Retailers are using accelerators to get safer, cleaner beauty and personal care products on store shelves

Large retailers in the beauty space, like Walmart, Amazon and Target, have launched accelerator programs to help smaller companies grow their brands. While accelerator programs differ company-to-company, many provide access to funds, networking, mentorship, training, and marketing opportunities. But only a small percent include a specific focus on a critical area: Sustainability.

Retailers are setting both climate and chemical goals that go beyond their operational footprint to encompass their value chains. Meeting these targets will be challenging, and it will undoubtedly require companies to engage with and work alongside their suppliers. Putting sustainability and safer chemistry at the center of accelerator programs’ curriculums could be the key fostering the supplier engagement needed to bring cleaner products to all shelves. 

In recent years, a growing number of small indie brands have entered the market. Unlike traditional major retailers, many of the smaller brands were founded with a commitment to safer ingredients and sustainability. The problem is, though, they don’t always have the resources, expertise, or influence to achieve their clean or sustainability goals. 

Collaboration through accelerator programs that prioritize sustainability can be a win-win for both the small brands and the big retailers: Brands get access to knowledge and resources on sustainability and safer ingredients, whereas retailers get to diversify their portfolio with cleaner products that can also help them make progress towards their own sustainability goals. 

Accelerator programs with sustainability and equity at their core

There’s a growing number of accelerator programs in the beauty industry, but only a few  include a focus on sustainability. Here are some of my favorites:

Target supported almost 30 BIPOC-owned or founded brands in the personal care space looking to use safer ingredients in their products through its Building Blocks for Better Products (B3P) program. Target connected the goals of the B3P program with their overarching chemical policy and sustainability goals. The company also facilitated access to safer chemistry resources by partnering with EDF, Novi Connect and ChemForward.

Credo Beauty launched Credo for Change, an accelerator program for BIPOC entrepreneurs. The five-month program helps brands grow their businesses and foster safer chemistry using trainings around ingredient selection and Credo’s Clean standard. The program also connects participants with the broader beauty community and provides direct mentorship opportunities. 

3 tips for designing accelerator programs that foster safe ingredients

Every company, at every size, should offer the safest possible products and packaging for their customers. While it’s encouraging to see more companies have clean shops, labels or programs, what we really need to see is the integration of safer products into their entire product portfolio.

Here are three tips for how retailers can incorporate safer chemistry into their accelerator programs:

  1. Connect accelerator programs to their chemical policies and sustainability strategies. Set a goal to influence your entire product portfolio as opposed to treating clean products as a niche product segment. Aligning accelerator programs to ladder up to your broader clean beauty commitments can help make this possible. Ensure large, established suppliers are also focusing on sustainability throughout their product assortment and not just by offering an additional sustainable option that’s typically more expensive and less accessible to consumers. 
  2. Create a collaborative environment by connecting brands to organizations and resources. Bring in experts in sustainability and safer ingredients that can provide guidance to suppliers along their journey. Connect brands to solutions providers, much like Target did, that can provide tools and resources to help them in their product design process. 
  3. Put equity at the center of the programs. Many accelerator programs have shifted to focus on BIPOC-owned brands, which is important as these brands typically see less money from investors and have a harder time accessing networking opportunities. Provide education, network mentorship, and opportunities for supporting the growth of BIPOC-owned small clean beauty businesses. Help set these brands up for success by actively supporting their sustainability journey.