Meet Melissa Palmer, cofounder of the mother-daughter-run sustainable skincare line OSEA. Since 1996, OSEA has spearheaded a new environmental standard for the beauty industry. All of their products are plant-based and gluten-free, even eliminating the use of animal-derived ingredients such as lanolin, beeswax, carmine and beyond — as they believe animal rights matter. But the sustainability does not stop there. OSEA minimizes their impact in everything from packaging and their choice to bottle in recyclable glass, to their considered shipping and fulfillment practices. Impressive, to say the least. We chatted with Melissa about all things sustainability, from skincare to incorporating practices into your daily life.
It is clear that sustainability is at the core of everything OSEA does. Where did the care and consideration for the environment start for you and your mom/cofounder Jenefer when starting OSEA back in 1996?
When we founded OSEA in 1996 it was only natural that the brand values simply be an extension of our family values, which is why sustainable practices are a key part of OSEA’s brand identity.
Growing up, my mom was always an activist when it came to environmental awareness and being mindful of our impact on it. We learned to compost, reuse and recycle from the beginning, and we even grew up sleeping outside and did so about 300 nights a year!
In 2002, OSEA became the first company to sign The Compact for Global Production of Safe Health and Beauty Products, an initiative from the Environmental Working Group. Tell us a little bit about this accomplishment and why this initiative was so important for OSEA.
When we met the Environmental Working group in 2002 we almost instantly signed the pact and were thrilled that they were taking action. We later found out that countless companies had refused to sign and we were the first. We are so proud to have been an early ally of the Environmental Working Group’s advocacy around safe cosmetics. Their mission to raise awareness and work on the legislative level ensure products “free of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects” aligns seamlessly with the ethos behind our products — so getting involved was natural.
You and Jenefer are actively involved in campaigning, traveling to Washington, D.C. and Sacramento to meet with legislators, and continue to lobby for safe skincare. Are you happy with the progress you’ve made so far + started to see in the rest of the beauty market?
When we founded almost OSEA 25 years ago, it was because there was a real need; at that time, natural skincare was not even really recognized as a category! My mom really just approached skincare the same way she approached food — if it wasn’t clean enough to go in her body, it wasn’t going on her body.
Things have radically changed since the 90’s and I’m thrilled to see more brands emerging that embrace similar values. When we first got involved in legislation, it was a tiny initiative in Sacramento in the early 2000’s. Last year we lobbied in D.C. for national legislation. It’s been incredible to see the evolution of the movement. While great strides have been made on the the brand level, we recognize that there’s still a ways to go on the legislative side.
We’re sure the sustainability efforts do not stop at the office. What are some sustainable practices you’ve brought into your daily life?
Sustainability is a set of life-long choices that respect the ecosystem around us. I do my best to consider these choices everyday, from the foods I buy, to how many times I get into my car per day, to composting and growing my own food. It’s a daily practice of little actions.
Becoming sustainable is no easy feat. For other companies looking to boost their sustainability efforts, where do you recommend is the best place to start?
Take a deep look at your business practices and start with things that are achievable. Whether that’s eliminating single use plastics at your office or encouraging ride sharing, every little step is important to achieving the long term vision of sustainability!