Circularity Is ‘Izzy’: Meet the Clean Beauty Startup Creating a Blueprint for a Waste-Free Industry

New York-based startup Izzy Zero Waste Beauty is out to show the incredibly wasteful beauty industry that it can mend its wicked ways — vastly reducing its footprint through a hyper-local supply chain and 100% refillable, recyclable products.

There’s been much discussion in recent years about the ugly side of beauty: The
industry is thought to produce over 120 billion pieces of plastic
packaging

per year; and not only do most personal care and beauty products end up in
landfills, the resulting microplastic
fragments
(14 million
tons

to be precise) are clogging up our oceans, our drinking water and our food
supply.

Some bigger players have begun exploring ways to reduce this impact through use
of recycled and ocean-bound
plastic;
and brands including Le Petit
Marseillais
,
Molton
Brown

and
Olay
have ventured into refillable packaging options — but overall industry
movement is slow.

Founded in 2020, Izzy Zero Waste Beauty is on a mission
to show that beauty doesn’t have to be wasteful. Its products — Zero-Waste
Mascara
and Zero Waste Glossy Lip Butter; both CarbonNeutral®
Certified
and made from clean, cruelty-free
ingredients — are sold through a subscription-based model. Izzy says they contain 94 percent less plastic than leading brands (the company says what
little plastic it does use is reground and recycled at its facility); and all
components are 100 percent reusable and recyclable. Products come in
medical-grade, US-made stainless steel tubes designed to be cleaned and refilled
over 10,000 times. Even the water from its patent-pending antibacterial
cleansing process is reused, rather than dumped into waterways.

We spoke with Izzy founder Shannon Goldberg to find out her vision for Izzy’s growth and what its model could
mean for the industry at large.

You worked for years in Marketing for beauty and skin care — how did you shift from that to creating a zero-waste product and unique supply chain for a beauty company of your own?

SG: After having accrued nearly two decades of dedicated beauty experience
in marketing, innovation and product development, I founded Izzy with the goal
of creating a zero-waste beauty brand that would contribute to a brighter future
for my daughter, Emm. I wanted to provide her with truly sustainable options
when it came to cosmetics — ones that were clean, planet-friendly and
performance-driven.

Izzy transcends waste reduction by eliminating waste altogether. In addition to
not using any outer packaging, we challenge traditional notions about supply
chains, product development and marketing by having what’s thought to be the
smallest carbon footprint of any beauty brand in the world. Izzy’s entire supply
chain is located within a 400-mile radius, while every product offering is 100
percent refillable, reusable and recyclable. Not only does Izzy show the world
that moms like myself can form newer, greener beauty habits that go against
those of past generations, it’s a brand that future beauty consumers like Emm
can stand behind and feel good about.

Once you formed your vision for the company/business model/product line, how did you go about finding like-minded/qualified suppliers (all within 400 miles) to turn your vision into reality?

SG: The beauty industry is beginning to embrace a more sustainable mindset,
which is why our vendors were super excited to support Izzy’s refill-driven
mission. Before approaching vendors, it was critical to lead our conversations
with the facts first: The global beauty industry is a $532-billion business
that creates more than 120 billion units of packaging every year. This packaging
is the number-one contributor to plastic production in the world. Arming our
partners with the right information inspired them to help drive meaningful
change in a collective way.

Normally, a supply chain is driven by quality, costs, timelines and
capabilities. But with Izzy, we aimed to shrink our imprint before anything
else. As it turned out, we were able to identify the perfect vendors for our
circular supply chain within the northeastern United States. All of Izzy’s
manufacturing takes place within a 400-mile radius, which means that our carbon
emissions from transportation alone are exponentially lower than those of any
other beauty brand. Compared to the industry standard, our products have a 78
percent smaller carbon footprint after 25 refills. The more our products are
reused, the smaller our relative carbon footprint becomes over time.

From our steel production to our refurbishment, we’re able to run our entire
supply chain on one tank of gas — or two Tesla charges, as we like to say.

Such an ambitious undertaking must have had some bumps along the way — what have been some of the biggest challenges/failures/surprises?

SG: Izzy is truly a game changer and industry disrupter.
We are the first brand to offer a fully recyclable, refillable and reusable
beauty line; but I hope we’re not the last. When you’re the first to market with
any idea, there’s no ruler you can borrow from another brand to measure your
success — so, there’s quite a bit of tripping, falling and getting back up along
the way. For instance, we partnered with a major beauty box just months after
launch that required 15K mascaras for the activation. Knowing full well that our
success is defined by getting the tubes back to be refurbished and refilled, we
ran the risk of not getting our tubes back at all. Even though we included
prepaid return labels in our reusable mailers to get the products back, we
didn’t even see 40 percent returns — a huge miss on our end. Another challenge
is placing Izzy at retail. Our model really only works with our own D2C and
drop-ship retailers like Amazon‘s Climate Pledge Friendly
program
and Poosh — a few of our strategic partners to help build
brand awareness.

What is your ultimate vision for Izzy? Will having such a small supply chain inhibit your ability to scale?

SG: That’s the million-dollar question: How do you slow down in order to
scale big? The vision for Izzy is to innovate minimally, grow strategically, and
tap into other categories like skin care and body care. While producing an
ultra-curated collection of everyday essentials, we see no obstacles with our
current supply chain. At the same time, we do have a global expansion goal and
plan to implement our circular supply chain at the country level. In other
words, every country will operate their own supply chain in order to maintain an
optimum shipping footprint and carbon neutrality.

Obviously, it’s much easier to design a zero-waste product/supply chain/company from scratch than to try and rebuild an existing one — especially at the scale of some of the bigger beauty brands. What advice would you offer the bigger players that are working to become circular/more sustainable?

SG: Start small. An overnight, sweeping change would be impossible for an
Estée
Lauder

or
L’Oréal.
But they can launch one sustainable product or line at a time while slowly
reducing materials, their imprint and emissions. Obviously, comparing a startup
to a major beauty company is the difference of turning a small speedboat around
versus turning a cruise ship around. Bigger companies require more energy, time,
resources and money to become more sustainable; smaller brands can adapt with
more agility.