Empowering brands to take steps towards greater transparency, Provenance (www.provenance.org) cuts through the ‘noise’ to establish the facts and in turn, help consumers to find the right products for them. With their coveted ‘proof points’ – a serious of benchmarks that prove a brand’s claims – this ground-breaking platform is ready to shake up the industry; joining the dots and then checking the boxes to ensure that YOU are equipped with the info you care about. The ultimate fit for Cult Beauty (honesty is at the heart of our philosophy) we can’t wait to steer you towards the best products as more and more names join the Provenance platform...

{CB} What are the main challenges for beauty brands around transparency? 

{Jessi Baker} Transparency on the efficacy, quality, sourcing and impact behind products is being demanded more and more by shoppers - in a format they can trust. This poses a brand new challenge for brands looking to meet this demand, and grow in their approach to integrity.

Many of their challenges with becoming transparent are the same that we see across food, drink and fashion, where Provenance has built a huge bank of knowledge working with brands. Many things to prove require information from the supply chain behind your products. Supply chains are complicated – and even as a maker of a product, you’re often removed from the exact origin and impact behind the ingredients you source. 

However, transparency is a journey. Much of it is about internal understanding and then being ahead and ready to prove things publically as demand ramps. 

There’s also already a lot of dubious claims that have given the beauty industry a bad rep. Which means opening up with integrity gives you an instant differentiator. Even for brands who could be scared to open up as they’ll risk losing credibility, it’s important to start the process internally to be ready for increasing requirements from customers, regulators and shareholders. 

{CB} Is there anything unique to the transparency challenge in the beauty industry over other lifestyle industries you’ve worked with?

{JB} Efficacy is something that’s uniquely important in beauty and wellness. It’s a layer beyond ‘quality’ and requires clinical or lab testing to confirm - but vital to deciding whether to buy a product. 

There’s a lot less certification and regulation than in the food industry - this means transparency with integrity is more important than ever. We are excited to help bring increasing amounts of trustworthy data to an industry that has been renowned for false promises. It’s time for a new era for beauty, and it’s so great to have Cult Beauty lead the way.  

{CB} Why do you need a technology to do this? Why not just do a marketing campaign? 

{JB} Trust is fundamentally changing with technology. It wasn’t long ago that trusting a stranger through the internet and staying at their house in a foreign country was a ludicrous idea. Now, through Airbnb, millions of people do this regularly. 

We think the same trust can be enabled about products in a way that’s digitally native. There is already a lot of certification, assurance, lab testing and inspections happening behind many of the products you buy. This just hasn’t made it to the e-commerce experience yet to help you pick a product. 

We live in a world where trust in business is at an all time low. A majority (52%) of Gen-Z shoppers believe brands don't care about being honest, according to Futerra Consumer Research in June 2019. 

On top of that, anyone can start a brand and start selling a product on the internet in a matter of hours. As a consumer, knowing what to trust is vital. 

This is about integrity. It’s about the facts. A marketing campaign, as beautiful of a story as it might tell, is just that – a story. It’s lacking the evidence that any of the messages they’re telling you are proven.

There’s a lot of greenwashing out there, and the wellness and beauty industries are no exception. But with technology, you’re able to put the proof behind your marketing into a consistent format that allows your customers to check for themselves. Then this integrity can be used to underpin your campaigns in a way that’s consistent and scalable across all of your channels. 

{CB} What’s the plan for the future of this technology in beauty?

{JB} With Cult Beauty, we want to lead the beauty revolution by bringing transparency with integrity to products.

Every great product should come with clear Proof Points that you can trust to enable you to pick a product that’s right for you. You’re already in a good place starting on the Cult Beauty website, as they vet every product against their efficacy standards, but this takes this to the next level bringing further information so you can rest assured on the quality, sourcing and impact behind the product. 

Our mission at Provenance is to empower shoppers with the information they need about products to make better decisions. Healthy, sustainable and transparent has to become the norm, otherwise, our planet (and our skin) is in trouble. 

We want beauty brands to live their values. This means showing us their commitments, impact progress and claims in a straightforward way we can all understand and trust. This will enable the brands of the future to win.

{CB} Where do you see the future of beauty and skin care going with access to this type of information?

{JB} We’ll be in a much better place. We won’t be wasteful buying products that aren’t truly what they say. We’ll be healthier by knowing more about what’s inside the things we put on our skin. Our planet will be safer without so many unknowns and wasteful packaging. It’s time we all shopped our values, and this is the beginning of enabling that. 

We want to see a race to the top – only this time the top is businesses with the most positive impact on people and planet.

{CB} What prompted you to launch Provenance?

{JB} Provenance was borne out of personal frustration about the lack of information available about the things we buy. I want to buy products from brands that match my values, those making robust efforts to better the environment and society. It started as an evening and weekend project alongside my Ph.D. in Computer Science at UCL and then in 2016, I decided to work on Provenance full-time. 

Our approach is to enable brands and retailers to bring transparency with integrity to the point of sale, similar to what Trustpilot has done for consumer reviews, we aspire to enable you to easily understand and trust key product information wherever you shop. 

{CB} Why is ‘female-owned business’ an important proof point?

{JB} We define a 'female-owned business' as one where 50% of the voting rights are controlled by people identifying as female in a privately-held firm.

Across industries globally, men have held and dealt power. Even though women have been working alongside men in the workforce, sadly – top roles continue to be filled by men.

Supporting a business that is ‘female-founded’ or ‘female-owned’ is just one way to vote with your wallet for a more equal world. Particularly for a growing set of women with higher spending power than ever, they want to actively support brands that help empowerment and align with their values.

As such, and particularly in beauty where so much of the purchasing decisions come from women, we ask that businesses prove this as to not ‘purpose-wash’ or put a ‘token’ female in leadership – only to not have her control the brand’s ethos or finances.

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