Jacquelyn Kankam is the Director of Sustainability & Social Impact for DECIEM, the parent company of cult beauty brands The Ordinary, NIOD and Hylamide. In a chat with Lifestyle Asia, Kankam gets real about the company’s environmental impact.
ICYMI, Canadian beauty establishment DECIEM just wrapped up Slowvember, its annual November campaign. To promote slow and intentional shopping against the frenzy of Black Friday sales, DECIEM and all its subsidiaries — including cult-favourite beauty brand The Ordinary — offered a 23 percent discount across all products for one month. Now that it’s December, the group is continuing to renounce impulse spending and instead make space for discovery, education and a more sustainable way of shopping. Lifestyle Asia catches up with Jacquelyn Kankam, Director of Sustainability & Social Impact at DECIEM, on the changes she is making in her role and on sustainability in the beauty industry.
Before she took up her post at DECIEM, Kankam worked in oil and gas, infrastructure and aviation, always within sustainability and social impact. As someone who studied Environmental Resources Management in school, she was passionate about the environment from the very beginning. During her trip to Milos this past summer, she recounts feeling an overwhelming amount of accountability to the planet.
“We owe it to the planet to do better, and for me, there is no other option than stepping up and protecting the Earth,” she says. “It’s easy to watch the news nowadays and feel stuck, but there is a beauty in this work in seeing companies step up and want to use their growth to power good — one of our mottos at DECIEM.”
The first thing Kankam did as Director of Sustainability & Social Impact at DECIEM was to help the team understand what impacts the company was having on the environment, from waste to climate change to water consumption. From there, they decided how they would use their growth for good.
Currently, the establishment’s efforts are focused on climate, waste and water. For climate, DECIEM transitioned all locations to renewable energy where possible, to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption. For what it couldn’t cover with renewable energy, it purchased carbon offsets to be carbon neutral across operations with a combination of renewable energy and RECs.
For waste, the company recently introduced the “100% Good” initiative, giving its products with minor cosmetic imperfections such as wrinkled labels and ink blots a second chance through donations, at the same time helping people have better access to beauty products.
For water, a new water-saving project at DECIEM’s manufacturing facility is being implemented. Once complete, it will recycle wastewater that is used for cooling.
When it comes to the sustainability efforts that need to be made in the beauty industry as a whole, Kankam highlights the importance of transparency, whether it’s with employees, consumers or supply chains. More than ever, consumers care about the environmental impact of their purchases and how workers are treated, and they want companies to be transparent about it.
“One of the things I love about DECIEM is that we are founded on transparency. We are honest about where we are and how we can do better, and want to invite customers along on that journey.”
Case in point: DECIEM’s website used to read “DECIEM is not yet a sustainable beauty company, but we have made a commitment to continuously improve all areas of our operations.” But, after an honest conversation between Kankam and the Chief Brand Officer, the two decided perhaps that wasn’t as transparent as they wanted it to be. What does a sustainable beauty company look like? Is there such a thing? In the end, they changed the text to “DECIEM is not a sustainable beauty company and we recognize by nature of our business, we may never be fully sustainable. We are committed to continuously improve all areas of our operations.”
One of Kankam’s most rewarding moments in her role was guiding The Ordinary to partner with the Nunatsiavut Government to support a solar PV installation project. Spread across five Inuit communities in the Nunatsiavut region in Northern Labrador, Canada, the project will help convert the usage of diesel fuel to renewable energy.
“We made this donation because we believe in extending a positive impact into diverse communities of Canada and Turtle Island,” says Kankam. “After converting many of our own locations to renewable energy to reduce our greenhouse gas impact and purchasing renewable energy credits for our work-from-home employee offices, we wanted to give someone else the opportunity to do the same, recognising that work needs to be done beyond our footprint to help the climate crisis.”
For those who want to lead a more sustainable life, but are not sure what first steps to take, Kankam believes everyone should start with their individual footprint.
“To this end, education is key — there is a lot of information out there right now and understandably it can feel quite overwhelming. If we all take some time to properly educate ourselves on what being realistically sustainable really means, we can push everyone to do better, including companies, governments and ourselves.”
Learn more about DECIEM and its sustainability goals on its official website.