State of the industry: Cosmetics Europe Director General speaks out

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

State of the industry: Cosmetics Europe Director General speaks out
We caught up with the Director General of the European trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry, John Chave, on the state of the industry today, and why it is a very good time to be an industry professional in beauty.

Chave reckons that the ongoing shift towards the court of public opinion rather than evidence-based, scientific approaches to safety and regulation is one of the key challenges facing the industry, while the exciting pace of innovation remains one of the reasons it’s a great time to be working in beauty and personal care.

Last week saw Cosmetics Europe hosted its annual conference in Brussels, which brought over 300 industry professionals to discuss these kinds of hot topics.

Two top areas of concern and consideration facing the industry in 2019

The industry is quite concerned with an “overall drift in policy making towards non-evidence-based points of view”, Chave says. This is one of two key areas of challenge he puts forward for the industry today.

Specifically, he singles out ongoing concern around endocrine disruptors and microplastics. “It is crucial for our industry that we maintain a scientific approach to these issues, this is how we protect the industry and deliver the products we know our consumers love,” he says.

The second key area of concern is digital issues. Chave reckons the industry has been one of the most dynamic and responsive digital evolutions we have seen in Europe.

In many ways, the industry expert says, these present lots of opportunities for the industry, but there are also some challenges.

“Some organisations have been launching consumer apps - the kind where you can scan products and the app reads the ingredients lists. The way these apps present cosmetics is often entirely inconsistent with how cosmetic ingredients are developed and tested [as entirely safe for consumer use].

“The apps present products as dangerous, but in Europe there is no way that these products are dangerous.” In line with the Cosmetic Products Regulation, there is a legal obligation for manufacturers to carry out a rigorous safety assessment on all cosmetic products before placing the cosmetic product on the market.  

Responding to these concerns

In responding to these concerns, and in meeting the changes that are about to take place in the European Commission and Parliament (making sure the industry’s voice is heard in these key institutions), the industry needs a joined up approach, Chave suggests.

“We need a coordinated approach in the way the industry responds, and to be proactive.”

“It’s fair to say that we live in an age where there’s discussion on social media that comes very quickly and isn’t always rational and scientific. The industry has to be a little bit more dynamic in explaining the science and safety of our products. Raising the level of debate: it’s the industry’s responsibility.”

Looking forward: ‘New Horizons’

The theme of this year’s Cosmetics Europe Annual Conference was ‘New Horizons’, a nod to the fact the content of the programme was largely focused on where the industry is heading.

Chave explains that some of the key issues that he reckons will be in the centre of the industry’s agenda in the near future are:

  • Transparency of safety data,
  • Identification of cosmetics products through barcodes,
  • Global regulatory alignment - particularly with focus on China,
  • Sustainability - challenge because we are a manufacturing industry so linked to carbon-neutral manufacturer, but also under intense scrutiny for our ingredients.

Chave also points out there are some big trends both in terms of consumer demographics and in terms of tech and consumer demands that will be defining for the industry and offer some opportunities.

He picks out the ageing global population, digitisation and ethical purchasing as key examples here.

“We have to be extremely responsive to consumer sentiment, driven by things like demographic change. We are witnessing an ageing society right across the globe - that in a sense is a huge opportunity for our industry - but if you also look at different generations of young people, the way they interact with products varies greatly too,” he explains.

“With digitisation, this is moving so fast that the industry can never rest on its laurels, it needs to be in a position to respond to consumer behaviour and sentiment in the best way possible.

“With ethical purchasing, this broad term covers a whole load of different behaviours, mentalities and decisions. Part of the challenge will be how we respond to demands for more transparency, environmental and sustainable products, and so forth.”

Words of advice for industry professionals

Chave concludes with some words of advice for people working in beauty and personal care today: be proud of the industry and yourself, and enjoy the exciting time we’re witnessing.

“I would offer two things by way of advice: the first is statement. It’s an extremely exciting time to be working in the industry. It has shown itself to be very robust and adaptable. It is dynamic, innovative, and moves very, very quickly.

“Secondly: be proud of working in the industry and believe you are doing something really worthwhile, because you are. Cosmetics and personal care products make a really valuable and important impact into people's everyday lives.”

Cosmetics Europe aims to highlight the people behind the products and brands in a new project called ‘Our People’. It looks to celebrate the people working in the industry, going behind the curtain to talk to the people making the products we use. The first part of the project is available here​.

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