According to a new report by Provenance – Skin Deep Beauty: shopper expectations and the truth behind sustainability claims – greenwashing in the beauty and wellness industry has left consumers confused and mistrustful of brands’ sustainability claims.

The report found that although sustainability and other ethical considerations are important to 90% of consumers, less than a quarter strongly agree that brands are transparent about the environmental and social impact of their products, with 79% stating they have difficulty trusting the sustainability and social claims made by beauty and wellness brands.

Part of the reason for this lack of trust in transparency is a lack of understanding about what the various claims made on packaging and websites really mean, says the report. Two in three shoppers want brands to be clearer when making sustainability claims for issues such as waste, nature and animal welfare, treatment of workers, commitment to community, and climate change impact.

the industry as a whole is leaving shoppers confused and sceptical about positive impact

Consumers are very clear when it comes to their top resource for checking out a brand’s sustainability claims, with 85% saying they trust an independent verifier, putting this above on-pack or in-store information. They are also almost three times as likely to describe independent verification as ‘very trustworthy’ compared to social media or advertising.

“There’s just so much greenwashing out there that shoppers don’t know what all the claims being made actually mean and whether a company meets the standards they claim to,” says Jessi Baker, founder, Provenance. “We’re there to help shoppers make informed decisions, by making sure brands don’t get to mark their own homework. What’s clear from this research is that sustainability is a key purchase consideration for a huge majority of beauty shoppers, but the industry as a whole is leaving shoppers confused and sceptical about positive impact.

“If beauty and wellness businesses want to stay relevant to increasingly values-led shoppers, they need to be much clearer on sustainability claims, and use verification to prove them.”