10 steps to sustainable beauty

Over 140 senior beauty executives attended the 10th annual Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in New York last month to discuss the major sustainability issues affecting the industry.

According to summit organiser, Ecovia Intelligence, the 10 key discussion outcomes were:

  1. Packaging Innovations. “With growing consumer awareness of plastic pollution, the beauty industry is facing pressure to reduce its packaging impacts. The way forward appears to be innovation rather than incremental measures like ‘lightweighting’. For example Seed Phytonutrients has created a compostable bottle from post-consumer paper, whilst InnerBottle has developed new packaging technology that creates zero waste.”
  2. Consumer Impacts. “Influential writer and blogger Colin Beavan called for everyone to be more aware of the environmental impacts they make in their everyday lives. While living in New York with his family, Colin spent a year trying to create zero impacts by living without electricity, eating locally grown foods and producing “no trash”. He said everyone should not just aim to reduce their impact, but also aim to create positive impacts by growing plants/trees/vegetables and volunteering etc.”
  3. Scrutiny of Supply Chains. “Raw material supply chains are becoming increasingly scrutinised for environmental and social risks. Verisk Maplecroft Research explained that shea butter, silk, vanilla and cocoa are cosmetic ingredients with some of the highest social risks (including human trafficking, child labour, discrimination and land grabs). It is however important that all ingredient suppliers provide traceability in their supply chains.”
  4. Wide Range of Green Materials. “New sources of green ingredients are emerging. For example DuPont has created Genencare OSMS BA (“a natural moisturiser”) from food side streams, Genomatica has creating butylene glycol from plant sugars and Aprinnova is making squalane (an emollient that has been traditionally sourced from shark liver oil) from sugar cane. “
  5. Look Beyond Organic. “Diana Martin from the Rodale Institute called for farmers to adopt regenerative agricultural systems. The new Regenerative Organic Certification adds soil health, fair trade, and animal welfare to existing organic farming practices. The new scheme currently has 21 pilots worldwide and is backed by leading operators, such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Patagonia.”
  6. Creative Solutions. “A number of speakers suggested creativity is required to resolve major sustainability challenges facing the industry. Molly Rowan Hamilton from Pearlfisher urged beauty companies to design sustainability into their brands. According to Molly, ‘one-size fits all’ does not work considering sustainability has so many facets.
  7. Green Packaging Materials. “Andrew Dent from Material ConneXion said the major problem with existing packaging was that “less than five percent of plastics are recycled in the US”. He called for brands to look at green materials such as recycled materials and compostable packaging so they can prepare for a circular economy. In the longer term bio-engineered solutions using algae, fungi and bacteria might also help.”
  8. New Business Models. “TerraCycle showed how brands could move away from single-use packaging via its new Loop shopping platform. Described as a ‘circular shopping platform’, Loop enables packaging to be returned to brands and re-used. Loop made its debut in the US last month (partners include P&G, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Walgreens and Kroger).”
  9. Natural & Organic Cosmetics. “According to The Benchmarking Company, 68 percent of American females purchase natural and organic beauty products, up from 49 percent in 2008. Health reasons are the primary factor, cited by 73 percent of buyers. The adoption rates are expected to continue to rise as consumer demographics change.”
  10. Create Marketing Experiences. “The Millennials and Gen Z now represent half of American consumers. According to Sourabh Sharma from FIG Or Out, these growing influential consumers expect sustainability to be a core value of companies. He called for brands to create marketing experiences for these consumers. Winners in the digital age are likely to be brands which use social media, deliver clear communications, and create a brand/ product story.”

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