INSIDER Q&A: JESSI BAKER, FOUNDER OF PROVENANCE

Welcome to the next instalment of the #beautyinsider Q&As, where you can find out who is behind some of your favourite natural beauty brands, what they are working on and how they got there. This week’s guest is Jessi Baker, Founder of sustainability marketing technology firm Provenance, which partners with brands to highlight their positive social and environmental impact. If you shop on Cult Beauty or the likes of The Ordinary, The Inkey List, Pai or Caudalie, then you may have come across Provenance’s tick of approval to signal verified claims such as vegan, cruelty-free and organic. Here Jessi shares the shift in shoppers’ expectations as well as her plans for expansion.  

Image courtesy of Provenance (all rights reserved)

1. What exactly is Provenance and how did it come about?

Provenance is the global leader in sustainability marketing technology. We use tech to connect what brands and retailers say about their impact on people and planet, to solid evidence and third-party verification. In practice, that means if you’re shopping for your favourite beauty products online, you can click on our interactive claims (for example, ‘Vegan’ or ‘Partly Recyclable Packaging’) and see the evidence, as well as more information about the claim.

Provenance came about because of my personal frustrations as a shopper – I wanted to make purchases that benefited people and the planet, but I couldn’t find information that I could trust about the impact of products. Our technology is solving this problem, and helping shoppers make informed decisions about what they choose to buy.

Image courtesy of Provenance (all rights reserved)

2. Customers increasingly demand transparency from brands, they want to know where their product comes from. What challenges have you come up against in trying to provide this level of honesty?

When I first started Provenance, we were a long way ahead of the market and brands were often closed off to the idea of being transparent about impact. Today, of course, things look very different – 4 in 5 shoppers are changing their purchase preferences based on sustainability (according to Capgemini), and brands know that strong, clearly communicated sustainability credentials are a must-have.

But whilst it’s great that brands are keen to talk about their positive impact, we as shoppers need them to do so in a way that is easy to understand and consistent across the industry. To help brands and retailers find a common language and standard for eco-credentials, we designed the Provenance Framework, an open-source sustainability marketing guidebook made of 50+ claims about social and environmental impact.

Image courtesy of Provenance (all rights reserved)

3. Today eco-credentials must be at the heart of every brand to earn a place in customers’ bathroom cabinets. What does the future of sustainable beauty look like to you? 

Firstly, we’re in the midst of a fundamental mindshift in terms of what beauty shoppers are looking for in brands and products – as Gen Z’s spending power grows, green credentials are going to become even more fundamental to brands’ success.

Secondly, we’re seeing beauty shoppers develop a healthy scepticism about those sustainability credentials. According to the Pull Agency, 69% of consumers are confused by or don’t believe claims made by health & beauty brands about sustainability. Just as we saw recently when consumers accused Kim Kardashian’s new skincare line of greenwashing, shoppers will increasingly demand more proof and assurance behind marketing claims.

4. What exciting projects are you working on right now?

We’re super excited to be expanding internationally. Last month we launched with our first American retailer, the fantastic Beauty Heroes, and we are launching with European retailer Douglas this month after winning their Beauty Futures award.

Image courtesy of Provenance (all rights reserved)

5. As Founder of Provenance, what so far has been your proudest career moment?

It’s incredible to be able to work with so many amazing brands and retailers, some of whom are truly raising the bar on sustainable beauty. Helping these brands communicate the great work they are doing in a way that fights greenwash makes me so proud! Just a few of my favourites in beauty are Haeckels, Weleda, Davines, Evolve and SBTRCT. I love helping these brands and many more get rewarded for their investments in social and environmental impact. But ultimately, the most exciting part of the journey is seeing more and more people empowered to shop in line with their values. Knowledge is power!

6. And finally – what do you get up to in your spare time?

I love getting out into nature! I spend a lot of time in the West Country and in the wilderness of the many places I am lucky to get to visit – hikes in the hills, finishing at a country pub with friends. I recently came back from some amazing hiking in the mountains in Utah, and next up is the North coast of Spain.

If you have any burning questions you’d like to ask Jessi why not leave a comment below? Or you can get in touch with her directly on her personal Instagram or on Provenance Instagram.

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