Green game-changing in beauty requires ‘innovation but not competitive advantage’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

While green beauty efforts are underway across industry, there remains 'work to be done in this field of innovation and competitive advantage' (Getty Images)
While green beauty efforts are underway across industry, there remains 'work to be done in this field of innovation and competitive advantage' (Getty Images)

Related tags: Sustainability, green beauty, Recycling, circular economy, Packaging

Industry collaboration will be key in driving disruptive green innovation across beauty and it will be important efforts remain free of competition, says an expert consultant.

The time is now for a green game-changing beauty revolution​, according to Chris Sherwin, director of sustainable design consulting firm reboot innovation. And the key areas to focus on will be: zero waste, regenerative sourcing, reuse and upcycling. But just how exactly can this push be executed efficiently industry-wide?

“Collaboration,” ​Sherwin told CosmeticsDesign-Europe. “…There’s some work to be done in this field of innovation and competitive advantage.”

End-of-life infrastructure to benefit from collaboration

One very “concrete example”​ of this need, he said, could be seen in recycling and composting infrastructure.

“End-of-life infrastructure is not in place to deal with even good packaging design decisions,” ​Sherwin said.

Now, the big industry guys can absolutely influence those infrastructural challenges and actually are even just beginning to do it,” ​he said. One example was Proctor & Gamble’s HolyGrail project – a collaborative effort aimed at solving inefficient sorting in recycling facilities. Under the project, a coalition of companies across Europe were investigating use of tagging, tracers and digital watermarks on plastics to make sorting end-of-life products easier, he said.

Chris Sherwin, director of sustainable design consulting firm reboot innovation
Chris Sherwin, director of sustainable design consulting firm reboot innovation

Sherwin said this project alone could bring about significant, positive change. “If we had universal rules on [plastic markings] and there was a way to tell what type of plastic it was, it would make the recycling job incredibly easier. Importantly, there’s no competitive advantage to that and it would make it better for everyone.”

It was clear the future had to be about “innovation but not competitive advantage”, ​he said.

For colour cosmetics, for example, industry could consider collaboration with recyclers to improve sorting strategies and efforts to recycle small, complex formats that were arguably difficult to process, he said. Although, Sherwin said before doing so it would be up to industry to “take some responsibility, arguably for its poor design choices” ​and rid any non-recyclable materials, unnecessary coatings or other parts that mean recyclers reject certain products.

“I would expect the beauty and personal care industry to have done those things before going out to someone else,” ​he said.

Green beauty ‘isn’t just a start-up agenda’

Sherwin said that for green beauty to truly take off, all parts of the supply chain had a role to play and from an industry standpoint, it needed the involvement of both larger beauty brands and smaller start-ups.

“This isn’t just a start-up agenda. You do see some quite interesting efforts coming from big brands, and clearly, they have scale. They can dramatically change packaging or a supply chain, which a start-up can never do. However, start-ups are much more able and nimble to innovate.”

For larger players to foster disruptive innovation, he said one option could be incubation of smaller brands or the funding start-ups early on to internalise some of that innovative thinking. For start-ups, pooling together to form a collaborative would add clout to any green action taken, he said.

Either way, Sherwin said ultimately collaboration would be key to driving true green game-changing across the beauty world.

Related topics: Market Trends, Packaging

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