How Entrepreneur Emma Lewisham Is Pioneering A New Climate-Positive Beauty Model
“I’ve always been very tenacious and determined, and I love solving problems,” says Emma Lewisham, sitting boldly at her desk at 7am sharp, in her New Zealand office. Lewisham is a skincare entrepreneur, whose passion for sustainability and desire to make a positive impact on the beauty industry led her to create her groundbreaking eponymous brand four years ago.
The devastating environmental impact caused by the beauty industry is well-documented. However, there’s a new wave sweeping through this field, led by visionaries such as Lewisham, who has worked tirelessly to create the first certified carbon-positive skincare range – meaning the products sequester more carbon than they emit. Her journey is not about creating just another line of beauty products, it’s about solving critical issues through science and technology; rewriting the rules of sustainability and paving the way for a greener future.
It all started with a moment of clarity in 2016, following the loss of her mother to cancer, where she became more aware of how the products we put on our skin can impact our health. Traditional skincare formulations are based on ingredients, “not an understanding of the skin’s physiology,” she says. Lewisham, who was working as a senior executive in a global tech company at the time, noticed that brands were not focusing on how the skin actually works. So, she launched Emma Lewisham in 2019 with a mission to provide evidence-based, natural products. “I saw a problem and I wanted to fix it,” she says. “All of our products not only work with ingredients innate to our body but also the natural laws of your skin.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given her background, Lewisham draws her inspirations not from the world of beauty, but from tech – namely Elon Musk and Tesla. As she reflects on Musk’s success (she’s reading his new biography), Lewisham draws a parallel between the electric car industry and her vision for beauty. “While electric cars have been around for years, Musk revolutionised the market by making them attractive and cool.” Lewisham aspires to do the same for sustainable skincare.
One way she’s revolutionising skincare is through her formulations, notably her most recent launch, the Supernatural Blemish Serum. Boasting a world-first live skin-strain probiotic, the serum works to reduce acne and blemishes. Since acne is a problem that affects so many of us – and prescription drugs are often the go-to solution – Lewisham saw this as the next issue to tackle. “I wanted to release a product that I believe will truly change people’s lives,” she says.
Lewisham is also rewriting the rules when it comes to carbon emissions and waste. “In order to solve those two problems, it was about rethinking how we approach beauty and creating a completely different model that didn’t exist before,” she explains. Moving from what she describes as a linear model to a circular one was a pivotal step. The brand emphasises the importance of keeping products in circulation and reusing them, which can reduce carbon emissions by a remarkable 75%. She considered this shift a “no-brainer” and was determined to be the one to bring it to life.
Creating carbon-positive products was a challenge never tackled before in the beauty industry. Lewisham and her team dove deep into every aspect of their products, including transportation, manufacturing, packaging and ingredients. They meticulously audited each component to measure its carbon impact, resulting in a carbon number for every product. Refillable products also became a significant part of the Emma Lewisham sustainability strategy. To offset the remaining carbon footprint, the company invests in regenerative projects, such as the Amayo MW Wind Project in Nicaragua and tree planting in places including New Zealand’s Tairua Forest.
This transformative journey spanned two years and continues to evolve as the line expands. Lewisham is dedicated to using regenerative suppliers and ensuring that all products are manufactured using renewable energy sources. Although she’s seeing an overall promising response from her customers, she acknowledges that asking for behavioural change is not easy, “but it’s a necessity in a world facing a climate crisis”. Currently, the brand has found that 14% of customers in Australia and New Zealand are returning packaging to be sterilised, refilled and reused, and a significant 28% of their sales come from refills in this region.
“We run our own race. We just focus on what we are doing. We don’t get disheartened with what’s happening,” she says, speaking of her brand’s position in the beauty industry. “We have hope when we see such engagement from our customers.” With her pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication, she is setting new standards for beauty and inspiring change that extends far beyond skincare.
Pia Brynteson is Digital Editor at Service95