Four years ago, Piyush Jain pulled together a small, hand-picked team with the remit of building a new brand, influenced by the fast-growing trend for natural ingredients. Sonika Malhotra soon joined the squad.
Together with a dedicated group of experts from across Unilever, they came up with Love Beauty and Planet. Now, as the brand publishes its first impact report, entitled Our Approach to Sustainability – which looks back at its achievements, challenges and lessons learnt – we caught up with its founders to hear the inside story.
Piyush: The Love Beauty and Planet journey began when we started to see an opportunity emerge in beauty products formulated with natural ingredients. We realised that there was an opportunity to create something completely new.
But just being new wasn’t enough. We wanted this brand to be unique. Completely differentiated from anything else in the business and with purpose well and truly at its heart. When we hit upon the name – Love Beauty and Planet – everything became clear. This brand would be great for you, and great for the planet too. A big promise, but one we were – and still are – absolutely focused on.
Sonika: That’s right. Our purpose came from a combination of logic and magic. We used science, research and analysis to look at the impact our products would have on the planet, from greenhouse gas emissions to being silicone-free or developing products with the potential to reduce consumers’ water use.
The magic came from working with incredible people who aligned with our purpose and shared their views on what they really wanted from a range.
Back then, it was still quite early to be making big commitments around plastic packaging, but having 100% recyclable packs and recycled bottles was non-negotiable for us. It was the same story with ethically sourced ingredients and Love Beauty and Planet is PETA-approved vegan, meaning we do not test on animals anywhere in the world. We knew from the outset what Love Beauty and Planet stood for and we didn’t move our goals.
Piyush: We launched Love Beauty and Planet in 2018, starting with hair and skin care products in the US and Canada. Now the range covers every category within Unilever’s Beauty & Personal Care division – adding skin cleansing, oral care and deodorants to the line-up.
Love Beauty and Planet is now available in 50 countries, and it’s moved beyond beauty to become a lifestyle brand with the launch of Love Home and Planet home care products.
Sonika: Scaling up so quickly certainly presented challenges – sourcing recycled plastic for our bottles, for example. Back in the early days, the supply chain simply wasn’t there. The recycled plastic available was strangely coloured, more expensive, more fragile. But we didn’t take no for an answer and in the end, we helped change the system. Now other Unilever brands have been able to follow, sourcing recycled plastic more easily because we helped push that door open.
We also adopted the philosophy that good intentions are sometimes better than perfection. We couldn’t get 100% recycled plastic bottle caps in time for launch. We could have waited a couple of years to launch with bottles and caps that were both completely recycled, but didn’t want consumers spending two more years choosing products in virgin plastic bottles. Instead, we launched and were very open about the fact that we were still working on our caps. We kept pushing and we’ve got them now.
Piyush: I’m immensely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve. We launched a completely new brand in a year and it was a journey of many firsts.
When we talked about creating the first fast-rinse conditioner, designed to help people have quicker showers and waste less water, we were initially told it could take two years to develop. Our amazing R&D teams had it in 11 months. We started small but when what we’re doing becomes something of a benchmark for Unilever as a whole, that’s when we can really see how big our impact can be.
Sonika: From a more personal point of view, working on Love Beauty and Planet has helped me find my purpose. Until I helped to found this brand, I hadn’t realised how much the planet and caring for our environment really affected me. Now it’s absolutely central to the way I live every day. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
Piyush: We’ve certainly come a long way – but there’s a lot we’re still working on and we’re holding ourselves to account. We’ve shared some of the highlights in Our Approach to Sustainability, our first impact report, which reflects on the brand’s first two years.
Sonika: We know how important transparency is to our consumers. That’s why we are sharing so much – to keep us honest, open and on the right track. We learned what a huge task sustainability reporting is! We’ve worked towards calculating the impact of every bottle on these pages. It’s a bank of knowledge, but it shows how we’ve put our purpose into action in a very scientific way.
Piyush: Looking ahead, we’re looking forward to growing the brand and growing the positive impact we can make.
Sonika: I’m also excited about some recent work we’ve done in the US, that will shape our mission moving forward. As a brand committed to helping make the planet cleaner, greener and more beautiful, we believe that the wellbeing of our planet starts with the wellbeing of everyone on it.
In our efforts to make the biggest impact on our communities, it's clear that not all are affected by climate change in the same way. We know that climate change has a disproportionate effect on Black and marginalised communities. That’s why we’re proud to support the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, donating $100,000 from our carbon tax programme to facilitate change.
In addition, we’ve just launched our Love Beauty and Planet Project, a grants initiative (funded through our carbon tax programme) awarding up to $100,000 to people and their projects that aim to improve the wellbeing and health of our planet and everyone on it.
Grants will be prioritised for projects seeking to reduce carbon emissions, starting with the communities that need our help most. We cannot achieve social justice without climate justice and that’s why we’re committed to empowering changemakers to join us in making the planet cleaner, greener and more just.
Our reach is getting bigger all the time. It’s wonderful to be able to use our scale and our platform to give much more love back to the planet.