Ulta Beauty Targets Socially Responsible Consumers

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
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Ulta Beauty Targets Socially Responsible Consumers
The company is launching a sustainability initiative in the fall that aims to give sustainability minded customers more choices. 

Ulta Beauty, battered by revenue declines amid coronavirus store closures, is looking to boost sales by giving socially conscious beauty fans exactly what they are looking for.

The company is launching a sustainability initiative in the fall that aims to attract more sustainability minded shoppers, an increasingly sizable segment. Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty is billed as a holistic initiative to provide shoppers more transparency about products. The program will certify brands under five key pillars: Clean Ingredients, Cruelty Free, Vegan, Sustainable Packaging and Positive Impact. The pillars are "intended to meet guest needs and leave a positive legacy for our world," the company says.

“As the beauty retail leader, we have the unique opportunity to inspire positive change in our industry,” said Dave Kimbell, president of Ulta Beauty. “With Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty, our focus is to educate, guide and simplify product choice and elevate those brands doing good for our world. This initiative helps our guests readily navigate our assortment through the lens of what matters most to them. We are thrilled to offer such transparency and set significant standards as a company.”

Pillar guidelines will include:

  • Clean Ingredients: Indicates which brands comply with the Ulta Beauty Made Without List, an ingredient standard created for Conscious Beauty. At launch, this designation indicates a brand is free of parabens, phthalates and ingredients from more than 25 chemical categories. Participating brands will be certified via ClearForMe, largely regarded as the leading independent ingredient authority, to ensure ingredient transparency. The recently announced Credo Collection at Ulta Beauty, featuring eight clean beauty brands, will launch within the Conscious Beauty platform.
  • Cruelty Free: Elevates brands that certify as never engaging in animal testing. This pillar incorporates third-party certification from organizations such as PETA, Leaping Bunny, and Choose Cruelty-Free.
  • Vegan: Underscores beauty products made free of animal products, animal by-products, or animal derivatives.
  • Sustainable Packaging: Designates brands made with reduced, recyclable or refillable packaging to minimize the more than 120 billion packaging units produced globally annually within the cosmetics industry. Ulta Beauty will pilot a circular shopping experience as the exclusive beauty retailer for Loop, a reusable packaging pioneer. The company will also support the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s (SPC’s) mission to make actionable improvements in packaging systems and will apply How2Recycle instructions on owned brand packaging and print materials. 
  • Positive Impact: Highlights brands with giving back at their core and those that champion meaningful causes.

Under its Sustainable Packaging pillar, Ulta Beauty is pledging to ensure that 50% of all packaging sold, including the Ulta Beauty Collection, will be made from recycled or bio-sourced materials, or will be recyclable or refillable by 2025.

The move from Ulta comes as transparency becomes a higher critical value proposition for shoppers. According to a new report from the Food Industry Association (FMI) and Label Insight called “Transparency Trends: Omnichannel Grocery Shopping from the Consumer Perspective,” 81% of shoppers say transparency is more important or extremely important to them now during the pandemic than ever before.

“It’s one thing to know consumers want transparency, it’s another thing to act on it. We’re seeing more and more that providing detailed product information is key to building trust and loyalty with consumers,” said Tim Whiting, VP of marketing at Label Insight. “Moving forward, brands will need to continue to listen better to their customers, continuously update their online and in-store content to keep pace with changing consumer preferences and be an open book when it comes to their products so that they can maintain and grow market share.”

Shoppers told FMI and Label Insight that the most important areas for transparency include ingredients, certifications and in-depth information about products. Product claims and allergen information are also important to many omnichannel shoppers. Shoppers say a brand or manufacturer is transparent if they provide a complete list of ingredients (62%), the description of ingredients is in plain English (53%), and provide certifications, such as USDA organic (48%).

To drive the initiative forward, Ulta Beauty says it has established the Conscious Beauty Advisory Council. The council brings together experts at the forefront of clean beauty, product development, packaging sustainability and brand leadership, including Annie Jackson, co-founder and COO, Credo Beauty, and Tom Szaky, CEO and co-founder, Loop, among others.

“We have always taken pride in offering guests a diverse assortment of products to meet their individual beauty needs, including many brands that align to the Conscious Beauty pillars,” Kimbell said. “Today’s announcement marks a definitive milestone on our ongoing journey in this space and we look forward to further meeting guests needs this fall in-store and online.” 

Ulta Beauty operates 1,254 retail stores across 50 states and also distributes its products through its website, which includes a collection of tips, tutorials and social content. 


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