In a remote part of New Zealand’s North Island, what was once a ramshackle cattle farm with pasture is now an eco-sanctuary and conservation retreat teeming with native trees and birds. The rewilding of this land, called Tahi, is the work of conservationist Suzan Craig and her team, who have planted 430,000 trees, restored acres of wetlands and brought endemic wildlife back to the area.
Craig’s mission to protect and improve the environment is supported by honey – primarily mānuka, produced from the nectar of the native mānuka flower – whose cultivation depends on biodiversity. Honey is bottled and sold, and also blended with botanicals for a skincare range, named Kaeā, to utilize its purported antimicrobial, anti-free radical and wound healing properties. Craig worked with aromatherapist Danièle Ryman on the products, including multitasking balms and a face oil. “100% of profits are donated to conservation and community projects,” says Craig. “With everything we make, biodiversity has to be at the core, and it has to be the perfect place to tell that story.”
Kaeā is one of the few skincare brands to emerge from New Zealand in recent years, part of a global beauty boom that will take industry sales to $622 billion by 2024, according to McKinsey. What makes New Zealand’s skincare offering unique is that the brands have placed sustainability at the heart of their business models, as well as using locally grown ingredients, leveraging the clean and green image of the country.
The largest of these is B-Corp certified Emma Lewisham, which launched in 2019 and is stocked on Net-a-Porter globally and Mecca across Australasia, growing 150% in course of the last 12 months. Emma Lewisham’s formulations are made from natural or nature-identical ingredients. “We do a very robust screening process, before including ingredients, that balances efficacy but also biodiversity, ingredient regeneration and how people are treated in the supply chain,” explains Emma Lewisham. , who previously worked at a Japanese technology company. founder of the brand. The cult-favorite Skin Reset serum, which contains olive and kale extracts, vitamin C, niacinamide and licorice root, sold nearly 75,000 units in one year.
Kaeā The Rejuvenator multi-nutrient face balm, £105
Emma Lewisham Supernatural Sleep Mask, £70
Lewisham has also designed its business on a circular model, so all bottles can be refilled (40% of global sales are refills), while the brand collects its packaging for recycling wherever you are in the world. “The biggest priority for beauty brands right now is to move away from the industry’s linear system – which creates waste and a huge amount of carbon – to one that’s refillable, reusable and takes ownership. what they bring to the world.” Last year, Lewisham released the intellectual property of his company’s circular packaging model to encourage others to adopt it. “If every brand did this, it would have a significant impact. And we showed that it was possible.
Trunque, which focuses on body products and launched last year, uses only natural formulations that include native New Zealand red seaweed, for its moisturizing and plumping effects; Marlborough-grown grape seeds, rich in antioxidants and polyphenols – and kiwifruit rich in vitamins C and E. Maryse incorporates mānuka leaves and native kawakawa, while Raaie uses a mix of locally grown terrestrial, marine and alpine plants , including mamaku, the New Zealand black fern. Surface, which was founded by Georgina McCormack – sister of jeweler Jessica McCormack – uses native wakame and mānuka seaweed in its line of hand and body products.
Truncate Scar Concentrate, £84
Surface Nutrient Hand & Body Moisturizer, around £58
On Great Barrier Island, 100 km off Auckland, Tama Toki uses matauranga Maori know-how for its Aotea skincare range. He sustainably harvests the island’s native flora and produces everything locally, including the distillation of ingredients, to create jobs for his community. “Our desire is to highlight our anecdotal history as Maori with western science to prove the healing nature of some of the floras we use,” Toki explains. It also establishes a circular business model, in which production, manufacturing and packaging facilities are powered by solar energy; bio-waste from the extraction process is reinjected into crop feed; and water is collected naturally and reused whenever possible.
“Whatever you do, there is always an inherent carbon footprint due to packaging and energy,” adds Craig. “We want to show that you can be climate positive – or we call it biodiversity positive – and have a successful business; it shouldn’t be one or the other. And also to challenge the very widely accepted financial model of the industry. Measures that should help to help New Zealand live up to the image that makes it famous worldwide.