Now two years old, Ulta Beauty’s Conscious Beauty program continues to expand.
On Thursday, the beauty retailer announced its Conscious Beauty advisory council for 2022, adding five beauty executives to the group. The new executives are Anitra Marsh, the vp of global sustainability, citizenship and brand communications at Procter & Gamble; Nancy Twine, the founder and CEO of Briogeo; Mark Veeder, the co-founder of Farmacy and Sk*p; Alicia Yoon, the founder and CEO of Peach & Lily; and Kristin Wolf, the svp of enterprise strategy and transformation at Ulta Beauty.
Ulta Beauty’s Conscious Beauty was launched in October 2020 with five “pillars,” including clean ingredients, sustainability, vegan, cruelty-free and social impact. The program was created amid a broader effort by beauty retailers to cater to the growing demand for clean beauty products and sustainable packaging in the last half-decade.
With 288 beauty brands now participating in the program, meaning they have a designation from one or more of the five categories, the council provides input for updates to and the evolution of the program’s entry guidelines.
“Our objective in focusing broadly across these pillars is to meet consumers where they are on their journey through clean and sustainable beauty,” said Wolf. “[It’s also] to provide them with the choice, the guidance and the transparency to be able to navigate our assortment and navigate a very crowded and sometimes confusing space.”
The standards for brand participation are “in constant evolution,” said Wolf. The advisory board also provides insights and recommendations on ingredients to add to the retailer’s “made without” list and feedback on its sustainability focus. Currently, Ulta’s aim is for 50% of its assortment packaging to be recycled, bio-sourced, recyclable or refillable by the end of 2025.
“The Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty Advisory Council underscores the industry need for greater collaboration, conversation and action to work toward real change and greater sustainability across brands and retailers alike,” said Twine in an emailed statement.
The new members join existing members on the advisory council returning for another year, including Credo Beauty co-founder and COO Annie Jackson, Anish Buch, the vp of the U.S. supply chain-luxe at L’Oréal USA, Pacifica Beauty founder and CEO Brook Harvey-Taylor and Ulta Beauty executives Monica Arnaudo, its chief merchandising officer and Shelley Haus, its chief marketing officer.
Decisions around the retailer’s “made without” list of ingredients brands that must keep out of products to receive a “clean” designation are made in “very, very intense conversations” said Juice Beauty founder Karen Behnke, who has been on the council since its inception and has stocked her brand at Ulta Beauty for 11 years.
The “made without” ingredients list started with 29 ingredients, but is now made up of 37. According to Behnke, “It’s quite a step for brands to move in this direction of clean ingredients.”
“What Ulta is doing very well is stepping it up and thoughtfully thinking about clean ingredients and sustainable packaging,” said Behnke. “You can’t just slam down a standard and expect everyone to comply in five minutes.”
Beauty retailers have increasingly been adding ingredients and sustainability standards. In 2021, following Ulta Beauty’s Conscious Beauty launch, Sephora added a “Planet Positive” designation to its own Clean at Sephora program that was created in 2018.
For future investments in Conscious Beauty, Ulta is also planning to launch “more advanced digital capabilities like a dynamic ingredients search,” said Wolf. It also plans to increase its focus on consumer education through social channels.
According to both Wolf and Behnke, millennials and Gen Z are especially strong in pushing demand for products under the Conscious designation.
“The [level of] customer education is night and day,” said Behnke. “People want to know, and they’re reading.”