John Chave, Director-General of the Cosmetics Europe industry association - representing the interests of the whole European market - spoke to CosmeticsDesign at the organisation’s recent Annual Conference.
In this interview, Chave discusses global regulatory alignment, threats from an unstable international political landscape, sustainability, and more.
There are challenges facing the industry, he says, but is keen to emphasise that the levels of innovation are still impressive, in an industry that has always been particularly fast-paced and dynamic.
Dynamic and innovative, despite challenges
We still continue to be a dynamic and innovative industry. One of the challenges which faces many kinds of industries is the rise of the digital consumer.
We mean the digital consumer in two senses: the ways in which consumers can buy their goods, but also the different ways in which consumers understand and relate to their goods.
I think that our industry has been quite impressive in its response to these challenges and is moving rather quickly to address them in various ways.
We tend to think of the digital revolution as an opportunity rather than a threat; some industries consider it the other way around, but I think the evidence in our industry is that we’ve embraced the new digital age with a degree of fervour, and I think we’ve managed to engage with the new times in a positive way.
We’ve seen rising demand - from regulators and from consumers - for sustainability. How important is it that the industry is seen to be responding proactively to this?
I think everybody in the industry acknowledges that we need to both respond proactively and be seen to be responding proactively.
On the positive side, our industry has been put very much into focus with the microplastics or microbeads debate, and that’s a good example of where we have responded positively. We haven’t sat around and waited to be regulated.
In 2015, Cosmetics Europe recommended its membership to get rid of microplastics used for exfoliating and cleansing in wash-off products by 2020.
We now have successfully achieved the phase-out of 97.6% of plastic microbeads with those particular functions, which have been eliminated well before the deadline we had set ourselves.
But I think that’s only part of the sustainability question. Sustainability is a huge priority for the European Union, it is a huge priority outside the European Union, and I think that there’s a growing willingness and acceptance that we have to, again, think about what we can proactively do to ensure that we’re ahead of the curve on the sustainability front.
I think it’s fair to say that some of the household names of our industry are setting the gold standard for sustainability approaches generally, and I would expect this is something which we will be able to say our industry is confident on in years to come.