Sustainable brand of the month September: Holland & Barrett

Published 21/09/2022

There wasn’t a better brand to pick to kick off this series than one of my all-time favourites: Holland & Barrett. This is where my personal sustainable adventure started, when I was working in the shop in The Hague during my university studies. We got weekly trainings about all the products and a bunch of them, I still use. So, about time to introduce you to this brand!

Wat maken ze?

At Holland & Barrett, you’ll find all sorts of things, with nature as the basis. Whether you’re looking for vitamins, shampoo or healthy food, you’ll find it all here. With as many as 1,600 stores worldwide, you can now find the products in many places around the world or order them online.

In recent years, they have made great steps in the area of more sustainable packaging and were one of the first stores to include a decent assortment of zero-waste items. For example, they sell shampoo bars, toothpaste tablets and a sustainable electric toothbrush

Which sustainable aspects are important to them?

Holland & Barrett wants to be climate neutral by 2022. One of the action points for this is to use renewable energy for all stores and offices. All products already have a natural basis and for each individual product they choose the best ingredients to make is as sustainable as possible.

Specifications are:
– As many local ingredients as possible
– Sustainable packaging, such as glass, recycled or completely packaging-free
– Natural ingredients instead of chemical ingredients, for example products free of SLS and parabens
– Reduction of plastic, such as sugar scrubs instead of scrubs containing microplastics. In fact, microplastics are banned in all products sold by Holland & Barrett.
– Vegan alternatives to animal ingredients
– Products containing palm oil must carry the RSPO certificate, a certificate indicating that the extraction of palm oil is done in a sustainable way

    What also makes me happy, personally, is that they continue to develop themselves and are proud of it. No one is perfect, and even a brand that tries incredibly hard always has more to learn. In 2019, for example, they decided to stop selling wet wipes because these contain plastic particles and it was brought up that they, therefore, contribute to the plastic soup. Nothing new to those who have been fighting plastic waste for years, like the plastic soup foundation, but I will applaud you for picking up on these kinds of things and instantly taking steps to do better. They acknowledged that it’s not an environmentally friendly product and encourage others to stop selling them as well.

    Ethical aspects

    Holland & Barrett uses a lot of local suppliers for their products. This way, the lines are short and local producers will be able to sell their products. Aside from that, there’s little information on ethical ways of working and whether they make an effort to pay a fair price and not work with shady businesses in other countries.

    Is it vegan?

    None of Holland & Barrett’s products are tested on animals. But not everything is vegan, unfortunately. Especially in capsules, they still use pig gelatine, unless it is indicated that they are vegan. The same goes for the protein they sell, for example. Most of it consists of dairy products, but you can find some vegan alternatives that clearly state this. Here you can find a list of all vegan products.

     

    General verdict:

    I’m not going to beat around the bush, I’m a fan. But looking at its ambitions, this is definitely a brand that you could safely buy items from, even if you don’t have a lot of knowledge about sustainable products. For me, it’s really the go-to for when I’m looking for something new, and I regularly walk into the store to discover new products and new brands and learn more about sustainability myself. I think they are taking really good steps, but like I said, no one is perfect. So, always stay critical, especially when it comes to vegan products.

    In my Dutch article, I mentioned my favourite items, but it turns out none of them are sold on the UK website. I’m listing them anyway, as personal recommendations. Some are actually available in other shops as well so maybe you’ll find them online or something.

    – Dead seasalt shampoo bar. I’ve already tried a few different brands of shampoo bars and so far, this has been my favourite! (Own brand, so won’t be found elsewhere. Stay tuned for an article about shampoo bars in general)
    – Charcoal face bar. For my oily skin, charcoal has been a go to for a few years now. But this bar is an absolute game changer! I was sceptical about the face bars, but this is basically a scrub and wash in one and I love it! It really cleans the face and makes it very soft. (Own brand, but definitely try them from another brand. Garnier for example has one as well or this alternative from H&B.)
    – Jordan toothpaste. This was the first item I found with the Nordic Swan eco-label, which is a very strict eco-label. I was sold right away and I love it! It has a very subtle taste and it really gives me white teeth, without all the chemicals. (I know it’s sold at Rossmann, for my German readers.)
    – An alternative toothpaste is the one from Ben & Anna. I really liked this as well! With the only downside that it’s a glass bottle, which is quite heavy if you travel a lot. That’s actually my only reason for preferring Jordan, as both are equally as good. (This might be a good alternative)