We’ve all seen the headlines. Our coral reefs are practically made of plastic straws, the bees are dropping like flies from pesticide poisoning, rainforests are running out of trees—it’s all been enough to actually make consumers take a step back and reevaluate their purchasing power. But long before sustainability was a mainstream play, emerginC built a skincare cult around it. Unlike so many brands in the industry today that use “greenwashing” to stay relevant with conscious consumers, eco-responsibility is part of the emerginC DNA.
Back in 1996, a green mission statement wasn’t enough to put you on the beauty industry map—but an incomparably stable (and therefore highly effective) vitamin C serum? That’ll do it. “We had no formal marketing plan or even an office,” explains emerginC founder Ian Lirenman. “The buzz about the product began to spread and emerginC started to grow by word of mouth. All the while, we never compromised our commitment to quality and effectiveness.” emerginC became known for their scientifically advanced formulas and dramatic results, landing in top spas and dermatologist offices across the globe. “We work with top chemists, state-of-the-art labs, and incorporate clinically proven cosmeceutical and medical-grade ingredients, active botanicals and marine extracts,” says Lirenman. The founder did not lead with sustainability messaging, but lived by it, including establishing an organic rooftop garden and a few hens at their Brooklyn headquarters. It’s a strategy that proves two things: that the products are as powerful as any non-green brand on the market, and that their commitment to making the world a better place is genuinely not a marketing ploy.
The obvious starting point for a skincare company cleaning up its act: ingredients. While most brands have only recently jumped on the paraben-free bandwagon, emerginC was an early driver of that bandwagon. “We try to source responsibly, including the use of organic and fair-trade ingredients,” Lirenman notes. Besides the skin-deep benefits like eliminating artificial perfumes and dyes, a number of their key ingredients are grown and harvested by farmers who are paid fair wages and work under safe, well-regulated conditions using sustainable practices. And they encourage their shoppers to explore that mission for themselves; in the interest of full transparency, their website is full of photos and videos illustrating their many sustainability initiatives, including tree-planting sites in Madagascar and Nepal from their industry first “buy one, plant one” tree-planting program.
The unique level of success emerginC has achieved puts them on a platform, and they’ve chosen to use that for the greater good. “We have taken a leading role in giving back and sustainability,” says Lirenman. While similar cult-status beauty brands use their reach to distribute stickers and branding gimmicks, an order from emerginC provides a decidedly different unboxing experience. Your order is (carbon-neutrally) shipped with a sleek, reusable stainless-steel straw included (to help reduce one-use plastic consumption), emerginCeeds organic lettuce or arugula seeds to kickstart your own organic veggie garden, and even a box of seed bombs, which are clay and compost balls infused with milkweed seeds, a preferred plant of bees and other pollinators: just throw and grow to help establish your own little bee habitat!
For Lirenman, sustainability isn’t about slapping a label on a bottle and checking it off a list. His 360-degree mission is a constant growing process. “For us, it was more important to engage in direct action (tree planting, etc.) than spend large sums of money on … certifications that would only affirm what we already know about our brand,” he shares. “Over 80% of our products are manufactured with wind power and our headquarters are run on windpower. We pack our boxes with biodegradable peanuts. And we continue to explore initiatives to improve our sustainability.” All their product jars and serum bottles have changed from plastic to glass formulations (with biodegradable resin caps on the jars) and they are in the midst of a transition from traditional plastic tubes and cleanser and toner bottles to sugar cane plastics.
Progress is a marathon, not a sprint, and as one of the first beauty brands out of the gate, emerginC is a clear frontrunner in the race to reform our industry standards. Turns out, beauty might just help save the world.
Photo: via emerginC