EuroCommerce chief: Retailers ‘ready to work with’ industry on sustainability

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

The beauty and personal care category is clearly affected by rising consumer concerns around sustainability, on issues like palm oil, microplastics and harmful substances (Getty Images)
The beauty and personal care category is clearly affected by rising consumer concerns around sustainability, on issues like palm oil, microplastics and harmful substances (Getty Images)

Related tags: Sustainability, European Green Deal, European commission, retail, retailers, circular economy

Retailers have taken sustainable action across Europe in the last decade, and further collaborative work with the beauty and personal care sector will be critical in advancing efforts further, says the director-general of EuroCommerce.

The European Commission today presented its European Green Deal targeting carbon-neutrality by 2050​ and a host of other goals around emissions, plastic use and circular business models. Addressing press this afternoon, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the deal as Europe’s “man on the moon moment”​ and the start of something “very ambitious”.

Today also marked the 10-year anniversary of the European Commission’s Retail Forum for Sustainability and the Retail Environmental Action Programme (REAP), a project with two trade majors EuroCommerce and the European Retail Round Table (ERRT).

Kestutis Sadauskas, director of circular economy and green growth for the European Commission, said retail had an “important role”​ to play in “promoting the circular economy, raising consumer engagement and greening the supply chain”.

Continued efforts towards more sustainable retail, therefore, would hold implications across various industries, including beauty and personal care where consumer sustainability demands were also strong, according to EuroCommerce.

Sustainability important given beauty and personal care ‘so close to consumers’

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, director-general of EuroCommerce Christian Verschueren said beauty and personal care had indeed been affected by sustainable consumer demands for fuller product information and detail on the environmental and human health impact of certain goods.

“The increasing awareness of consumers and their demand for information will affect all sectors and given that beauty and personal care products are so close to consumers, issues to do with sustainability – for example, palm oil and deforestation or microplastics – will affect their buying choices,”​ Verschueren said. 

Christian Verschueren, director-general of EuroCommerce
Christian Verschueren, director-general of EuroCommerce

Titanium dioxide was another recent consumer concern, he said, along with worry around any other substances that might be harmful.

“The role of manufacturers in this will be vital, and we are ready to work with them in finding ways forward which respond to consumer demand, and thus ensure that their products continue to be successful.”

Retailers had also invested in sustainable development across own brand lines, he said, and were focused on improving transport and delivery footprints. New approaches had also been taken around product leasing, repair shops for used products, and nudging consumers towards more sustainable consumption overall, he said.

“But we cannot do it alone,” ​Verschueren said. “[Efforts] require a sustainable and close relationship with suppliers and consumers, but also engaging with public authorities.”

Without this “concerted action to support circularity”,​ from a regulatory standpoint and through other initiatives, he said progress would be “a lot more difficult”.

Sustainability regulation? A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work

However, Verschueren said any regulatory action around sustainability, which would likely accelerate in coming years, should be “comprehensive and product based” ​and reflect how markets and consumer attitudes were evolving.

“This is why we are calling for policymakers to avoid seeking a one-size-fits-all solution, which risks not fitting any sector in an appropriate way,”​ he said.

The upcoming microplastics ban had already raised concerns among the beauty and personal care industry because of the very broad definition of microplastics – any microplastic particle sized 1-5mm.

The European Commission’s Retail Forum for Sustainability and the Retail Environmental Action Programme (REAP) will enter its next phase under the European Green Deal introduced today.

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