The main message that Rare Beauty conveys is that everyone is unique and each singular beauty should be celebrated without petty comparisons. That is a great vision for a company to have, but how sustainable are these cosmetic products? The company does have a sustainability tab on their website, but it does not say much.
All in all, the empowering message that led to the creation of the company should be translated into having a minimum environmental footprint through the use of clean energy in the manufacturing and a take back program for packaging. Overall, I would like to see more transparency about the manufacturing plus a commitment to be a circular business, not only as an environmental advocate but also as a customer and a long-term fan of Selena and her work.
Packaging is a big part of the cosmetic industry, not only when it comes to volume ratio, but also it is a major part of marketing. Rare claims they still have a long way to go in terms of sustainability, and “plan[s] to gradually introduce post- consumer recycled materials into [their] packaging beginning in late 2021.” Since this is a new company I wonder why they did not start with that in the first place. The outer packaging consists of “100% recyclable boxes [...] made from responsibly sourced, FSC-certified materials, and printed with water-based ink.” The other items such as shipper box, welcome card, and tissue are made from recycled fiber.
One thing that caught my attention is that those items plus the tape are claimed to be recyclable. As some of you may already know, there is a huge recycling crisis in the world, especially after China closed the gates. Thus, saying something is recyclable does not mean that it will be. That puts pressure on the consumer to find a place that really does recycle the materials they collect. The best thing for Rare Beauty to do would be to accept back all the packaging, including (and especially) the ones that directly encapsulate the products, and use them in the making of new cases and tubes. This would lead the way into making them a circular business. This is not such a hard thing to ask for, given that TerraCycle does something similar by working with brands to accept the empty packaging of their products at no extra cost to the consumer and recycle. The pellets can be used to make new packaging or new products such as park benches. Another alternative is for them to partner with Loop and try to create makeup cases that are cleanable and therefore can be refilled and sold again.
The cosmetics themselves are cruelty free and vegan (as any beauty company nowadays should be). The website also provides a full list of ingredients for each product.* The formula suppliers are audited to meet standards such as ISO 22716 and they have banned 1,600 chemicals from their products. This makes me wonder what the other companies are making us put in our faces...
*I quickly googled the safety of a few random ingredients whose name did not sound familiar such as Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, C12-15 Alkyl Ethylhexanoate and aluminium powder and they were deemed safe.
Overall I gave this section a lower grade because the company takes no ownership of the packaging they created.
As I have mentioned, there is no animal testing, which was a make-or-break requirement when I was looking into buying new makeup. Rare claims to only partner with suppliers that comply with Social and Environmental Responsibility (SER) standards, which includes banning any kind of slaved, child or coerced labor. Besides this statement, the website doesn’t really say how exactly the products are manufactured, their carbon and water footprint, or the minimum wage paid to workers. To make their claims more credible, the company should have more transparency about key aspects of their supply chain. Since almost no one is interested in these details, corporations don’t really bother to display much information, but now that consumers are fighting off greenwashing, brands need to step up their game and prove that they do what they preach.
I gave this section a 1.5 because, although they seem to have a good intention, I would like more transparency. Rare advocates heavily for mental health, but do they take care of the mental health of the workers in the office as well as the workers in the factories? Do the factories that produce the products use clean energy, or are they contributing to climate change, which leads to climate anxiety, especially for Gen Zs, the biggest market of this brand?
Since Selena has had a long journey with mental health herself, she created, alongside the makeup brand, the Rare Impact Fund, to which Rare Beauty donates 1% of all sales. They partner with organizations such as the Trevor project, which is the largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, and has supporters such as the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health).
Rare Beauty launched the Mental Health 101 campaign to advocate for more mental health in education. This is a very important step towards the social pillar of sustainability, since mental health issues have been suppressed and overlooked for too long and we need to open up the conversation so we can have a better society to live in.