Cutting Carbon Footprints in the Service Sector

Impact Area: Green Economy

Institution: Southampton Business School

Leading Academic: Dr Denise Baden


The service sector comprises around 80% of the UK economy, using significant amounts of energy. There is clear potential to reduce carbon footprints in the resource-intensive hairdressing sector, which is worth £6.2 billion to the UK economy, and transforming industry practice to be more environmentally friendly has been the goal of Dr Denise Baden over the past six years.

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.


Research Context

Dr Baden’s background in psychology provided an important research context for this study which drew upon theories of motivation to devise interventions that would work for such a sample. Dr Baden’s and S Prasad’s 2016 paper, 'Applying behavioural theory to the challenge of Sustainable Development: Using hairdressers as diffusers of more sustainable hair-care practices' in the Journal of Business Ethics describes how self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002), the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Ajzen, 1985) and practice theory (Shove, Pantzer & Watson, 2012) informed the methodology. Their research on customer responses to sustainable hairdressing also helped to reassure hairdressers that customers appreciate their efforts toward greener practices. Input from researchers at the Centre for Environment and Engineering at the University of Southampton helped Dr Baden identify practices with the most environmental impact and tailor advice accordingly.

Benefits and Impact

  • 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 a typical 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.


Dr Baden believes the lessons learned in bringing sustainability to the haircare sector are transferable. 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.