Sustainability and beauty don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Between the excessive makeup hauls, perpetual new product drops and the internet’s obsession with finding the next viral ‘must-have’, it’s no surprise that packaging is the beauty industry’s number one contributor to carbon emissions.
But for Emma Lewisham, there was never any question that her environmental ethos would shape the business from the ground-up.
After studying science at university, Emma ended up switching to a business degree, and found herself working long hours as one of the only women in the corporate chain of a global tech company.
‘I didn’t prioritise my health enough. I just thought I was bulletproof,’ she says. This faced-paced lifestyle came to a sharp halt when she lost her mother to cancer in 2016 — around the same time she was trying to fall pregnant. It triggered a period of self-reflection that took her to the doctor, who suggested she reconsider using one of her favourite skincare products during pregnancy since it featured hydroquinone, a ‘questionable’ ingredient that was banned in multiple countries.
She quickly learned that a lot of her favourite luxury products also contained ingredients derived from petrochemicals, while products in the typical ‘natural’ beauty category lacked efficacy.
‘I thought if I’m wanting this, other women would be too,’ Emma explains. It took three years of intensive research, building her team of scientists and physiologists, and a lot of investment into developing a radically sustainable, circular business model before her namesake brand officially launched in 2019. By then, she and her husband were also busy raising their a five-month-old daughter!
All of Emma Lewisham’s products are refillable, with the brand taking back all of their packaging to ensure its reused or recycled. In September 2021, they became the world’s first carbon-positive beauty brand — a certification from leading environmental agency Toitū Envirocare, and a marker of their efforts to not only off-set and reduce their environmental impact, but to create a positive one.
‘I could see that [sustainability] was a problem and I didn’t want a brand that was contributing to it,’ she adds. ‘I wanted to it and do it in a different way, in a way that aligned with my personal values and also my love for problem solving. It was like, we can do this better, why wouldn’t we? It’s always been something that from the get go, the business has been built upon and driven our success.’
The clinically proven formulas have garnered attention of the beauty community worldwide, while closer to home the products are now stocked at Mecca, which was one of Emma’s goals since the day they first designed the bottles. But she says she’s most proud of everything the brand stands for, as world-leaders in circularity and sustainability.
We recently joined Emma, for an insight into her busy-yet-balanced daily routine.
I’m definitely a morning person. I wake up at about 5:30am — that’s when my four-year-old daughter wakes up, so there’s lots of early mornings but I’m rolling with it! She’s also a morning person and we have time as a family, we make breakfast together. It’s nice because you feel like no one’s awake and nothing’s coming at you, and it’s a real moment that you can connect with people and your family. And I always do my skincare routine, which is just to cleanse my face, then I do Skinreset and our Eye Crème. Sometimes I use the Face Oil for some luminosity and extra antioxidant protection, with SPF and make-up on top. It’s just a great calming way to start the day.
I start work at 7am. I feel I’m the most clearest and creative in the morning. I have a coffee and then sort of look at my day planner, figure out what’s happening, and what do I want to achieve and get done.
I probably start my first meeting at 8:30-9am. These vary from working with our physiologists, working with our sustainability team, or doing store visits into Mecca. Then from a strategic perspective, potentially talking at event, doing PR interviews, so it’s really dynamic and different every day.
I normally try and do some exercise for half an hour a day at lunchtime. I do a lot of walking meetings with the team one-on-one around a park, which is close by, to get fresh air. Or, I love reformer pilates. For lunch there’s a beautiful salad place that I buy from, normally it’s one with tofu, some avocado and lots of greens!
Because I do get out around midday for a break and some exercise, I find that really recharges me. Afterwards I might just have more meetings or just some thinking time. I think it’s important to have at least some time where you just work on the business — not in it — and step back a bit with your thinking and be a bit creative.
I try make sure I get home by 5:30pm to spend time with my daughter. My husband and I will have dinner and then we play with her. She’s very creative and likes do role playing so there’s lots of bossing around. We normally read with her, and then just prepare for the next day. The evenings are very simple, but it’s just nice to be in our sanctuary at home, having space and time with my family.
I love reading to switch off. I’ve got my Kindle so I read a lot on there, both fiction and a lot of non-fiction. I normally go to sleep by 9:30-10:00pm… It sounds very boring but I’m 38 now and I just want to always show up, do my very best and be a good mum. So to do that I need be on top of my game!
Right now I’m listening to, watching, and reading… I really enjoy the Desert Island Discs podcasts from the BBC, they are fantastic. At the moment I’m reading Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, and I’m not much of a TV-watcher but I recently watched the Netflix tennis docuseries, ‘Break Point’.
A philosophy I live and work by is… Be a kind person, be fair, and the rest will take out care of itself.
Something I’ve learned the hard way is… Just to not procrastinate. If there’s something hard you have to do, it’s best to just pick up the phone and get it done. Because it’s always better to be on the front foot.