Efficiency is the industry’s biggest sustainability challenge right now

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Efficiency is the industry’s biggest sustainability challenge right now

Related tags: Cosmetic companies, Sustainability

The biggest sustainability issue the cosmetics industry is facing at present is ‘efficiency’, says Amarjit Sahota, as cosmetic companies look to raise products sales whilst reducing their environmental impacts.

Speaking exclusively with CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com, the Organic Monitor President says the cosmetics industry is looking to maximise the use of its resources and become more efficient.

“This is a challenge for conventional thinking which suggests higher product sales mean a rise in manufacturing, and thus a rise in resource use and higher environmental impacts,”​ he says.

“However, two of the largest cosmetic companies have already set ambitious targets to become more efficient.”

Here, he is referring to L’Oreal’s ‘Shared Beauty For All’ commitment which plans to reduce its environmental footprint by 60% whilst reaching 1 billion additional consumers, as well as Unilever, which has set similar ambitious goals.

Another example is Procter & Gamble which is looking to become a zero-waste enterprise having stated that 45 of its sites have become zero-waste, this year

“Cosmetic companies need to integrate sustainability into their whole organisation, and not just have it as a stand-alone department,”​ continues Sahota, saying that this is why L’Oreal, Unilever and P&G have been successful with sustainability.

“Coming back to the L’Oreal example, it has stated that all its products will have an environmental or social benefit by 2020. Thus, its R&D and production teams are under pressure to ensure their products meet this target.”

Greenwashing criticism

One criticism that has been directed towards manufacturers on this issue is that some are using sustainability as a marketing tool.

Amarjit agrees that this is the case and that greenwashing is common in the cosmetics industry whereby brands frequently make marketing claims about their formulations, packaging, product efficacy, etc, often overstating to make the company appear ‘greener than thou’.

However, he also maintains that cosmetic companies are actually doing well in terms of sustainability.

“Cosmetic and cosmetic ingredient firms are regularly featured in green lists of global enterprises. Six cosmetic companies were listed in Ethisphere Institute’s 2015 World’s Most Ethical (WME) Companies list​,”​ he says.

“Another study by Corporate Knights listed the 100 most sustainable corporations in the world; L’Oreal, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Henkel, and Natura Brasil were listed in the top 100 this year.”

Summit focus

Most companies are focusing on environmental aspects, as this is usually easier for companies to do, but there are also social and economic impacts to take into consideration.

This is an area that Amarjit says will be covered at the European edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit​ looking at how can cosmetic companies go beyond their environmental impacts and also address their social and economic impacts.

“In this new edition, we shall cover some of the most pressing sustainability issues in the cosmetics industry… the role of metrics to measure and reduce environmental (and social) impacts. We shall see how metrics can be used to set sustainability goals,”​ he continues.

“The use of green materials will also be featured​ [with] a dedicated workshop on the use of green surfactants and emulsifiers in personal care formulations. Other topics will cover sustainable sourcing, sustainable extraction of actives, marine ingredients potential, green alternatives to polyethylene beads and alternatives to palm oil, as well as ethical labelling.”

Related topics: Market Trends

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