A Christmas Carol

EURO COSMETICS Magazine • A Christmas Carol • Theresa Callaghan • Theresa Callaghan
THERESA CALLAGHAN PHD
Skin Care Scientist and Cosmetic Product Claim Specialist

Christmas is a time of good cheer and much hope for better times ahead. As someone who was brought up reading many Dickens novels at school, the timeless classic of Ebenezer Scrooge, is much a story of winter as it is also for all seasons, and so I thought I would start my  column in 2024, on Claims Insights, with old Scrooge in mind.

While originally set in Victorian England, the themes of redemption, social responsibility, and the consequences of neglecting others resonate in various contexts, including the complex landscape of today’s business world, particularly within our cosmetic industry. I will try to draw for you, the parallels between the novel and contemporary business challenges, focusing on compliance issues within the cosmetic industry, in the hope for better times next year.

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is a classic tale that revolves around the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man, during the Christmas season. In a modern business context, particularly within the cosmetic industry, we can draw parallels with the novel’s themes, focusing on the problems of compliance:

Scrooge as a Non-Compliant Business Owner – In the novel, Scrooge initially represents a lack of social responsibility and compassion. In the business context, this can be likened to companies and brands that neglect or ignore compliance with regulations in the cosmetic industry. The consequences of non-compliance in this industry can be severe, ranging from legal ramifications to damaged reputation and potential harm to consumers and the industry alike.

Ghosts as Regulatory Authorities – The ghosts that visit Scrooge serve as a metaphor for regulatory bodies and inspecting authorities. They show him the consequences of his actions and guide him towards a more ethical path. Similarly, regulatory authorities in the cosmetic industry play a crucial role in enforcing compliance and ensuring the well-being of consumers. These entities play a vital role in ensuring that businesses adhere to established regulations, guaranteeing the safety and well-being of consumers. The ghosts guide Scrooge by revealing the consequences of his actions, much like how regulatory authorities enforce compliance and hold businesses and brands accountable for their practices. A very recent example of this is the CMA’s investigation into Unilever’s greenwashing claims and the wider consequences for the industry.

Visions of Consequences – Scrooge witnesses the negative consequences of his actions in the form of the impoverished Cratchit family and his own lonely death. Similarly, businesses that fail to comply with claims requirements may face severe consequences, including legal actions, financial penalties, and a tarnished brand image. The modern business landscape, with its emphasis on transparency and accountability, demands that companies consider, as I have always been saying, the broader impact of their actions on society, the industry, and in the here and now, the environment.

Transformation and Redemption – Scrooge undergoes a profound transformation, from a miserly and self-centred individual to a compassionate and generous one, is a central theme of the novel. In the business context, this transformation can be seen as a redemption process for brands that choose to rectify non-compliance issues. Just as Scrooge redeems himself by embracing positive change, brands can rehabilitate their image and rebuild trust with consumers and stakeholders by addressing compliance shortcomings.

Social Responsibility in Business – The story emphasises the importance of social responsibility. The social responsibility embedded in Dickens’s narrative is particularly relevant to today’s business environment. Cosmetic companies are increasingly expected to prioritise ethical practices, sustainability, and compliance with regulations. Beyond the pursuit of profit, businesses are now viewed as societal entities with a responsibility to contribute positively to the well-being of communities and the environment (this is what true ‘capitalism’ is supposed to be). The lessons from Scrooge’s transformation encourage businesses and brands to reflect on their values and consider the broader impact of their product claims and operations.

Cratchit Family as Stakeholders – The Cratchit family, particularly Tiny Tim, represents a poignant symbol stakeholders affected by business practices. In the cosmetic industry, consumers, employees, and the environment are key stakeholders, and their well-being should be prioritised through compliance with regulations. In the cosmetic industry, stakeholders include consumers, employees, and the environment. Businesses must recognise their responsibilities towards these stakeholders and prioritise their well-being. Just as Scrooge becomes genuinely concerned about the welfare of the Cratchit family, businesses and brands should prioritise the safety and satisfaction of their customers, ensure fair treatment of employees, and adopt environmentally sustainable practices.

Lessons for the Industry – “A Christmas Carol” underscores the idea that it’s never too late for positive change. Similarly, businesses in the cosmetic industry can learn that addressing compliance issues, adopting ethical practices, and prioritising consumer safety/well-being, can lead to a more sustainable and successful future. Embracing transparency in communication with consumers and regulatory authorities is key to rebuilding trust. By demonstrating a commitment to compliance, ethical sourcing, and sustainable manufacturing, businesses and brands can signal a genuine desire for positive change.

The relevance of “A Christmas Carol” extends to the idea that it is never too late for positive change. Businesses facing compliance issues or ethical dilemmas can take inspiration from Scrooge’s journey. Just as Scrooge transforms for the better, businesses can improve their practices and contribute to a more responsible and compliant industry. As the narrative suggests that, no matter how deeply entrenched in questionable practices a business may be, there is always room for redemption through sincere efforts to change and improve. The themes of redemption, social responsibility, and the consequences of neglecting others in “A Christmas Carol” offer valuable insights for cosmetic businesses operating in today’s complex landscape. By looking at the wider picture, learning from Scrooge’s transformation, businesses and brands can navigate the challenges of regulatory compliance, prioritise ethical practices, and contribute to a more responsible, truthful, honest, and sustainable industry. Dickens’s timeless tale serves as a reminder that, like Scrooge, a brighter future for the cosmetic industry is possible.

Theresa Callaghan
Theresa Callaghan
Skin Care Scientist and Cosmetic Product Claim Specialist

Theresa Callaghan, a PhD biochemist with over 35 years of experience in corporate skin care research, has held key R&D senior roles for companies including LVMH, Unilever, Marks & Spencer, J&J, Evonik, Hill-Top Research, and proDERM. In 2008, she created Callaghan Consulting International, focusing on cosmetic claims development with brands and ingredient suppliers. She is a widely published author, frequent speaker, and contributor to peer-reviewed journals. Her acclaimed book, 'Help! I'm Covered in Adjectives: Cosmetic Claims & The Consumer', has gained popularity. She is a member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists and British Herbal Medicine Association, and has lectured at the University of Sunderland's School of Pharmacy and Cosmetic Sciences. Theresa serves on the editorial peer review board of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. She also mentors; advises TKS Science Publisher; and writes monthly for BEAUTYSTREAMS Ingredient Pulse; and has her own Cosmetic Claims Insights Column with EuroCosmetics.

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