Earlier this year, international beauty major Natura &Co became a founding member of Dutch eco video streaming platform WaterBear – an important move it said would help communicate the ‘seriousness’ of the climate crisis and spotlight the company’s global efforts to tackle this. Last month, it also joined Henkel, L'Oréal, LVMH and Unilever in establishing a beauty consortium to develop a brand-agnostic environmental impact system to drive transparency and comparability across the global beauty and personal care industry.
So, as the future of sustainability communications and environmental impact assessment evolved in beauty, we caught up with Marcelo Behar, VP of sustainability and group affairs at Natura &Co, who said these transitions were especially important for the beauty and personal care category worldwide.
“Beauty and personal care products touch almost every human being nowadays. We are a consumer goods industry that has spread globally; everyone nowadays has, somehow, access to soaps, shampoo and personal care items. But the largest part of the global population does not make the difference between what they’re using and how it was produced and the facts that production of goods has an impact on the environment on a social scale,” Behar told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.
Beauty beyond access – impact on nature and communities
The challenge of the 20th century had been widening access of personal care goods to improve the health and wellbeing of global populations, but now there was a fresh challenge, he said.
“Now, there’s the next chapter for cosmetics – where the industry is heading – to not only having access to goods but knowing how the goods work for the world as well. How industry gives back; works on circularity; works on how it takes and gives back to nature, and to biodiversity as a whole. And finally, what it is doing to communities,” he said.
“…I think it’s super important for us to get clarity on how the industry is established and the impact the industry has on the nature capital but also on the social capital of its production.”
Behar said that whilst consumers today, and in the future, would continue to compare like-for-like products on price, closer attention would be given to the environmental and social impact differences as well.
“Moving forward, having a look at the impact different brands have on the environment and people will be super important,” he said.
This focus on people and communities, Behar said, was the focus for Natura &Co’s upcoming eco-documentary set to be aired on The WaterBear Network in the coming months. The documentary would shed light on a traditional community in Brazil working to protect a tree on the verge of extinction.
Social media and sustainability – the challenge and the opportunity
Behar said that, importantly, all of this – more sustainability communication and sharper consumer expectations – would take place in a market now defined and shaped by social media, which presented challenges as well as opportunities for industry.
“What I think social media did is create a mistrust in institutions as a whole – brands but also governments, press and NGOs. When social media started to spread knowledge and visibility, on the one hand, it democratised information which is outstanding; on the other hand, it (…) enhanced fears a lot.”
Social media, he said, was like a pendulum going back and forth between valuable insight and mistrust, and beauty brands would have to “find ways of finding their voice committed to truth, which is super important because nowadays people can check”.
“…Consumers are now understanding what’s behind the technical jargon (…) Consciousness is really rising and I think it’s really beneficial.”
And as interest in environmental and social issues in beauty continued to rise, he said it would be critical beauty brands were able to communicate and dialogue with its consumers on these issues.
‘Landing on full circularity’ must be the future
Behar said that industry also had to be investing in actions on a global scale.
“Building on nature, I think, is the next frontier for the beauty industry: moving away from non-renewables and landing on full circularity. I think that’s where industry is headed.”
And Natura & Co, via its ‘Commitment to Life’ pledge across its four brands Natura, The Body Shop, Aesop and Avon, was committed to circularity and regeneration of biodiversity, Behar said. Among other pledges, the group wanted to become net zero in the next decade; foster collective efforts towards zero deforestation by 2025; and become fully circular using 95% natural ingredients in biodegradable formulas.
“We should all work together towards creative collective solutions that will allow our consumers to move away from the way we did business in the 20th century, to a more circular way,” he said.
Whilst global citizens and consumers had a certain awareness about carbon emissions and the ongoing climate crisis, he said they still didn’t fully understand the “malice” these issues presented.
“When they do, I think collective change will be possible and we’ll move from the perspective of looking at what could go wrong into how we can work together.”