The Beautycounter Advantage: Pro Commerce and Pro Regulation

Pro-regulation and pro-commerce? It's possible. Gregg Renfrew, Founder and CEO of Beautycounter explains how, and why it could be a positive thing for your business.

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“My personal passion is also my calling,” Gregg told the audience. “I will not believe that we have accomplished what we set out to do until my children and your children and future generations of children don’t need to read the labels on the products that they’re putting on their bodies every single day. And, in fact, I look forward to the day when they can’t believe that we actually ever had to.”

Beautycounter stresses the importance of safe ingredients, and provides consumers with a ‘Never List,’ which includes around 1500 proven or potentially harmful ingredients that it refuses to put in its products. But to deliver on such a mission, Gregg knew that she had to develop products that were comparable, both in quality and consistency, with traditional competitors — as Gregg put it: “staying consistent, and focusing on the few things that we know we can do well… which are creating great products and educating as many people as possible.”

Beyond providing an innovative product line, Gregg developed a “direct retail model” — a multi-platform approach that mixes selling among 15,000 independent consultants, direct ecommerce, and special brick-and-mortar partnerships (such as with J Crew and Goop). Gregg believes this model is the way of the future, and notes that “we, as consumers, don’t shop in isolation of a single channel anymore.” Beautycounter isn’t worried about the perceived cannibalization between retail channels, because “as the tide rises, all ships sail.” Or, as she notes in explaining the why behind this approach, “I knew the story of safe ingredients and why they were important was never going to be told point of sale in a retail store. This was not a department store strategy; this was a strategy to mobilize women around this country to create a movement for better beauty.”

Authenticity

“Social entrepreneurship is the way of the future,” Gregg continues. “Obviously it has to be born of authenticity.” Gregg believes that it’s Beautycounter’s authenticity and the fact that their brand has meaning and purpose behind it that has allowed the company to enjoy such remarkable success. A 2014 study by Cohn & Wolfe discovered that the number one quality wanted in a brand (rated by almost 9 in 10 people) was authenticity, integrity, and honesty.

Marketers and entrepreneurs need to think about whether their product has purpose and significant meaning behind it, and whether it can actually make a difference. Consumers want a great product or service, but they become more emotionally committed when the company is clear about its mission and purpose.

“How do people want to engage with our brand, and what part do they want to play in it?” Gregg asked. “What we’ve found is the more open and honest and collaborative we are with them at all times, the more they want to engage with the brand.”

Advocacy is an integral part of the mission for Beautycounter, and for Gregg herself. “Do great work that has significant social impact.” The need for public education and stronger regulation of the potentially harmful ingredients commonly used in the skincare industry is something that Gregg feels passionately about.

FDA regulations surrounding these products have not been significantly updated since 1938, and lags dangerously behind other countries. While the EU has currently banned over 1400 ingredients and contaminants, in the U.S., the FDA has to date banned a mere 11 ingredients. Gregg comments that “Stronger federal regulations would not only help to protect public health, but also help businesses by increasing the transparency along our supply chain.”

An advertisement that ran as part of Beautycounter’s 2015 campaign urging congress to overhaul regulations on the beauty industry to better protect consumers. The last major law regulating the beauty industry was passed in 1938.

By walking the walk, Beautycounter gets attention when they talk. Gregg believes that their advocacy work in Washington is as important as creating the products themselves. They, along with several other advocates like them, have lobbied Capitol Hill to demand that Congress create more health-protective laws so that all U.S. citizens have access to safer products. This lobbying has begun to yield some positive results, as the new proposed Personal Care Products Safety Act would empower the FDA to review ingredient safety, and grant them the same power towards the safety of personal care products as it currently has to regulate the food and drug industries.

In a New York Times article, Gregg notes, however, that while this Act is a positive start, it does not go far enough. It only requires the FDA to test five ingredients and contaminants each year, and does not require supply chain transparency.

Expansion

Beautycounter’s explosive growth has bred greater recognition and interest in the company, and in July 2016, Beautycounter acquired NUDE Skincare from LVMN. NUDE, a line of natural, high performance beauty products, is known for its formulation standards and is part of the safe, ‘clean’ skincare movement. The brand is well known in the international market, and is a logical choice for Beautycounter. The deal will help deliver their products to more people across the globe, and will advance support for the safer skin movement.

In mid-2016, Beautycounter also moved beyond its U.S. origins by officially expanding into Canada.

“We believe that regulation does not squash innovation. In fact, for us, we’ve proven that it has created innovation.”

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