Formaldehyde, oxybenzone and tricolosan are three dangerous chemicals often found in the ingredients of your toothpaste, sunscreen and everyday household products. And, Gregg Renfrew, successful entrepreneur, retail CEO and trusted advisor, is on a mission—a business transparency mission—to get safer products into your hands.
I’ve been watching Renfrew’s trajectory over the past few years with interest. Where many CEOs have faltered in our society that’s hungry for truth, Renfrew actually embraces candor to differentiate her brand and fuel a movement.
Renfrew and her team at Beautycounter have published a “Never List” of more than 1,500 questionable or harmful chemicals they have banned from their products. According to the company’s research, “There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data.”
Unfortunately, the U.S. hasn’t passed any federal laws since 1938 to regulate the safety of household products. Over the past 20 years, the European Union has banned more than 1,400 chemicals and restricted the levels of 250 ingredients used in personal care products. In contrast, the U.S. has only partially prohibited 30 chemicals to date.
As Beautycounter responded to consumers’ demand for cleaner and safer options with nearly 100 products, Renfrew focused on Washington and in 2014, hired a lobbyist to advocate for better protections against harmful chemicals. She later joined a coalition of companies that support consumer safety, and she enlisted nonprofit organizations that aligned with her vision. Noted as the most persistent and vocal of the coalition members, Renfrew brought 100 women to Washington for several days of meetings with legislators.
Much of what Renfrew and her team have accomplished to this point is rooted in a strong leadership philosophy and a pursuit of transparency that surpasses traditional definitions. Renfrew saw a complex industry with murky ethical practices that led to dangerous outcomes. She was personally moved to act and compel others to join her.
When Renfrew commented on why candor is good for business, she said:
Today, business transparency is demanded across every facet of an organization. Companies that openly engage with consumers are viewed as more “authentic” than those that default to the old, reactive ways of interacting with customers … And so, at the end of the day, the true measure of authenticity will be determined by the strength of the team itself, and their commitment to the mission and the movement.Gregg Renfrew in Fortune, 2015
Renfrew’s commitment to her mission under the banner of truth reaches far beyond our passive appreciation for companies that disclose information. Her movement demonstrates the heart of an authentic leader who’s influencing others and creating systemic change for the greater good. If you’re in a position of leadership, ask yourself what side of business transparency you’re on. If you’re on the proactive side, chances are you’re enjoying a trajectory similar to Renfrew’s. If you’re on the reactive side, maybe it’s time to reconsider your position.