A Southampton Business School researcher’s success in introducing sustainable practices that can cut a typical hair salon’s water and energy bills by over £5,000 a year has been recognised by a top national award.

Dr Denise Baden’s work in reducing the carbon footprint in the service sector by cutting costs in the UK’s £6.2 billion hairdressing industry has won her the £10,000 award for Outstanding Impact in Business and Enterprise in the 2018 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize.

The UK’s 55,000 hairdressers impact significantly on CO2 emissions through high water and energy consumption and, on the environment, through the use of toxic chemicals and harmful waste.

Based on some of the first ever research into the environmental impacts of hairdressing, Dr Baden has worked since 2012 to transform the habits of the resource-intensive hairdressing sector and cut the UK’s carbon footprint by educating clients in eco-friendly hair care.

Targeting the hairdressing sector:

• She launched an online Sustainable Salon Certification and virtual salon training programme for salons and stylists in April 2017. Adopting its eco-friendly practices save the average four-seat salon 286,000 litres of water, 24,150 kWh of energy and £5,300 a year. More than 50 salons and 1,000 stylists have gained this certificate which is endorsed by key industry bodies: Hairdressing Council, Hair and Beauty Industry Authority and the Vocational Training Charitable Trust.

• She shaped the sustainability component of the national occupational standards which form the basis of training for the UK’s 14,000 hairdressing apprentices.

• She has run more than 60 sustainability workshop and training events educating over 2,000 trainers, colleges and industry professionals about greener products and practices, including new water-saving technologies such as low-flow showerheads, leave-in conditioner and dry shampoo. Ninety-seven per cent of hairdressing trainers who attended these sessions said they gave more focus to sustainable practices as a result.

• Working with leading haircare bodies she has changed the industry default recommendation for hairdressers from shampooing twice to just once – with significant water and energy savings.

• International eco-hair company Davines has developed a training scheme based on her certification for salons in the 85 countries worldwide that stock their products

“Since 2014 all qualifications that have been written have now got sustainable practice built into them.” says Lynda Whitehorn, Apprenticeship Manager in accreditation organisation VTCT. “This becomes a self-perpetuating cycle within the industry,” she argues, as apprentices will take these practices with them up into more senior positions.

Dr Baden believes hairdressers are in a unique position to persuade their clients to adopt the salon’s eco-friendly model in their own homes – with huge potential to cut national carbon emissions.

Moreover, lessons learned in bringing sustainability to the hair care sector are transferable, she says. The sector for small and medium-sized businesses is huge and the decision-makers are far more accessible than in large multinationals, with huge opportunities to introduce sustainable initiatives in hotels, restaurants, shops and other small businesses.