Q&A / BEAUTY

”It’s so much greenwashing out there!”

JOHAN HELLSTRÖM
On Björn Axen's road to a green operation
November 09, 2020

The owner of hair company Björn Axén and Chairman of Association of Swedish Hairdressing Businesses is frustrated about how the hair and beauty industry is not advancing faster in terms of sustainability. But, he also sees development.

— For example, now is the first time that I can use 100% recycled plastic in our bottles and be totally sure that the ingredients will not go through the packaging. We’ve used green plastic, made of sugarcane, before. It’s not 100 %, but it’s better. And we were one of the first to introduce our products in a refill packaging to reduce the plastics. Next spring, I hope that we’ll launch refill stations on all our salons, for the customers to fill a reusable bottle with shampoo and conditioner. The latest initiative also rewards customers when contributing.

— We’re the first hair company to work with PantaPå, about to change their name to Bower this December, a Swedish start-up aiming to allow any company to offer money back to their customers for each package they recycle. You download the app and when you get to the recycling station, you scan the code on our package and get 10 % off of a new product from us. The circle is closed and the empty bottle can be used to make a new one. We see how this encourages customers and invite big companies from all industries to be apart of it.

How do you think the beauty industry needs to transform itself?

— First of all, the companies producing ingredients need to take away the really harmful ones. Despite the tough EU regulations for what you put in a bottle, it’s sometimes ridiculous what ingredients are forbidden and which ones are not. Just like we need to work so much faster with better solutions for sustainable packaging, we need to be tougher with ingredients to accomplish real change. It’s so much greenwashing out there! But, most of all, the ones in power are the end consumers and as long as they don’t care about it so that the companies lose money, nothing will happen. I hope the younger customers will be a driving force here.

And how do you work to contribute to this transformation?

— During 12 years, no chemicals have left our salons. We collect everything and Stena Recycling takes care of it, to ensure it doesn’t end up in nature. We’ve also developed a system together with Stena to make it easy for every single hairdresser in our country to recycle their stuff, to do good and make a change. And we tell our producers and factories what changes they need to make in order to improve. If not, they’ll lose a hell lot of money. So they change. Thanks to the size of our company, we now have the power to make a change and then I believe it’s our responsibility to do so, says Hellström, adding;

— What frustrates me is how the world doesn’t understand that it should be cheap and easy to make the right choices and cost you time and money to choose bad stuff. Today, it’s quite the opposite. I’d like to create a new label for sustainable hair salons, to help customers make the right choice. That’s always a start!