The service sector comprises around 80% of the UK economy, using significant amounts of energy. Research informed the introduction of sustainable practices into the UK’s £6.2 billion hairdressing sector, reducing the carbon footprint of haircare salons.


  • In April 2017, Dr Denise Baden launched an online Sustainable Salon Certification and virtual salon training programme for salons and stylists. 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.
  • Adopting the changes identified in the Sustainable Salon Certification saves the average four-seat salon 286,000 litres of water, 24150 kWh of energy and £5,300 a year.
  • Dr Baden ran more than 60 sustainability workshops and training events, targeting over 2,000 trainers, colleges and industry professionals to educate the sector about greener products and practices.
  • 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 developed a free website resource for colleges and salons to access training materials, presentations and information on eco-products and suppliers.
  • 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. The knock-on effect that we get is: a learner becomes the stylist, the stylist becomes the senior stylist, becomes the salon owner – and this is a self-perpetuating cycle within the industry." (Lynda Whitehorn, Apprenticeship Manager, VTCT service sector accreditation)

About the research

There is clear potential to reduce carbon footprints in the resource-intensive hairdressing sector, and transforming industry practice to be more environmentally friendly has been Dr Baden’s goal over the past six years.

Working closely with leading haircare bodies, she has:

  • changed the industry default recommendation for the UK’s 55,000 hairdressers from shampooing twice to just once
  • promoted new water-saving sustainable technologies such as low-flow showerheads
  • launched a sustainability certification for stylists and salons.

The key, Dr Baden says, has been to bring those working in the service sector themselves, the hairdressers, on board. "Hairdressers are in a unique position, as the practices they model in the salon and the message they give to their clients about how to adopt 'greener' hair practice in their homes has the potential to make a world of difference – quite literally – in helping ensure the future sustainability of the planet."

Taking the message to practitioners through workshops, training events and talks has been key to securing buy-in. Surprisingly, she has found the key motivation for involvement is hairdressers' desire to be seen as professional – and the chance to become part of the solution to carbon reduction, and not part of the problem.

Lessons learned in bringing sustainability to the haircare sector are transferable, she believes. 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.

Now Dr Baden hopes to spread the initiative worldwide, starting with countries such as South Africa and Australia where water shortages are common and initiatives such as this could help.