Greenwashing is rampant in the beauty industry, typified by poor labeling, unsubstantiated claims, and a lack of industry standards, leaving shoppers confused and often misled. Case in point: Truly Organic, that was anything but, got caught greenwashing claims by the FTC earlier this year and was fined $1.76 million. While many retailers have established "clean" or "green" standards, the criteria are subjective, inconsistent, and mostly ingredient-driven with little third-party validation.
As trust in business is at an all-time low, according to a 2019 global survey by Edelman, 53% of consumers think brands “trust-wash,” or aren’t as committed to society as they claim. Cult Beauty has partnered with Provenance to end the greenwashing and ensure brands that “talk the talk” also “walk the walk" by bringing proven information into the beauty retail ecosystem through blockchain technology. The first-of-its-kind digital verification will increase transparency in beauty by validating brands’ eco-friendly and ethical claims.
“When I launched Cult Beauty, we were already writing out every single ingredient that was in a product. And now that the claims are much broader and trust is being somewhat eroded, we wanted to take it to the next level with an independent proof point transparency,” founder Alexia Inge told WWD.
Prior to launching the program, Cult Beauty surveyed customers, receiving 11,000 responses, to determine what was important to them. They also asked the first 10 brands that would launch with the platform what the key differentiators were for their products.
“When we did the survey, our customers wanted to understand ingredients, the process of creating the product, materials in the packaging and recyclability. So there is a consumer-driven demand. We also asked what the brands are proud of and we are allowing for that flexibility because we didn’t want to put brands in a box,” Bettina Wonsag, executive chair of Cult Beauty, told WWD.
In a radical overhaul of the established norm when it comes to claims in the beauty industry and in an effort to build consumer confidence, Provenance has created a blockchain-based tool for brands called Proof Points which will be integrated on Cult Beauty. There are two forms of Proof Points—stated and verified. While each stated claim is substantiated with evidence provided by the brand, verified Proof Points are validated by independent third-party organizations such as NGOs or laboratories. Provenance is working with beauty brands to gather information about the origin, ingredients, process, and claims of their products. The Proof Points are surfaced in a consistent, easy-to-understand manner within the Cult Beauty shopping experience. Shoppers are able to view this trustworthy information in a new “transparency” tab on the product page and brand pages.
Jessi Baker, founder and CEO of Provenance, said to the Retail Times, “We are seeing more brands make claims on ingredients sourcing and quality, and the social and environmental impact—from charitable donations to veganism. However, as an online beauty shopper, it’s hard to know what to trust or to even compare like for like. We’re extremely excited to work with Cult Beauty on establishing what will become a new norm across the beauty industry. Armed with information about the products they buy, consumers are more able to vote with their wallets and reward the truly honest and ethical beauty brands out there.”
Blockchain is used because the technology itself is open, incorruptible, and a decentralized way to hold data, enabling a single source of truth on the claim and its veracity. Once Proof Points are verified, they're tamper-proof—meaning once a claim has been made, it can’t be erased or changed. Any edit will be logged, so the transformation or updates over time create an open history of the revisions. This means brands can’t change their story or dissolve their commitments when they change their business strategies. This is the most honest and trustworthy way to verify the information from the brand and its supply chain to pass on to the end-customer.
Together, Cult Beauty and Provenance are bringing radical transparency to the industry by enabling brands to surface and prove claims in a consistent way that brings a level of integrity that doesn’t exist with the typical “marketing speak” that dominates beauty.
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