How Izzy is using a subscription model to close the sustainability loop

By Ravyn Cullor contact

- Last updated on GMT

Izzy had closed the loop on their packaging and created a supply chain short enough for a single tank of gas to cross. © Izzy Zero Waste Beauty
Izzy had closed the loop on their packaging and created a supply chain short enough for a single tank of gas to cross. © Izzy Zero Waste Beauty

Related tags: circular beauty, Sustainability, Color cosmetics, sustainable beauty, Sustainable packaging, Subscription business model, refillable packaging

Beauty supply chains stretch across the world and end wherever a given consumer decides to throw their product away, but Izzy has a different plan.

Izzy is a prestige makeup brand with three hero products, mascara, gloss and brow gel, but what sets the brand apart is the complete supply chain overhaul they have designed, starting with a local supply chain and ending with consumers returning their used packaging.

Shannon Goldberg, the founder of Izzy and a 17-year veteran of the beauty industry, told CosmeticsDesign she was inspired to start the brand when she read an article stating that the cosmetics industry produces 200 billion pieces of non-recyclable plastic annually.

After reading that article, she said she wanted to learn everything about sustainability in the beauty industry.

“Sustainability is a word that really represents a wheel, and there are several spokes on that wheel,”​ Goldberg said. “Truly in beauty, you have the chance to pivot at every gateway of the product development process and make a more sustainable decision every step of the way.”

With the help of digital consultant 1R, Goldberg build Izzy during the pandemic and launched a DTC subscription brand with a new take on sustainability.

How Izzy works

Stack of Izzy products
© Izzy Zero Waste Beauty

The concept of Izzy is all about reducing the brand’s carbon footprint, eliminating waste and closing the supply chain loop. Goldberg said that starts with shrinking the geographical length of the production process.

While many brands may have a formula from Europe, packaging from China and assembly in the US, Izzy works with local vendors to create a 400-mile supply chain which Goldberg said could be crossed with one tank of gas or two Tesla charges.

The brand also uses its subscription model to reach zero waste. Goldberg said one of her main concerns in creating the brand was to eliminate single-use plastics since most plastic used in makeup is too small to be recycled.

Her answer was stainless steel.

“We realized that the medical industry and nail industry put their stainless steel tools through a triple medical cleanse to remove all microbiome bacteria buildup,”​ Goldberg said. “But the most amazing point about stainless steel is that it can be washed and reused more than 10,000 times.”

With the subscription model, a consumer buys one of Izzy’s products, which is primarily packaged in stainless steel with recyclable applicator parts, and in three months when the brand sends a new product, the consumer mails their used product back.

Once the used product gets back to Izzy, the stainless steel components are sterilized and reused and most of the applicator parts are melted down into their virgin form and used to create new applicators.

Goldberg said the only part of the packaging that can’t be reused or recycled by Izzy is the tip of the lipgloss applicator, which is donated by the brand to a company that makes cushions for children’s chairs in schools.

“She made it so simple,”​ said Shelly Socol, CEO of 1R. “I’m a 52-year-old executive, I want the ease of something that doesn't take a long time. (Goldberg) made something beautiful also easy, and I think that's a trend that we're going towards.”

Positioning a brand for not just “tree huggers”

Swatch of Izzy products
© Izzy Zero Waste Beauty

In the early stages of the company, Goldberg said she pitched the brand to a large retailer and was told only “tree huggers” and gen z customers would be interested in the concept. Over the past two years, she said it’s been a trial-and-error of developing the right positioning.

Izzy developed a pyramid of positioning priorities, starting with performance and efficacy. The brand’s key consumer, which Goldberg said is a 35 to 65-year-old executive or future retiree, does not want to trade down.

Next on the pyramid is the cleanness of ingredients because clean ingredients are nearly industry standard now, Goldberg said. At the base of the pyramid are the brand’s sustainability claims.

“We sort of always have to communicate in that hierarchy,”​ Goldberg said. “But at the end of the day, what we really wanted to communicate is we will do all the heavy lifting on the back end, we will make it easy for you.”

In positioning, Socol said it’s important that products that make a consumer feel like they’re doing something good also are effective at helping them feel beautiful.

She also said companies with sustainability models like Izzy's, with a closed-loop and an expected return rate of 80-100%, are developing into somewhat of a foil to fast, high production companies across segments and grabbing the attention of consumers over multiple generations looking for more conscientious product options.

Goldberg said she doesn’t want Izzy’s model to be isolated to the brand. Even for brands whose front-facing characteristic is not sustainability, she said brands can successfully use a closed-loop subscription model to take control of their own supply chain.

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