Sustainability

“We’ve saved a tonne of money”: Adore Beauty is on a mission to scrap plastic packaging

Matthew Elmas /

Adore Beauty

Adore Beauty general manager Sarah Mullen. Source: Supplied.

They say the customer is always right, and for Adore Beauty that’s where the sustainability journey started.

As countries around the world consider the evident consequences of human consumption, an ever-growing number of consumers are taking matters into their own hands, fed up and demanding change.

Sarah Mullen has witnessed the movement first hand. As general manager of Adore Beauty, she’s scanned through her fair share of customer feedback.

“You’ve got heaps of waste in your orders,” Mullen was told.

“Your boxes are too big, there’s plastic void fill … we don’t want Tim Tams anymore, we want vegan treats.”

There’s a unified message, Mullen says, and its a pretty simple one:

“What are you doing to help the environment?”

They’ve a right to be worried. The world has produced over 8 billion tonnes of plastic since the 1950s. We’ve thrown away 55% and recycled just 8% as our oceans bloat with waste.

At home, regulators have responded by banning single-use plastic bags as businesses big and small contemplate their own footprints.

For Adore, a fast-growing business which booked $52 million in sales last year, keeping the momentum going meant making some changes.

The retailer declared a war on waste of its own. After a root-and-branch review of its waste profile, Adore now recycles 60% of its plastics. It also removed 235 kilograms of cardboard from its business in the space of a week.

“What can we do about this?”

Ahead of a keynote on sustainability to be delivered at Sydney’s Online Retailer event later this month, Mullen details the time-consuming process of ripping the majority of plastic packaging out of Adore’s business.

“I went out onto the floor of our warehouse, got a sample of every piece of plastic waste on the site, laid it all out on the floor with multiple waste companies and said ‘what can we do about this?’” Mullen explains.

Plastic void fill — the little pellets or bows packed into orders to fill empty space — was first to go, replaced with a recyclable paper option. Disposable coffee cups were next to go, with Adore supplying, and mandating use of, Keep Cups in the office.

Smaller boxes save 50 grams of cardboard per order and require less void fill. Customers have high standards, and no one is getting off the hook here.

“We actually thought we were doing the right thing. We would receive orders from suppliers with plastic void fill and reuse it instead of buying more,” Mullen says.

“But our customers weren’t liking that.”

“We’ve saved a tonne of money”

Goodie bags are now cotton, and plastic gift cards are gone. Adore sends them out digitally now, which is better for the planet, but also the bottom line.

“Sustainability was always viewed as costly, but you can actually deliver savings and satisfy customers,” Mullen says.

“We’ve saved a tonne of money.”

That’s a message that has hit home up the flag pole. Adore founder Kate Morris says there’s a “great business case” for being an environmentally responsible business.

“All businesses need to keep working hard to improve their sustainability and reduce their impact on the environment … we all need to do our bit to save the planet,” Morris says.

In many cases, you’ll actually save money by reducing the energy or materials you use.” 

Today, Adore can recycle 60% of the plastic it uses and is working towards capturing the other 40%.

There are plans in the works for replacing bubble wrap with paper-based options, and starting to compost food in the office.

Spotlight on suppliers

But, Mullen says suppliers will need to come to the table too, lamenting the piles of plastic they bring into Adore’s business every week.

“Our suppliers are sending us orders filled with plastic,” Mullen says.

“There are other ways you can ship items that will deliver them safely.

“We’re working on ways to manage it, whether its new guidelines and rules with suppliers or even changing suppliers.”

Customers, evidently, won’t accept anything less.

NOW READ: How Flora & Fauna offset the carbon footprint of more than 280,000 orders

NOW READ: Revenues up 700%: Meet the businesses benefiting from ABC’s War on Waste and consumers’ appetite for sustainability

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].