Hidden behind the indulgent glamour of the beauty industry are toxic secrets that have been whipped into luscious potions, bottled into sleek tubes to be lathered over our skin in the hope of glowing youth. Despite the billions attracted by the dewy promises of mainstream skincare products, Biossance is resolutely challenging the industry.
At just three years old, the biotechnology company has already made a phenomenal impact on sustainability within the skincare world.
Having blacklisted more than 2,000 toxic ingredients – substantially more than Europe and Canada – Biossance President Catherine Gore tells The CEO Magazine a cleaner future simply comes down to heightened education.
“When people know better, they do better – that’s a Maya Angelou quote,” she shares. “A lot of brands are moving in the right direction, but in a lot of cases these formulations have been grandfathered in.
“They’re there from these big monopoly beauty companies that have had the same formulation since the 60s and 70s, and I imagine it’s a difficult task to try to convert into clean formulations.
“We had the lucky ability to start from the right place and we’ll always stay on the right place.”
The US-founded company was born from the vision of saving the ocean’s apex predators. Why sharks? Because they’ve long been commercially harvested for their squalene – a liver oil used in skincare and makeup products.
Since pioneering its own squalane made entirely from sustainably sourced Brazillian sugarcane, Biossance helps save two million sharks every year.
With its planet-first processes and non-toxic vegan formulas, it’s no wonder the visionary company is on track to record 250% year-on-year sales growth in 2020.
“The nerdy side of science and the charming side of beauty can coexist.” – Catherine Gore
Owned by Amyris – a biotech company that partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bioengineer a planet-friendly malaria treatment in sub-Saharan Africa in 2003 – Biossance has become the melting pot of science, engineering and beauty.
“Innovation is the heartbeat of what we do,” Catherine says. “The nerdy side of science and the charming side of beauty can coexist.
“Skin is our largest organ and it’s the only organ that comes into contact with the outside world. It’s meant to protect us – if you have healthy skin, you’re better protected.
“We’ve been at the forefront because we set a high bar and we want to continue that.”
Just as the food industry evolved with greater awareness around calories, macros and organic produce to scientifically create vegan meat alternatives, skincare is taking a similar route.
“Depending on the government, they aren’t necessarily regulating a lot of these ingredients for us,” Catherine explains. “It wakes people up to recognise they have the power to do so. I believe it will naturally transpire into skincare.”
LVMH to Biossance
For the Biossance President, beauty has run through the very core of her successful career.
Touted as a pioneer of the beauty world, Catherine was the brains behind building Marc Jacobs Beauty from concept and production to then launch in more than 22 countries. The award-winning executive was one of Sephora US’s initial hires and a member of EllesVMH – a select group of female executives at LVMH.
“I was born with motivation – it’s in my bloodstream.” – Catherine Gore
With 20 years of rich experience in the fiercely competitive sector, the secret to her soaring success is refreshingly simple.
“I was born with motivation – it’s in my bloodstream,” Catherine tells The CEO Magazine. “There are things I always recommend to others.
“Hone your presentation skills. Being able to articulate a vision and a purpose in front of a large group is critical for growth.
“Always go above and beyond. I know it sounds cliche but there are times when you take that extra step beyond where everyone else stands and it gets noticed.
“Compassion for teams, a real selflessness and great listening skills with the intention of growing great teams, and putting your time and energy into the growth of others goes a long way.”
Steadily rising up the C-suite ladder to become one of the most instrumental senior executives of the industry wasn’t without its challenges.
“Candidly, having a young family and an executive role has been the ultimate challenge for me,” she reflects. “I try to be quite vulnerable on that side just so that young women and men can understand that it’s something that’s a common struggle.
“Finding that balance and setting boundaries has been one of the most rewarding and one of the greatest learnings.”
Like many influential leaders embracing their feminine qualities, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, parenthood has allowed Catherine to become a more advanced leader.
“To walk in those shoes definitely helps build compassion and understanding – and multitasking,” she says. “I do think it brings a lot of very positive things to leadership.
“I always think leadership should reflect the natural world – equal parts men and women. The men bring such incredible things and I think becoming a mother brings even more core competencies and growth to your teams in the professional texture.”
Biossance is doing just that – mirroring society to promote workplace equality. With more than 250 scientists producing game-changing products at its state-of-the-art lab, almost half are women.
Through the success the biotech company has garnered since inception, it may be Catherine’s steadfast direction leading the way, but it’s the people who ultimately shape the brand’s future.
“First and foremost, people in the team are the heartbeat of a brand,” she says. “Balanced leadership teams are productive and result orientated.
“I read a quote recently that said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. I believe culture is the key to great brands.”
Challenging the beauty industry
Worth more than US$500 billion, the sheer power of the global beauty industry is truly phenomenal. The true environmental cost is yet to be fully felt.
Excessive packaging, single-use products, increased greenwashing, consumer trust and confusing marketing are some of the industry’s biggest problems.
As clean beauty thrives, it’s the Biossance consumer who can ultimately change the direction of multinational companies.
“We like to say the Biossance buyer is an empowered optimist,” Catherine explains. “People are becoming more and more interested in the science side.
“The consumer purchase power is one of the most powerful advocates. I would say to the extent the consumer continues to build their awareness and move in that direction, then all the companies will move in that direction as well with good intentions.”
A golden offering of non-toxic products, eco-friendly formulas, sustainable packaging, carbon-neutral shipping, green lab certification and clinically proven results leaves very little wiggle room for areas of improvement. Unless you ask Catherine, who has her sights set on an extraordinary vision.
“We will be zero waste by 2025 – and saving more sharks!”