I thought it’d be fun to take you on a tour of the brain that’s leading the Innovation team here at Sustainable Salons. It’s kinda like visiting IKEA – every time you go, you buy something unusual that you think you probably don’t need, but now that you know it exists, life feels a bit harder without it.
Everyone, meet Anuj Dhawan, our Product Innovation Manager.
Paul: So Anuj, why have an Innovations team?
Anuj: Innovation asks for a different way of thinking and doing, so by having a dedicated team, you have the freedom to explore and push the boundaries without disrupting day-to-day operations.
Paul: Any particular trends in the sustainability sector right now that you’re excited about?
Anuj: I’ve really liked seeing the ‘add your own water’ trend – many cleaning products have started to remove water from their ingredients, reducing the packaging requirements and minimising shipping impact. Kind of makes you wonder why a lot of these products had water as an ingredient in the first place!
Paul: One of our core focuses at Sustainable Salons is our closed-loop mission – what kind of things need to be considered when starting the process to make a circular product from collected salon resources?
Anuj: Think of the end at the start. If you’re about to introduce a new product, think of its end of life – can you reduce the amount of packaging in the first place? Is it using the right material? Is it hard to disassemble and process at the end of its life? When we’re deciding what product to make, we’re constantly thinking of it through a customer’s eyes and exploring what products already exist that could be replaced with a closed-loop version. But being just closed-loop isn’t enough – it must also have a good product-market fit otherwise you’re just making more stuff.
Paul: What makes this space so exciting for the salon industry?
Anuj: The materials are just so good! They’re mostly monomaterial (only one type of material instead of several materials sandwiched or glued together), and usually made to very high quality. But the reality is, you can achieve this same quality in closed-loop systems and products as well; we want our industry to be self-sufficient when it comes to materials – how cool would that be!
Paul: Innovation in sustainability isn’t just about making closed-loop products though, what else can we rethink in order to make lasting change?
Anuj: It’s all about motivation, ability and trigger. Let’s take single-use cutlery at picnics as an example. The entire experience of using plastic cutlery actually sucks – the knife doesn’t cut, the fork prongs break all the time, and the spoons have sharp edges. So the motivation to not use them should already be there. Go into your kitchen drawer, grab a metal knife, spoon and fork, put a rubber band around them and you have your ability. To design a trigger for yourself, why not make a packing list in the Notes app for picnics? Add cutlery, rug, water bottle, reusable coffee cup and tea towel to the list and bam! – you have your trigger, and you’re on your way to another sustainable action.
Paul: How will you and your team be doing this at Sustainable Salons?
Anuj: We’re doubling down on the ‘system’ side of sustainability – one reason salons love becoming a Sustainable Salon is because of how easy we make it. In fact, we make it hard to do the unsustainable thing!
Paul: What’s the research showing about how open people are to adopting new habits?
Anuj: It’s funny thinking about what ‘research’ looks like nowadays – it’s getting harder to capture people’s attention and get them to tell the truth. So instead I look at what people are actually doing rather than what they say they do. What I’m seeing is that people will adopt a new behaviour as long as it aligns with their life values – there will always be someone or something cheaper, but if it doesn’t align with values we believe in, we won’t go for it. So focusing less on the price of something and instead focusing on what a customer values is key to adopting new habits.
Paul: What’s the key to getting people to choose new innovations?
Anuj: Ease. Of. Use. We’re seeing this everywhere now – the moment an experience or a product is difficult to use, we don’t.
Paul: What potential is there for the salon industry to be leaders in making sustainability our ‘normal’ way of life?
Anuj: Sustainability was originally a very emotional choice, but it is also becoming the rational choice as well. Take renewable energy – at the beginning, solar power was expensive and reserved for those who both cared about the environment and could afford it. It has now become cheaper than non-renewable energy sources, so it’s become a no-brainer. The Feel Good Industry (as we like to call it) are already pioneers in capturing emotion. We just need to take all that social capital we’ve built up and direct it to the right place – toward doing good and feeling good. If you’re a Sustainable Salon, have the conversation about all the great impact you’re making. If you’re not a Sustainable Salon, have a chat to someone who is, and ask how it’s changed their lives and their business.