Conversation with Emma Lewisham

Emma Lewisham is the co-founder and CEO of her eponymous brand, Emma Lewisham, a scientifically validated 100 per cent natural skincare brand launched in 2019 that’s quickly becoming a cult favourite around the world for products from its coveted Skin Reset Serum to a limited edition Holiday Illuminating Face and Body Oil.

The brand recently launched a 100 per cent circular packaging design, the blueprint for which is freely available.

Why did you start Emma Lewisham?

I was using hydroquinone to treat my skin’s hyperpigmentation and it was very effective, but it’s a questionable ingredient that’s banned in multiple countries.

I just thought, why can’t we have natural products that are also really effective, so there’s no trade-off?

In parallel, I saw the opportunity to build a brand that offered a new vision of beauty: one that is 100 per cent circular designed and working towards carbon positivity and total transparency.

If the whole industry moved to a circular design model, we would reduce emissions by 70 per cent. This is a vision I am incredibly passionate about.

What makes your products sustainable?

Our products are all refillable and returnable, meaning we take ownership of our packaging. We reuse our packaging, and if we can’t, we pay for it to be recycled so we know exactly what happens to it – and we design with circularity in mind.

All our products are also now independently certified carbon positive, under Toitū Envirocare’s climate positive product certification, meaning we offset more carbon than we emit.

We looked at where carbon was emitted across our supply chain and put measures in place to reduce emissions and offset the rest, and we’re constantly looking for ways to reduce our offsetting.

We offer full transparency about our products. On our website, you can find out all about our ingredients – what country they came from, how they’re made, whether they’re organically certified – and we ensure that there’s no animal testing along the whole supply chain.

We also think about how we run the business. For instance, our laboratory that formulates our products uses 100 per cent renewable energy.

Basically, we make sure we’re comfortable with all our decisions and every aspect of the business aligns with our values. 

Finally, we disclose our sustainability strategy and goals on our website and report back to customers, suppliers and retailers on our progress along the way.

We do see our brand’s role partly as educators. 

How has the beauty industry changed since when you started?

The biggest change I’ve seen is customers awakening and asking more questions about what’s in their products, how they’re made, what the carbon numbers on products mean and what happens to the packaging end of life.

And I’m seeing it not just from that percentage of sustainably-minded people, but actually from the mainstream. That’s really heartening.

I’ve also seen a shift in the industry at large. When we entered the market, we started talking about the need for brands to take ownership of packaging, because lots of recyclable packaging isn’t recycled in New Zealand due to the economics of kerbside systems.

Championing brand responsibility was a really new idea and we saw it bring a whole new way of thinking to the market, especially amongst retailers.

We believe this is not the area to be competitive, which is why we’re giving out our circular design packaging blueprint industry-wide, free of charge.

Instead, let’s be competitive about reducing our carbon numbers. Imagine how much we could shift the dials as an industry!

I’m definitely seeing the industry moving in this direction now, and I was really heartened at the brands who came forward after we released our blueprint – some of them are really large, multinational brands.

What’s the favourite of your products?

The Skin Reset Serum. It’s the best product I’ve ever had for my hyper-pigmentation and tested against hydroquinone in vitro it was actually more effective.

That was our first confirmation that natural products could be as powerful as anything in the world – and that’s the premise of the brand: natural formulas, backed by science, that deliver real results.

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