CEO Pernilla Rönnberg: Taking Bold Steps in the Cosmetics Industry

Swedish CEO Pernilla Rönnberg is using her beauty products company to help change the face of the industry. Estelle & Thild sells directly to consumers with a mission to raise the bar in the industry on standards around ethical sourcing, organic certification and green waste management. Margareta Barchan caught up with Pernilla in Stockholm.

Margareta Barchan: Your business achieved instant success in Scandinavia when you launched in 2007 and was subsequently recognized by the international press. What inspires you now?

Pernilla Rönnberg: I like to influence the giants, the big players of the industry. If more and more small actors work together to grab a larger share of the market for sustainable beauty products, then the big companies will eventually have to open their minds.

Barchan: What does a leader need in order to find the courage to stand up for their values and beliefs?

Rönnberg: To be alone pushing for a change in an organization is very difficult. You must have a group of people that you can trust and who want to support you. Financial gain still is a larger priority for many leaders. However, today in Sweden, an increasing amount of companies have developed a sustainability strategy. But I don’t think it is yet the same globally.

Barchan: You were inspired by your young daughters, Estelle and Mathilde, to create an organic line of cosmetics which you sell under the name Estelle & Thild. What about them inspired you?

Rönnberg: The idea to create the brand came to me when I had my children and I wanted to do something meaningful. I saw the amount of chemicals used to produce conventional beauty products, and grew painfully aware of the effect these have on our bodies and the environment. I wanted to make a difference, to do my bit to help the world become a better place. I set about developing a sustainable business to produce organic innovative skin care without compromising on luxury or results.

Barchan: You must have been quite brave to start a small business in a highly competitive market. 

Rönnberg: I have never thought of it as being brave - never when it came to creating [environmentally] sustainable products. I see it more as a duty. It was definitely a risk though to start a cosmetics company in an already saturated market with many big players. The sustainable practices we built into our operations differentiated us quickly.

Barchan: What advice do you have for future leaders who may face challenges of their own?

Rönnberg: Stand up for what you really want. It is much more rewarding for you and also for the others in the organization, if they can trust you. Leadership, after all, implies the responsibility of being fair and open.