It seems as if every day we're waking up to apocalyptic-level global warming news, from devastating wildfires to torrential rains to record-setting heatwaves. It's easy to feel overwhelmed, which is why many people are finding comfort in making changes to their lifestyles to be more sustainable, from learning how to compost to picking up cycling. But, however much one individual can do to minimize their carbon footprint, the onus should be on companies that can make a much larger impact to really move the needle on climate change.
So, what does a sustainable business look like in 2021? In partnership with Salesforce — the values-led tech company with a 1% philanthropic model committing product, time, and resources to supporting their community — we spoke with Jackie Kankam, the director of sustainability and social impact at beauty brand DECIEM, about what the company is doing to become more sustainable and the efforts that should be made in the beauty industry as a whole. Continuing the conversation on climate change recently from Salesforce's "Growing With Purpose" event, Kankam shares her insights on sustainability — from being as transparent as possible with your audience to finding measurable ways to reduce your carbon footprint — below.
What has your career path been like, and how did you end up at DECIEM?
“My career has taken a lot of twists and turns. After graduating from the University of Toronto with a degree in Environmental Studies, my first job was at a consulting firm as a project coordinator, working with teams detailing the environmental impact of various oil sands projects. From there, I tried my hand at sustainability in real estate, aviation, and now I’m in beauty. At DECIEM, we touch so many people who not only love our products, but also deeply care about sustainability.”
What was the first thing you wanted to change or implement in your role as Director of Sustainability & Social Impact?
“I’ve been with DECIEM for just over a year now, and the first thing on my mind when I started was figuring out our impact. How much were we contributing to our three pillars — earth, people, and animals — as well as climate change and waste? How responsible was our packaging? From there, we were able to work on a long-term, holistic strategy. One thing I love is how agile we are as an organization. Our leadership team practices psychological safety, which allows us to dream big and if it doesn’t land, that's okay.”
What does that holistic approach to climate strategy look like?
“I’m lucky in that I have a large scope in my role, which makes it easier to see the big picture and find holistic solutions. For example, on climate, we’re looking at opportunities where we can be more efficient and use less energy. We’re utilizing renewable energy in the United Kingdom and Netherlands, and using renewable energy credits where directly using renewable energy isn't possible.
“A large focus of the team’s work has been looking at ways we can further educate our smaller suppliers to minimize their energy use: Is there an educational opportunity we can provide them with? Are they not establishing programs and targets because there’s a gap in understanding? We’re continually evolving the ways we can educate and empower others on our climate journey.”
What are some policy changes DECIEM has in place to work toward being more sustainable in the short and long term?
“In the immediate term, our climate strategy is focused on reducing emissions in our operations, as well as using renewable energy and renewable energy credits. With our product packaging, we’ve transitioned to carbon-neutral cardstock and launched larger sizes of some of our most-loved products. We also offer an in-store recycling program. In the long term, we plan to minimize the carbon footprint of our materials. We’re working with our transportation partners to learn about sustainable fuel options, moving to more ocean freight, and really looking at where we can reduce emissions at the source.”
As a skin-care company, what sustainability efforts do you think need to be made in the beauty industry as a whole?
“I think transparency is crucial between a company and its audiences. Consumers care about the environmental impact of their purchases, they care about how the workers are treated. More than ever, consumers understand that these problems are complex and it's a journey, and they want companies to be transparent about that.
“What does a sustainable beauty company look like? Is there even such a thing? On our website, we acknowledge this by saying, ‘DECIEM is not a sustainable beauty company and we recognize by nature of our business, we may never be fully sustainable. We are committed to continuously improve all areas of our operations.’ There may be no such thing as a ‘sustainable’ beauty brand, which is why, until we figured that out, we don’t even want to add that to the equation.”
What are some measurable changes an individual can make in their own life toward becoming more sustainable?
“Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Buy less stuff and educate yourself around what you need most, reuse what you already have in creative ways, and always be sure to recycle your waste. You can also educate yourself on the biggest drivers of your carbon emissions with a free online carbon footprint calculator. Simple things like incorporating less energy-intense, plant-based meals into your diet or just walking or cycling can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint. Lastly, care too much — that's one of our values. These issues can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to feel like your individual actions don’t make a difference. But if we all adopt the mantra of caring too much, we believe it will really spark change.”
*Research statistics from Salesforce Canada.