BBF: Could you please tell me about the company you are leading?
Tanvir Ahmed: Our journey started in 2019 with the launch of ClaRose, a natural face care range offering a highly efficacious product range due to the unique combination of ingredients. We found a need gap for a face care product range based on a natural proposition at an affordable entry price point. In 2020 we launched a natural hair care brand NGGL and in 2021 upgraded both product range to a sustainable one.
Based on the success of ClaRose, a top global retailer reached out to us to supply them with Beauty and Personal care products on White labels for their newly created sustainable brand. We developed an innovative range of waterless solid shampoo, bar soap, face care and body care products for them.
We manufacture for other retail brands and specialize in clean beauty and circular economy. We have multiple 3rd party certifications in place and have a dedicated team working on future products.
BBF: Can you explain the concept of the circular economy?
There are two models: the traditional linear model of take-make-waste, and the circular economy of Recycle- Refill – Return model. So in simple terms circular solution from a linear problem.
If we look at data, Global plastic production is estimated to be 450 plus million metric tons, which is increasing globally. Packaging is the largest end-use segment, accounting for approximately 40% of total plastic consumption.
So what happens with the plastics we produce? Some go for recycling- A portion of plastic waste is collected and processed for recycling, where it is melted down and made into new products. However, the global recycling rate for plastic is relatively low, estimated at less than 10%
Secondly, a significant amount of plastic waste ends up in landfills, which can take hundreds of years to break down.
Finally, another significant portion of plastic waste ends up in the oceans.
Think about the world we are heading towards if this continues for a few more decades!
BBF: What changes have you seen in the beauty industry in terms of packaging and sustainability in recent years?
Thanks to our super-evolved beauty consumers, there is a growing awareness of the negative impact of traditional beauty products on the environment. Consumer pressure is increasing on the industry to reduce its environmental impact.
For example, face washes contain micros Microbeads made of plastic. Those are also used in toothpaste. These microplastics end up in waterways and oceans, where they are ingested by marine life, causing harm to ecosystems and wildlife.
When we designed our range, we replaced it with Microbead Exfoliators made of dead sea salt. We also use coffee and Whole oats, which are 100% natural.
By developing sustainable products, we can meet consumer demand and demonstrate our commitment to environmental responsibility, enhancing our brand value and attracting new customers.
So the trend is- the product has to be made from naturally derived biodegradable materials, have smaller packaging, have an ethical and well-managed supply chain, and have a zero-waste manufacturing process. Finally, circularity in Packaging.
BBF: What changes did you make to make your brand so successful? What is the secret?
Even in the last decade manufacturers like us would produce a product, make advertisements and list it on mass retail. That was the simple game plan. Now things have evolved as our consumers do not trust manufacturers’ voices.
We have multiple strategies in place. One of the key ones is 3P varication. We are now working with reputed 3P certification companies to verify multiple aspects. For example, GMP and ISO for quality standards, we have SMETA social standard audit, Fairtrade certification to ensure ethical sourcing, EU Ecolabel to check the formula and environmental impact, we are using FSC-certified papers and our regulatory team members are working on new certifications to add as we speak.
On top of those, all our products go through massive quantity testing. For an example, Stability and Compatibility Test, Period After Opening (PAO), Challenge Test, Safety Test, Efficacy studies, CPSR and dermatological testing. All these to ensure zero quality risk. One bad review and rating is enough to make one launch failure. So we have to ensure zero tolerance on quality aspects.
As part of our commitment to sustainability, we are working with multiple other stakeholders starting including Govt bodies, NGOs, and charities to ensure decarbonising and accelerating change within the beauty industry.
BBF: Can you provide data on plastic usage in the beauty industry and its impact on the environment?
As you know, the beauty and personal care industry heavily depend on plastic packaging, from containers to closers. We even use PP labels these days. According to some estimates, the global beauty industry generates over 120 billion packaging units each year if you imagine the large amounts of fossil fuels and energy consumption to produce that quantity and the negative impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
This is a concern for all. Last week I met Mrs Theresa May, Ex–Prime minister of the UK on this matter. She was also sharing her frustrations around plastic. I was super impressed to see her commitment to sustainability. We are getting lots of support from her to make some difference. Let’s park that topic for a future conversations!
BBF: What are some of the future trends in sustainable beauty that you see emerging?
AConsumers are increasingly looking for products that align with their values and have a lower environmental impact.
Let me put some numbers – Sustainability marketed products are 16.1% of the market and delivered 54.7% of the CPG market growth between 2015-2019. Those grew 7.1x faster than products not marketed as sustainable and are expected to grow even faster.
