CTPA chief: ‘Sustainability and essentiality will drive everything that we do this year’

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers across the UK and Europe use beauty and personal care products as a means to boost self-esteem and confidence and this needs to be communicated more [Getty Images]
Consumers across the UK and Europe use beauty and personal care products as a means to boost self-esteem and confidence and this needs to be communicated more [Getty Images]

Related tags CTPA Sustainability sustainable beauty Sustainable packaging Extended Producer Responsibility green beauty Environment self-care wellbeing Cosmetics europe

A sharper focus and drive on sustainable action and communication will be key for beauty this year, as well as continued work on spotlighting how important and central products were to consumer wellbeing and daily lives, says trade head.

As the beauty and personal care industry entered a fresh year, CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up with Dr Emma Meredith, director-general of the UK’s Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), to reflect on last year and look ahead at trends, challenges and key focuses for industry in 2023.

Reflecting on beauty in 2022

Meredith said 2022 had certainly been a “tumultuous, crazily busy and challenging year”​ with the cost of living crisis and supply chain strains, but it hadn’t all been negative.

“Sometimes you look back and you only see the negatives, whereas I think there’s a lot to be positive about,” ​she said.

The UK Cosmetics Regulations framework, for example, had proven to be strong and the CTPA had worked closely to try and ensure UK REACH [Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals] was “a little less burdensome on industry”.

On top of this, she said the cosmetics, beauty and personal care category had been identified as extremely important to today’s consumer – considered essential to daily lives and valuable in terms of self-esteem and confidence – which had given industry a “real boost”.

CTPA had conducted a survey in February and March of 2022 that highlighted confidence in appearance as being the top factor for self-esteem amongst UK adults, at 81% for women – “the highest it’s even been”,​ Meredith said. And findings from a European study conducted by pan-European trade association Cosmetics Europe last year​ across 10 countries indicated beauty’s role within this, with 72% of European consumers considering cosmetics important or very important in their daily lives with one of the top three reasons for use being to ‘feel good about oneself’.

Industry had to continue communicating how important beauty and personal care products were to consumers, Meredith said, and push forward the message on how “essential”​ they were to so many.

Beyond this, sustainable actions had continued to garner pace in 2022 which was also had to continue into 2023, she said.

Looking ahead at beauty in 2023

Looking ahead, Meredith said: “Sustainability and essentiality will drive everything that we do this year.”​ And whilst sustainability remained a challenge for all, both on a personal and industry-wide level, she said there was a “moral imperative”​ to tackle it.

And the beauty and personal care industry had to start considering green change more holistically, she said, looking at the product as a whole and tracking entire supply chains. “It’s about the 360 view (…) you really have to look at in the round.”

Companies also had to start communicating sustainable efforts in real-time with consumers, even if goals or plans were incomplete, she said. Many companies thought they were at the beginning of sustainable change but were often much further along, according to Meredith, which warranted consumer communication. “Don’t think you have to be right at the end before you tell people how you got there. Tell people where you’re going, what your aims are, even if you don’t get there. I think it’s so important to bring your consumers with you, because that adds to the transparency piece.”

Industry had to avoid this ‘green hushing’ – staying quiet about their climate goal strategies and green plans, Meredith said.

One option worth considering when communicating efforts, she said, was online versus on-pack. “There’s a lot of appetite for that but obviously we have to be mindful that not everybody can access things digitally. I think it’s really important we meet the consumer where they want to find that information and I think there is a huge amount of positivity going forward [in digital]. Of course, that information still has to be sound, clear and not misleading.”

A packaging spotlight in the UK

In the UK, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) requirements would also need to be monitored carefully in 2023 by beauty companies, despite associated legislative fees only coming into effect in 2024, Meredith said. “There are legal implications which are all important because we have to be aware of the packaging we are putting on the market; we have to be responsible for that but it can be a challenge because we’ve got complex supply chains.”

She said take-back schemes offered huge opportunities for EPR as they created an alternative for hard-to-recycle smaller packaging components in cosmetics that were currently unable to be recycled curb-side and thus would carry ‘non-recyclable’ labels in the near future. “With the take-back schemes, the aim and the hope is that, by encouraging consumers to take their smaller packaging to take-back schemes, a. that will increase recyclability and b. the aim is (…) their products can be labelled ‘recyclable’.”

CTPA was working closely with the UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to help drive understanding on the importance of such take-back schemes in the wider recycling conversation, she said, and it was hoped companies engaged in them would be eligible for modulated fees under EPR.

Back in June 2021, a raft of beauty majors and NGOs signed an Ellen MacArthur statement​ alongside 100+ businesses calling for mandatory industry responsibility in recycling via EPR schemes, indicating the appetite and interest from industry’s side already.

“At the start of the year, we should always be optimistic,” ​Meredith said. “Although sustainability may seem a challenge to the way people are operating, it is such an opportunity to rethink how we’re doing things and to be making a positive impact on the environment,”​ she said.

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