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CVS moves to bring authenticity to beauty imagery

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Helena Foulkes_CVS_2018 NRF Big Show

CVS Pharmacy president Helena Foulkes speaks at the 2018 NRF Big Show in New York City.

WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Beginning in April, the beauty imagery that CVS Pharmacy produces for use in its stores and in its marketing materials will not be “materially altered” digitally.

The drug chain is also asking its supplier partners to participate in the initiative, which is meant promote transparency in beauty marketing.

“What we’re trying to bring to the conversation is a sense of authenticity,” said Helena ­Foulkes, executive vice president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy.

The company will introduce the CVS Beauty Mark, a watermark that will be used to highlight imagery that has not been materially altered. For this initiative, “materially altered” is defined as changing or enhancing a person’s shape, size, proportion, skin or eye color, wrinkles or any other individual characteristics. CVS Pharmacy will be working together with key brand partners and industry experts to develop specific guidelines in an effort to ensure consistency and transparency.

This new initiative is being rolled out in an effort to lead positive change around transparency in beauty as well as to allow customers to differentiate between authentic and materially altered imagery. The CVS Beauty Mark will start to appear on CVS Pharmacy-produced beauty imagery this year, with the goal of having all images in the beauty sections of CVS Pharmacy stores reflecting transparency by the end of 2020. Brands that continue to digitally alter their images will have those images labeled with a notation to that effect.

“As a woman, mother and president of a retail business whose customers predominantly are women, I realize we have a responsibility to think about the messages we send to the customers we reach each day,” Foulkes said. “The connection between the propagation of unrealistic body images and negative health effects, especially in girls and young women, has been established. As a purpose-led company, we strive to do our best to assure all of the messages we are sending to our customers reflect our purpose of helping people on their path to better health.”

Foulkes, who announced the initiative at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show convention in New York City last month, said CVS has reached out to many of its beauty brand partners, many of whom are already thinking about the issue.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Foulkes said at the time. “We’ve talked to most of our big supplier partners and shared our plans with them, and I’ve not spoken to one yet who is not on board.”

For some suppliers, the technical execution of this initiative will have to be worked through, and CVS has indicated that it is interested in hearing from suppliers, getting their perspectives and benefiting from their expertise. But Foulkes added that this initiative is a response to what consumers are saying and feeling, and beauty suppliers are hearing the same things.

Foulkes noted that young girls and women are increasingly going to places like YouTube for beauty tips and advice because they are not interested in heavily retouched images of celebrities that just promote unrealistic and unobtainable beauty standards.

“They want to see real people, and they want to see themselves reflected in these images of beauty,” Foulkes said. She added, “This is not something CVS is doing just to be on our own pedestal. Really it’s a reflection of the consumer, and the beauty companies know that too.”

The new initiative, which comes as CVS raises the profile of the beauty offerings in its stores, has been cheered by advocacy groups.

“Girls Inc. applauds CVS Pharmacy’s leadership commitment to showcase and celebrate beauty in all of its forms,” said Judy Vredenburgh, the organization’s president and chief executive officer. “As the national nonprofit dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, Girls Inc. is honored to be a partner in CVS Pharmacy’s movement to counter limiting stereotypes too often faced by girls and women. Allowing diversity and natural beauty to shine will have an immensely positive impact on girls and women everywhere.”



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