worldwide, particularly those in the beauty industry. In the UK over 95% of beauty packaging is thrown away after just one use.

For Jo Chidley, founder of Beauty Kitchen – a sustainable beauty firm based in Glasgow, the figures became too chilling to ignore. And so two weeks ago, in partnership with Unilever, Beauty Kitchen installed its first three ‘Return, Refill, Repeat’ stations into ASDA’s pioneering flagship sustainability store in Leeds.

These touch-free refill machines were developed by Beauty Kitchen to dispense beauty and personal care products in reusable aluminium or stainless-steel bottles.

“Our lifelong dream is to make the biggest impact we can within sustainability, and this is starting to be unlocked due to the experience we have within returning, refilling and reusing our packaging,” Ms Chidley explains.

“We have gone from a single store on the high street of Glasgow to working with the largest corporations in the world.

“Although we have grown, our mission and vision has never changed and that is to implement sustainable innovations with the industry that adhere to both Cradle to Cradle and B Corp standards.”

HeraldScotland:

Beauty Kitchen now aim to install 1000 of their Return, Refill, Repeat stations over the next two years within mainstream retail, independent stores, communal spaces, places of education and more in a bid to save over 100 million single use plastic bottles going to landfill.

As well as selling over 50 products independently, you can find Beauty Kitchen products in stores throughout the UK, including Boots, Holland & Barrett, Sainsbury’s, As Nature Intended, ASOS, and Fell Unique to name a few.

Ms Chidley runs a female-led team of 15 staff based in Wishaw, Lanarkshire. Beauty Kitchen’s annual turnover has doubled in size year on year, and 2020 looks set to satisfy the company’s growth targets with figures doubling again.

After studying chemistry at university, Ms Chidley became a qualified herbal botanist – an interest that remains one of her keenest pleasures.

She admits her “motto and lifelong learning attitude” is derived from a quote from Scottish botanist John Muir, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

 At the age of 41, Ms Chidley launched the Beauty Kitchen alongside her husband Stuart after failing to source beauty products that were natural, sustainable, effective, and considerate of packaging. She says: “When this proved difficult, I decided to take matters into my own hands and saw a gap where we could disrupt the market with the Beauty Kitchen sustainability ethos.

“Leaving any job to start your own business is one of the biggest risks you will ever make, I was fortunate that I could work as a self-employed HR consultant while getting Beauty Kitchen off the ground,” she admits.

“As a selffunded business, I still had a mortgage to pay and you have to balance this with the risk you are taking.”

Along with designing the Return, Refill, Repeat system described by the company as the “world’s first closed loop solution for beauty packaging,” Ms Chidley’s sustainability efforts are considerable.

 In 2017, Beauty Kitchen became the first high street beauty brand to be credited as a B Corp (businesses that meet the high standards of verified social and environmental performance to balance profit and purpose).

As a result of her ongoing efforts, Ms Chidley has won industry awards, including the ‘Who’s Who in Natural Beauty’ and business awards such as ‘Scale Up Entrepreneur of the Year’. Yet despite the accolades of recognition, she still feels more must be done as consumers can be misled due to some overriding grey areas still present within the beauty industry.

“It is hugely frustrating seeing many companies marketing their products or services as “sustainable” when they are just slightly ‘less bad’,” she comments. “Single attributes, such as vegan, recyclable or natural do not make a product sustainable. Sustainability is a complex problem, and we should be designing products so that they do ‘more good’.”

Ms Chidley’s sustainable focus has led the company to be voted as one of the UK’s 50 Most Disruptive Companies.

She places great emphasis on “the circular economy” in a sort of ‘what goes around must come around’ sort of manner, admitting that “it’s just a matter of time before more and more businesses shift from a linear to a circular way of working.”

beautykitchen.co.uk