Eco-Friendly Salons and Hairdressers 2024: Good Business Sense and Sustainability

Published 24th Apr 2024 by Charlotte Grant-West

These eco-friendly salons, hairdressers and businesses prove that you can balance sustainability with good business sense.

Buy less and buy better – so, the mantra goes, but what happens if you’re running a business: do you really want people to buy less or reduce the frequency of their appointments? You have a profit to make, staff to pay and creative needs to fulfil. We spoke to pioneers, including B Corps in the hairdressing world, to find out how they run viable, sustainable businesses. They gave us their honest perspectives below. 

We weave sustainability and luxury together

Anita Rice, co-owner, Buller & Rice
anita rice

“I believe that becoming sustainable shouldn’t be a profit-driven change. But, there are financial upsides to sustainability. You may not see direct profit at first, in fact you might see your outgoings rising if you partner with say a waste collection service, but at Buller & Rice we think long-term goals, not short-term gains.

 However, there are ways you’ll find yourself saving money. By creating awareness with your staff about excess stock and waste, you’ll save money. The biggest challenge we face is water waste, but our water-saving shower heads have reduced our water usage by two thirds.

Our interior decor is a big talking point for us. Our three salons are beautifully designed, but for the most part the furniture is made out of ‘waste’ materials. In the original Newington Green salon we worked with a designer to create 'terrazzo' out of recycled yoghurt pots and in our Walthamstow salon we pressed and dyed leftover sawdust to create a surface material. We have done some crazy things!

Now we are updating our Newington Green salon and a company called Form Creative will be using our hair cuttings to spread through resin to create shelving. Hair doesn’t biodegrade so we have to be creative about reusing it. When it comes to our furniture, we have reclaimed Takara Belmont Dainty grooming chairs, re-upholstered by Moda. We are always thinking about how to weave sustainability and luxury together.”

Can you be sustainable and make a profit?

Keith Mellen, co-author Salon RE:Source with Anne Veck
keith mellon and anne veck

“There’s a misconception that being sustainable will cost you money. I challenge that. I always go back to the three Rs, they are: reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order. The biggest thing you can do in terms of being a more sustainable, more profitable business is to reduce your energy, your water and the amount of product used.

Before we sold our salons, I was grappling with the notion of whether you could be a growing business that was also sustainable. We were competing with other city centre salons for a limited market. We were looking at increasing the number of clients, increasing repeat business, and increasing the average bill. However, the bigger picture is that planetary boundaries are being exceeded – everyone should be playing their part in trying not to over-consume.

I started to think ‘maybe businesses should aim to strive, not grow?’ If you're aiming to maintain clients, then sustainability makes commercial sense. Because what you don’t want to do is push services on people that don’t need them.

An average salon probably sees most of their carbon emissions come from the products they use and stock – their carbon emissions are from a supply chain. There are great programmes like Net Zero Now who have a partnership with L’Oréal Professional Products Division [read more about it here]. They have done really detailed, robust research on the CO2 emissions of virtually every product type you can think of. It’s ideal for salon owners to measure their carbon emissions.”

Working towards a circular economy makes financial sense

Karine Jackson, founder, Green with Karine
karine jackson

“The focus right now for businesses should be on striving to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals – they include how you operate and team development, not just what you use. Over the last 20 years, a lot has changed. Now brands are shouting about their practices. I noticed the shift after the Paris Agreement in 2015 when the Sustainable Development Goals were announced. Nine years on from that, people aren’t thinking about sustainability as an afterthought anymore.

I recently studied for a Leadership in Business Sustainability diploma at Glasgow Caledonian University. It focused on working towards a circular economy to make positive change and financial sense. At the end of the day, I’m an entrepreneur, so cost is crucial. But focusing on a circular economy helps. Using multiple towels on a client is the biggest bane of my life. You don’t need that second towel! I swear by Easydry. They're biodegradable and single-use, but I put them all aside, wash a hundred at a time, then give them out to clients for dusting.”

Sustainability is part of my culture

Karoliina Saunders, owner, Karoliina Saunders Hair Design
karoliina saunders

“Growing up in Finland, recycling comes second nature to me. Last year Finland ranked first in the UN Sustainable Development Index and it offers affordable green energy. Sustainability is part of my culture. For my business, sustainability doesn't always mean buying less; it's about making conscious choices. By adopting eco-friendly practices and products, salons can attract a growing market of environmentally conscious clients, creating a balance between profitability and sustainability. Our salon takes pride in offering a refill service, a hit among our clients. I also appreciate my colour house’s approach. My favourite colour range (Revlon Professional Sublime) is vegan and ammonia-free and they’ve reduced the plastic packaging. Another hit with clients is the EKSperience range, in partnership with Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that helps communities use plastic waste to better their lives. For every EKS product sold Plastic Bank removes four ocean-bound plastic bottles.

