It’s the next level on from a general sustainability focus, with brands now expected to go above and beyond with green and ethical practices across the supply chain. Sub-zero waste is a hugely ambitious target, with many companies still working hard on reaching zero waste to landfill (see our feature on Procter & Gamble’s efforts here), and other similarly qualified waste reduction targets.
Sharon Kwek, Senior Innovation and Insights Analyst, Mintel Beauty and Personal Care, explains: “‘Sub-Zero Waste' is not just a trend; it's a movement towards a ground-shaking new archetype for the beauty and personal care industry. Some companies are already discussing completely removing packaging from the equation.
“Whether reducing or eliminating waste altogether, if brands don't change their approach now, they will become insignificant. Brands that place current profits ahead of making the necessary investment in zero waste and sustainability will not be around in the future.”
Moving forward, it seems that focussing efforts on vague, individual and limited goals like reducing packaging is not enough: Mintel reckons there is far greater potential for ‘out-of-the-box' thinking from manufacturers and brands at every stage of the beauty supply chain.
Five year timespan
Over the next five years, the focus on sustainability will reach new heights around the world as environmentally conscious consumers look for ways to reduce waste in all aspects of their lives, including their beauty and personal care routines, suggests the market research firm.
Mintel even predicts that brands that purposely create limited shelf life products or encourage overconsumption run the risk of consumer backlash.
“Consumers will demand that brands be more environmentally responsible and take accountability for their actions,” the firm says. “Beauty manufacturers, companies, and brands must shift to a whole new paradigm when approaching zero waste and sustainability, focussing on every aspect of the supply chain.”
Indie brands can be more dynamic
As usual, the quick responses that independent, smaller brands are capable of have been leading the charge in this area. Indie brands are more nimble, so can react faster than larger, more established brands in general. This is particularly helpful for them when environmental concerns emerge from consumers.
Further to this responsiveness, as Kwek notes, many indie beauty brands have actually incorporated sustainability as a core element of their business from the start.
“We’re seeing that some indie brands have the upper hand with regard to sustainable beauty as they have built their business practices around ethics and environmentally friendly practices,” Kwek confirms.
“Larger brands must adopt new practices in order to catch up with these smaller, more nimble competitors.”
The analyst concludes by noting that consumers today are paying a lot more attention to their impact on the planet and climate change calls are more drastic than ever before.
She asserts: “A bigger-picture focus is needed throughout the beauty and personal care industry supply chain for a true zero waste mentality.”