Jo Malone London is a famous British cologne and scent brand whose English Pear & Freesia Cologne is an all-time best seller because of its “easy-going” smell. It comes in three sizes, $72 for 30mL, $100 for 50mL, and $142 for 100 mL, which makes it more of a high-end cologne. Most of its ingredients are synthetic, with some chemicals having higher risks of irritation or allergic reactions (although it is usually not used in high doses and therefore has potentially less harm). Also, disappointingly, Jo Malone London does not provide any solutions such as recycling or refilling services for cologne bottles, producing a lot of unnecessary waste. Therefore, regarding the product ingredients or packaging, it doesn’t seem to be very sustainable. Despite this, they have pledged to reduce carbon emissions and improve recycling rates in their production process. They also source their raw materials from sustainable entities which care about both environmental and social impacts and provide many details regarding their charity programs. However, they should still improve their transparency regarding their production process and environmental work.
This product is largely made of synthetic ingredients including alcohol, fragrance, and other chemicals. Alcohol, although a common stabilizing ingredient for colognes and perfumes, is often toxic and can cause irritation and allergic reactions. In fact, some other perfumes will use being alcohol-free as a selling point. “Fragrance” is the only word listed when referring to scent chemicals, as full details are often not required. Because of this lack of transparency, governmental bodies and consumers often fail to assess the safety information of the exact ingredients. The Environmental Working Group certification system ranks the safety of chemicals used in different products on a scale of 1 to 10; they also certify products that are totally free of harmful chemicals. Most of the chemicals in this cologne such as limonene and geraniol are rated as fair by EWG, meaning that there may be concerns such as allergies or toxicities with regards to the chemicals. Butylphenyl Methylpropional (or Lilial) even has a high score of 7 with high risks related to hormone disruption and allergic reaction. Jo Malone’s raw materials are from sustainable entities that respect the local communities and their traditions, which means they value both the environmental and social aspects of sustainability in their material sourcing. However, there are no further details apart from these vague descriptions.
Bottles and Packaging
This cologne is sold in glass bottles. Although their target is to ensure 75-100% of their packaging is recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled, or recoverable by 2025, Jo Malone London still does not have any recycling programs for cologne bottles or alternative solutions for the afterlife of the bottles. Despite this, their outer boxes are recyclable and rather simple, reducing resource use. They also joined Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) via Estee Lauder, their parent company, which brings together businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies to collectively strengthen and advance the case for more sustainable packaging.
This product is made in the UK, but there are no details regarding their labour use and production process. Jo Malone London has its main manufacturing facility, the Whitman Laboratories, in Hampshire. They pledge to use 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2020, but the website did not update on whether they have successfully achieved this. On the other hand, Estee Lauder, Jo Malone’s parent company, announced it has achieved net-zero emissions. Bear in mind that the statement of ‘net zero emissions’ does not mean they are not generating any carbon footprint; as a global brand, Estee Lauder products are shipped around the world to shops and homes, causing huge emissions that produce severe climate consequences. Apart from energy use, Jo Malone London also emphasised that they have sent zero industrial waste to landfills in most of their manufacturing and distribution sites, although they did not exactly specify what “industrial waste” they are referring to, nor provide any more details on this statement. According to PETA, although Jo Malone London does not voluntarily do animal testing, they are still willing to do animal tests when required by law.
There is no specific sustainability program for Jo Malone London, but they have a page dedicated to their sustainability work. They have a lot of details regarding renewable energy use in their manufacturing facilities, with numbers indicating their achievement goals. The solar penal system generates 12-14% of the site’s annual electricity requirement and reduced 490 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually – the equivalent of powering 268 homes in the UK year-round. Although they have put the effort into making their energy source more sustainable, it seemed to me that the progress is quite slow, given that they have aggressive targets but the system only generates a small proportion of the electricity requirement. Even if they have provided specific numbers to indicate the electricity generated (which sounded convincing at first sight), it may not actually have a huge impact. Jo Malone London is also a member of different organizations that support or promote sustainable practices, such as Natural Resources Stewardship Circle, which is dedicated to implementing good practices and responsible sourcing in the beauty industry based on the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Sadly, although they mentioned sustainable sourcing, they did not provide further details regarding the actual sources of their ingredients. Also, most importantly, they do not have many solutions for the afterlife of their products.
With their “relaxing scent” theme, they have donated money to different charities that work on mental health like the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families and Martineau Gardens. The names of charities, the proportion of donations given, and a little description including the work and goals of the charities are listed on their websites. This provides great transparency for customers and is far more detailed than their environmental work. They also made charity home candles to raise money for mental health projects and charities, although the beneficiaries are not specified. In 2020, Jo Malone London was accused of being racist because they removed the Black celebrity, John Boyega, from their ads in China. Although some argued that it is a common practice to have different ambassadors for different countries, the similar content of the ads in the two different locations has still caused many accusations of racism, as people believe Jo Malone London had purposely removed Black actors in the Chinese ads.