Eco and ethical: Digital-savvy millennials pushing retailer Watsons SG to expand clean beauty offerings

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Watsons Singapore is aiming to expand its portfolio of clean beauty brands. [Watsons SG / Ethique]
Watsons Singapore is aiming to expand its portfolio of clean beauty brands. [Watsons SG / Ethique]

Related tags Sustainability clean & ethical beauty retailer market trends

Health and beauty retailer Watsons Singapore is aiming to expand its portfolio of clean beauty brands as more consumers, especially millennials, become more conscious of their environmental impact.

Watsons Singapore managing director Irene Lau told CosmeticsDesign-Asia ​that the firm has seen increasing momentum for clean beauty products, as reflected in the sales of brands such as Dr. Bronner’s and Naturals by Watsons.

“Clean beauty is driven mainly by consumers who have grown to be more discerning and engaged with the origin of the products and the desire to search for natural alternatives with organic ingredients. We are seeing such trends in the food industry and it has permeated through the health and beauty industry too,” ​said Lau.

The company has observed the demand for clean beauty products among the digitally savvy millennials especially, who have begun to recognise the urgent need to protect the environment and are in turn becoming more environmentally conscious.

In addition, the firm speculated that the COVID-19 pandemic could have influenced consumer sentiment as well.

“We would like to think that the pandemic has heightened public consciousness and made us more mindful of our vulnerability brought about by a very real global disruption,”​ said Lau.

“This could have led to more awareness in opting for clean beauty brands and products that create a positive impact to the environment such as RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil, recycled paper packaging, ethical business practices amongst others.”

Increasing ‘clean’ offerings

In light of these trends, the retailer has been working to increase its portfolio of clean beauty brands.

Watsons has defined the category as products that do not contain any ‘unwanted ingredients’ such as unethically sourced palm oil and benefit the society and environment in at least one way.

“Besides being free from a list of unwanted ingredients, these brands are recognised by Watsons to play a responsible community role… These brands work towards creating a positive impact on the environment through one or combination of more than one factors such as minimising waste and greenhouse gas emission or using only sustainable paper packaging or using sustainable palm oil from responsibly managed palm oil plantations,” ​Lau elaborated.

Currently, the retailer’s clean beauty portfolio consists of brands such as Dr. Bronner’s, Naturals by Watsons, SUKIN and Love Beauty and Planet.

Most recently, it added Kiwi brand Ethique into the line-up. Known for their solid beauty bars for face, hair and body, Ethique is 100% plastic-free, certified cruelty-free and vegan, and certified palm oil-free.

The shampoo bar is equivalent to three bottles of liquid shampoo while the conditioner bar is equivalent to five bottles of liquid conditioner.

To date, Ethique has prevented over nine million plastic bottles from being made and disposed of, with 20% of its profits directed to charities worldwide.

Moving forward, Lau told us the firm has plans in the pipeline to expand their clean beauty offerings, especially in the skin care and personal care categories.

Taking action against plastic waste

In addition to bringing in more clean beauty brands, the firm has also launched a sustainability-driven initiative to reduce plastic bags use in retail stores island-wide.

The #SayNoToPlasticBags campaign aims to minimise plastic bag waste and maximise resource use from back to front-end operations.

The firm revealed that in 2019, it issued close to 13 million plastic bags, an uncomfortable fact that triggered it to take dedicated steps towards promoting sustainability.

By the first quarter of next year, Watsons would be introducing HDPE plastic bags with 50% recycled plastic content, up from its existing 10% to 15%.

Furthermore, the firm is collaborating with the Singaporean arm of Watsons is partnering with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for its Plastic ACTion (PACT) Retail Bag Charge initiative which aims to reduce the consumption of plastic bags.

Under this, Watsons has introduced Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Tuesday across all 100 stores islandwide, and eventually include more BYOB days.

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