Herbal Essences has the potential to be a sustainable brand. They have the level of transparency and commitment needed to reach sustainability but they still have a few problems they must fix. They are hypocritical with some of their ingredients and they are not very specific about their actions. With a name like Herbal Essences, I expected more. They even add their partnership with Royal Botanical Gardens to their packaging. The golden seal with a crown adds more legitimacy to the product without Herbal Essences having to actually do anything. They just advertise their partnership with the gardens and they think that’s all it takes to be sustainable. I appreciate that they are trying to be sustainable and they do seem like they are on the right track but at the moment, they fall short.
Herbal Essences does an impressive job of being transparent with their ingredients. They have a glossary for every single ingredient they use in their products. Each ingredient has their purpose for the product listed and a description. I really appreciated this because Herbal Essences made sure to include every single ingredient they use from a to z which is rare to see. I also liked that they had a list of ingredients they use for fragrances and list of ingredients they will never use as fragrance. I appreciated this because when fragrance is listed as an ingredient, it is very vague and fragrance could technically be anything. Often, brands will only highlight their natural ingredients and hope consumers will ignore the other ingredients that might be questionable. Herbal Essences does highlight all of their 29 bio:renew ingredients. These ingredients are verified by experts at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Their bio:renew ingredients are advertised as being sourced from real plants. Each ingredient has a dedicated page on their website that includes what the ingredient is and where it comes from. I think Herbal Essences can improve on this by making it clear where they source their ingredients. Listing where an ingredient comes from does not mean it is where Herbal Essences sourced the ingredient.
Herbal Essences has a line of shampoo that is sulfate free and another line that does contain sulfate. On their website, they have an article talking about sulfate free shampoo and why it is better for your hair. I found it odd that they have an article talking about this subject but still offer shampoos with sulfates. By promoting their sulfate free shampoo with this article, they are also admitting the downsides for using shampoo that does include sulfates. It gets complicated and I think that Herbal Essences should stop producing their shampoos with sulfates if they want to continue advertising their products as natural and “clean”. Herbal Essences is also hypocritical because of some of the ingredients they use, specifically methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinonce. In their glossary, these two ingredients are listed as preservatives but they can both cause negative effects like allergies and lung toxicity.
Herbal Essences has a partnership with Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. The context of this partnership can be confusing to understand. On their website, it seems that the main reason for this partnership is to authenticate their ingredients. When Herbal Essences mentions working together, it is actually a summary of what Royal Botanical Gardens is doing and does not mention what Herbal Essences is contributing. They use words like encouraging and supporting but that is not specific enough. This partnership does not even seem like a partnership and it is more like Herbal Essences attaching themselves to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. For example, Herbal Essences has a save 20 in 2020 initiative. They want to protect and save endangered plants through seedbanking but Kew seems to be doing all of the work and Herbal Essences’ efforts are not mentioned. Seedbanking is when seeds of endangered plants are collected to ensure they can be reintroduced if needed and protected. They only say they are partnering with Kew but what does that mean? I appreciate the initiative Herbal Essences has taken with this partnership but they need to do more to make it a genuine partnership.
I do like that Herbal Essences shares their process for ensuring their ingredients are safe. They share their four step process; research the ingredient, set a safe range, determine the formula, and monitor it. The only concerning step for me is setting a safe range because that means there is a possibility the ingredient is not safe. This signals to me that the ingredient should not be used at all. Herbal Essences is certified cruelty free by Peta which does not hold significance because of how easy it is to lie and break their pledge. They also share that they are verified by the Environmental Working Group but this is misleading because the only products verified are their sulfate free shampoos. It can be easy to assume all of their products are EWG verified without reading the fine print. I do not like how this is advertised on their website to be misleading.
Herbal Essences has made many partnerships and has set many goals for themselves to be a more sustainable brand. They supported The Nature Conservancy by donating one tree for every two items purchased from their bio:renew collection. While this sounds like a great initiative by Herbal Essences, I did not like how limited they were with this program. This was only offered for one month and only for items purchased at Walmarts. I would have liked to see this go on for a longer time and be expanded to more stores. Herbal Essences also states that they are working towards eliminating waste by composting, recycling, and using energy recovery programs to avoid their waste ending in landfills. I like that they specifically name their Iowa City Beauty Care facility for doing this. Herbal Essences names their sustainability program for working towards this goal but there is not much information about this program on their website. They name their Herbal Essences Sustainability Program again to state they are aiming to reduce their water usage. They added that from 2010 to 2016 they reduced their water usage by 20% but I would have liked to see more current statistics as well. Herbal Essences also did not name where or how they reduced their water usage. Herbal Essences has also partnered with TerraCycle to create a recyclable bottle that is made up of 25% beach plastic. This is something I hope to see happen but there was no goal date for implementing this on their website. I appreciate these goals and partnerships that Herbal Essences have but they have to be more specific about their actions and how they plan on changing. Herbal Essences also does not mention their labor standards or their manufacturing process.