The COVID-19 fallout and Ukraine conflict were continuing to create a very complex business environment for beauty companies worldwide, with many major players speaking out on the difficult operating environment.
Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence, said the business environment for beauty was certainly “quite challenging at present”, which was not only putting pressure on business but the sustainable aspect of business especially.
Sustainability challenges amidst ‘weak economic climate’
“The cosmetic and beauty industry, like most consumer goods industries, is recovering from the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis. There is growing consumer demand for cosmetic and personal care products as economies rebound from two years of the pandemic, bringing supply chain issues. The Ukrainian conflict has increased business costs, especially in terms of raw material prices, production costs and distribution costs. In terms of sustainability, this is creating conflict,” Sahota said.
Beauty companies were under pressure to reduce costs and squeeze margins yet invest more in sustainability, to reduce carbon footprints and mitigate climate change and switch to greener materials throughout the supply chain, he said.
“Many cosmetic companies are finding it difficult to expand their sustainability remit and/or meet their targets because of the weak economic climate,” he said.
According to British environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt, founder of sustainability charity and NGO Forum for the Future, this global swathe of converging crises meant industry really had to step up a gear and shift thinking to make sustainable action a reality.
“For me, when I think about it from the industry’s perspective, and what it means to ensure continuing success for the industry and its constituent parts, the one idea that is most powerful for me is the notion of ethical integrity through the entire value chain,” Porritt told attendees at this year’s IFSCC Congress in London in September.
Much of this change, he said, relied on corporate leadership and beauty companies “stepping up and doing what they know to be absolutely necessary”.
So, was this happening against all the odds? Absolutely, said Sahota.
Circular beauty building
Many brands and businesses were pushing ahead with sustainability plans in the face of economic strain, he said, which was part of a wider beauty movement towards circular thinking.
There had been “great strides made” in terms of new product development, packaging advances and sustainability programmes and goals, he said, with plenty of innovation in waterless cosmetics, upcycled ingredients and refillable packaging. But, two major issues remained as hurdles to a truly circular beauty industry, Sahota said.
“First, there is no simple alternative to plastics in packaging. Although there are many biopolymers that can be used in cosmetic and personal care packaging, there are either limited applications and/or there are biodegradability issues. This is a reason why adoption rates of bioplastics is relatively low in the cosmetics industry in comparison to the food industry. Brands are therefore looking to invest in refillables or reusables, like the Loop platform,” he said.
“Second, consumer behaviour is a bigger issue,” he said. “Although consumers are becoming greener and more ethical when it comes to choosing beauty and personal care products, they still need to be educated on how to use and dispose of them. For instance, shampoo bars require more care when dosing. Consumers also need to be educated on how to effectively clean refillable packaging, otherwise there are risks of contamination and possible health risks (…) Consumers need to be educated on how to use circular beauty products.”
Looking ahead, therefore, Sahota said it would be key the beauty industry worked to engage consumers on circularity – plenty of which could be done via industry-wide sustainability schemes and ethical labelling.
The upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris next month – organised by Ecovia Intelligence – would discuss all these issues, and more, Sahota said, presenting successful case studies and insight from sustainable thought leaders on how beauty could continue its push ahead with circular efforts.