Focus on brands with transparent sourcing and eco-friendly packaging. Look for cruelty-free and vegan options, and always emphasise longevity over trends.”

Sustainability is about interacting with your community too

Matt Martin, General Manager UK, Davines
matt smith davines

“You can make changes to make your business more sustainable, without it costing you money. In terms of what sustainability actually means – it’s not just about recycling, it’s about how you interact with your community, how you give back, how you build awareness. Salons who do this really well not only try to operate with a more sustainable mindset, but they bring their clients and communities on the journey with them too. For example, Nashwhite have really leveraged their sustainable credentials to attract clients. Not only are they a salon, but they also run craft markets and yoga sessions. Since Covid-19, savvy salons have built on the ‘support local’ movement that boomed. It’s now about the experience of a salon – not just a haircut.

I think there’s a misconception around the term B Corp and it being about what’s on a label. But that’s just one pillar, it’s also about community and how you support your staff. It’s a mindset. The central message of B Corp is ‘people and planet before profit’. It challenges businesses to commit to long term goals, rather than short term profit. A study by Harvard University showed Gen Z and Millennials are 27% more likely to purchase from you if they believe that you care about your impact on people and planet. If you’re doing good things, it’s clear that you need to communicate what you’re doing.”

B Corp certification isn't just for big businesses

Susan Collins, owner, Susan Collins Home of Hair

“We have just achieved our B Corp status and we couldn’t be more proud. It was time consuming, but worth it. We first started our sustainable journey back in 2019. I saw a Green Salon Collective advert and the stats shocked me. I started researching the products and colour we were using. Don’t get me wrong, no colour is ‘good’ for the environment – but some are more toxic than others. Although I had reservations about changing colour house, I eventually did. I also met a salon that was a small business with a B Corp certification, and I thought – if they can do it, so can we.

Now we use Great Lengths for our extensions, Davines for colour and retail, Vish measures our colour waste and Scrummi supply our towels. I started working with Great Lengths in 2019 because they are ethically sourced. I won’t compromise on that.

A big part of being a B Corp is that you’re sustaining your team. Hairdressing has a bad reputation for not treating staff well. For an industry that is made up of up to 90% women, how are we not doing better? How are we paid so little that it’s not financially worth it to come back to work after having children? For a lot of people their salary doesn't cover childcare. Women should be afforded the opportunities to grow and have flexible working. If it doesn’t work for them to work a full week, then let them work part time. All my staff are part time and paid well - I pay the living wage, plus commission. Like most hairdressers, becoming a business owner happened by accident. I do my best, but being a B Corp is about listening and trying to do better.”

Colour waste is an environmental and business issue

Tom Bentley-Taylor, Managing Director, EMEA, Vish
vish tom bentley smith

“Sustainability should be thought about from an environmental and a business perspective. Every guest needs to be profitable. Ten years ago we could get away with guests balancing each other out. But no other industry does this. In Hospitality everything is weighed, measured and costed.

The reality is a tonne of colour (literally) is being wasted every day and we need to get to the bottom of it. Not only is it an environmental issue, but it’s a business issue. Ten years ago colour was cheap, but now it’s very expensive. If you don’t see colour waste in your colourist’s bowl my guess is that your team are over-applying it to your guest’s hair! Typically, we see 27% product left in the bowl at the end of
an appointment and 20-25% as over-application. Salons have the opportunity to halve what is typically the highest cost in their business just by measuring colour.

Why not start charging for time and product used? We’re pricing our services like we were in the 1960s. We need to price for profit, not on what ‘Mary’s salon down the road is charging’.”

Charlotte Grant-West

Charlotte Grant-West

Published 24th Apr 2024

Charlotte oversees the print magazine, website and social media channels at HJ. With over a decade of experience as a journalist, Charlotte was formerly Editor of Modern Barber and HJ Men, Social Editor at Netmums and Features Writer at Boots Health & Beauty magazine. She loves any products that make her hair bigger and more voluminous, and loves a behind-the-scenes peek at anything hair-related – whether it's a factory tour, BTS on a shoot or backstage at fashion week.

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