Last month, five beauty giants announced the formation of a global beauty consortium to co-develop an industry-wide environmental impact assessment and scoring system for cosmetics. Henkel, L’Oreal, LVMH, Natura &Co and Unilever joined forces to create the consortium – open to all cosmetic companies to join – in a bid to offer beauty consumers worldwide “clear, transparent and comparable” information that considered a product’s entire life cycle.
The voluntary and brand-agnostic system would be built around four key principles: a common method for measuring environmental impacts throughout product life cycle; a common database of environmental impacts for standard ingredients and raw materials; a common tool to calculate environmental impact per product; and a harmonised scoring system that enabled easy comparison for consumers. Importantly, the companies said its science-based methodology would be verified by independent parties, including external sustainability consultants and experts, scientists, academics and NGOs.
“The work developed by the consortium will be published and made accessible on a strictly voluntary basis by both consortium participants and all other interested parties,” Henkel, L’Oréal, LVMH, Natura &Co and Unilever said.
So, as news of the consortium continued to garner interest among industry, CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with executives from the founding companies to find out just exactly what the consortium meant for business, consumers and the future of green and circular beauty.
Consumers need to be able to compare ‘like-for-like’ beauty products
Asked why the consortium and impact system was such an important move for the global beauty sector, Joachim Kremer, senior manager of global sustainability at Henkel Beauty Care, said: “We have already made great progress in developing lifecycle assessment methodologies for our own products, but we need to find a way to collaborate as one beauty industry. Thereby, we want to facilitate the launch of a voluntary industrial standard, a consistent approach to measuring and communicating the environment impact of cosmetic products.”
The aim of the initiative, Kremer said, was to enable consumers to compare “like-for-like products across different brands” and make “informed purchasing decisions”.
Alexandra Palt, executive VP and chief corporate responsibility officer at L’Oréal, agreed and said it was critical industry responded to “growing consumer demand” for greater transparency around the environmental impact of cosmetic products.
“Certain companies have made progress in developing environmental impact assessment methodologies for their products. At L’Oréal, for instance, we have developed a product environmental and social labelling system. To ensure greater impact, however, we felt the need to work with other players to facilitate the launch of a voluntary industrial standard, a consistent approach to measuring and communicating the environment impact of cosmetic products,” Palt said.
Hélène Valade, group director of environmental development at LVMH, said the aim was to develop a “science-based footprinting and scoring system” based on life cycle analysis (LCA) principles.
“The methodology developed will be aligned with the principles of PEF [Product Environmental Footprint] methodology defined by the European Commission and will include adaptations to ensure it addresses specificities within the cosmetics industry,” Valade said.
‘Vital’ for the health and wellbeing of people and planet
Louise Scott, VP of R&D at the Natura &Co Group, said the creation of such a consistent system that was “clear, transparent and effective” at communicating environmental impact was “vital for the health and wellbeing of the people and the planet”.
“Consumers are, rightfully, increasingly demanding greater transparency of the origin of products and their environmental impact. There is a proliferation of environmental scoring initiatives across the cosmetics industry but with no standard, comparable, industry-wide approach to communicating the environmental impact of cosmetics products, it’s hard for consumers to make comparisons,” Scott said. The beauty consortium aimed to address that, she said.
Sunny Jain, president of beauty and personal care at Unilever, agreed: “What we need is a clear, transparent and harmonised approach to help consumers compare products like-for-like and ultimately make more sustainable shopping choices. That’s what this consortium is setting out to achieve for the first time in the beauty sector.”
Asked how each company planned to contribute its expertise and experience to consortium efforts, Henkel’s Kremer said its team would bring 20+ years of experience in science-based environmental assessment and lifecycle analysis. L’Oréal’s Palt said its team would share the labelling system launched by Garnier in June 2020 that considered 14 planetary impact factors, measured at every stage of a product’s lifecycle. LVMH’s Valade said its team would onboard a significant number of global historic fragrance, cosmetic and skin care brands to the voluntary system, as well as young brands with plenty of future potential. Natura &Co’s Scott said its team would bring forward experience from the Natura brand as it had been quantifying environmental impact since 2016 via its environment profit and loss (EP&L), social profit and loss (SP&L) and integrated profit and loss (IP&L) methodologies. Unilever’s Jain said its team would bring forward worldwide experience in carbon impact communication, built up over years of involvement in pilots and projects globally.
‘We need to work together – as one industry’
Asked how important it would be to onboard more cosmetic companies, Kremer at Henkel said: “We hope that the rest of the industry will recognise the value in the consortium – why it has been set up and what it intends to do – and wishes to become a part of collectively realising the vision to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. We need to work together – as one industry.”
Palt at L’Oreal agreed: “The greater the industry representation, the bigger the impact this initiative can have. The consortium will be developed in such a way as to be brand-agnostic, with the aim of attracting many brand owners, regardless of their size and resources. The scoring tool will be designed (…) to be usable by non-experts.”
Scott at Natura &Co, added that the consortium hoped to attract “as much of industry as possible” and it would be “crucial for more cosmetic companies to join”.
Valade at LVMH added though that the system would remain “entirely voluntary” in compliance with competition laws.
Jain at Unilever, said: “All companies within the cosmetics sector who meet the membership criteria are welcome and encouraged to sign up. This includes, but is not limited to, cosmetics manufacturers, distributors, brand owners and brand owner trade associations representing them.”