Multiple research indicates that we can attract and retain a loyal customer base by developing products that meet this growing demand.
BBF: What are the challenges you see?
In the world of ‘Clean & Green’ beauty, the biggest challenge both consumers and brands are facing is with ‘Green-Washing’. Consumers expect a natural or sustainable brand to have a clean label and other sustainable solutions from sourcing to packaging to shipment. The reality is that most brands fail to offer those value propositions and do not meet consumer expectations.
When I see this challenge from the brands/manufacturer’s lens, the biggest challenge is the materials’ availability and corresponding price—a straightforward example of a PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) plastic bottle. Most people know recycling is an excellent environmental habit but are often unsure what should go into the recycling bin. This leads to non-recyclable materials being put in the recycling stream (such as liquids or plastic bags) that contaminate recyclable materials and compromise recycling machinery. As a result, there is a low supply of recyclable materials, which results in high prices for PCR items. This challenge limits manufacturers’ use of recycled materials in their products.
For the future products we are developing, we will face multiple challenges at the commercialisation stage. I am already struggling with sourcing genuinely sustainable, affordable, and widely available materials. In the approaching recession economy, offering products at an affordable price point will be crucial. With the high premium price for renewable resources, the biggest hurdle to overcome is to design products which will be accusable to mass consumers, made with the new days of doing business where nothing goes to waste. Keeping the circular economy as the core of our R&D strategy, I need to solve the challenge of developing an affordable natural face care range which will change the circular economy and urban landscape.
BBF: What do you think about the perception of Green Washing?
The brutal reality is Greenwashing is happening, and many big brands confuse us with deceiving claims.
I understand, Producing products with organic and natural ingredients is expensive, and there are limited sourcing options. Ethical sourcing and 3rd party certifications like Fair Trade or COSMOS organic also require paying premiums. All these impacts the cost of goods, resulting in the end product’s positioning as a premium product, which limits the trial. Still this should not be an excuse for any brand and we all need to be transparent with our shoppers.
On the other hand, consumers are also becoming more evolved and interested in ethical practices in the beauty industry. This also includes a growing demand for products that are not tested on animals and on environmental responsibility.
BBF: What are the steps you have taken to drive sustainability?
My company must stay ahead of the game to remain competitive. We are investing in research and development to create new and innovative products that meet the changing needs.
Innovate UK also supports my company, the United Kingdom’s innovation agency, which helps organisations with innovations.
We realise that much more is to be achieved in sustainable production and consumption. In addition to the good practices we have implemented, our team is dedicated to bringing more disruptive innovations and leading new sustainability trends in the industry.
A couple of examples that, two of our core active ingredients are Hyaluronic acid and Rose oil. For all our ClaRose products, we only use naturally extracted Hyaluronic acid and 100% natural and organic rose oil. Our products are 95%-100% natural and we claim the natural % on packs.
I lead the innovation workstream to develop a next-generation product range of the most ‘Clean’ and ‘Green’ products. The project scope includes improving the product formula and other components, higher in natural origin ingredients, packing in more sustainable packaging to ensure a positive change to the packaging ecosystem, having 3P certification as reassurance of the quality and other initiatives to improve overall carbon footprint. All these innovations will lead the way in the industry. Our next-generation products will reduce the environmental impact and create a better world for tomorrow.
BBF: What is your thinking of the situation in Bangladesh?
It isn’t straightforward to answer for me as I have not been living there for more than a decade now!
But I have found one initiative extraordinary by the Bidyanondo foundation. They have launched a plastic exchange super shop on Saint Martin Island. Residence of the island is now collecting plastic waste from all around the island and purchasing everyday essentials from that shop in exchange for plastic waste!
We got so excited to see this initiative and decided to be a small part of this initiative. Last Christmas, we decided not to send any corporate greeting cards or gifts. At the same time, we used that fund to buy grocery items for that exchange supermarket.
BBF: Any final thoughts?
At ALIANAz, we are trying to take baby steps with our limited capabilities to create a better world for tomorrow. From my front, my wife and I have founded a charity in England called ‘Little Green Steps’. This charity will work on behaviour change to improve circulation.
My requests to all will be, please think before you buy any product – can it be Reduce, Refill, Recycle, and Responsible? Reduce means, is there any alternative available, for example, a solid shampoo bar? Can it be refilled so you can use the same container pump multiple times? Can this packaging be easily recycled, and is the brand responsible for formula and sourcing?
If we all start making those baby steps of change, we will have a better future tomorrow.
Chief Executive Officer