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Waste Not
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.