With sustainability front-of-mind for the industry, eco-specialist innovation consultant Monique Large, founder of PollenConsulting, has been working closely with beauty and personal care companies brands on this topic.
Her interest in sustainability first began in 2005 when she offered brands 'eco-safari' tours of London and Paris to immerse them in emerging practices and meet pioneers.
“These learning expeditions were a great success, particularly with cosmetics brands,” she said. “Sustainable issues and practices like re-use/refill are now well-known to everyone but adopted mostly for their symbolic value.”
A “need for new technical, systemic and holistic solutions”
According to Large, the industry now needs technical, systemic and holistic solutions that are more complex to grasp.
When she works with brands, she uses a technique called ‘Design Fiction', which allows the audience to experience multiple futuristic hypotheses and to debate their implications between stakeholders. One of these featured a fictional cosmetics brand that encapsulated carbon in response to the eco-anxiety of young consumers, who could use it guilt-free and thereby contribute to de-carbonisation.
She said her techniques are intended to raise awareness and encourage people to imagine other solutions that might be more desirable and to take action.
“As in all sectors, the major challenge is to create business without having a negative impact on our eco-system,” she stated.
“Is it enough to use materials from renewable sources and offset CO2 emissions? she continued. The scope of this impact goes well beyond this material accounting issue, to encompass well-being, both human and non-human. How can we bring well-being, which is the intention of every cosmetic product, without destroying it elsewhere?”
She said she believed there is currently a great opportunity to further explore our biodiversity. “Both to identify alternatives to petrochemicals, but also to enter into empathy with our biotope and understand the links that unite us, to preserve and restore them.”
Sustainability trends on the horizon
In terms of trends, Large expects to see three big-picture trends encompass the industry in the upcoming years:
- “The market is moving towards a greater holistic understanding of health and well-being. Nutrition, sporting activity, mental health and social ties are all hybridising and enriching the field of application of cosmetics,” she said.
- “I can also see a more emerging trend that calls into question hyper-hygiene, which ultimately proves to be counterproductive. Our entire education system needs to be reviewed to enable us to live in symbiosis with bacteria and other biological elements.”
- “Of course, our society is fascinated by new technologies. There is no project without Artificial Intelligence. In cosmetics, this should be usefully applied to facilitate a caring environment, to preserve our well-being and our ecosystem,” she said.
For her upcoming talk at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, which will be held in Paris from 30th October -1st November, Large said she hoped to help the audience gain some perspective on the multiple injunctions facing cosmetics professionals.
“Through a fictitious scenario, I'd like to highlight the limits and new opportunities of the above-mentioned trends,” she explained. “How can we enhance the holistic impact of cosmetics on well-being? How can we harness the potential of bacteria to reduce our carbon footprint? How can we make sense of the application of AI?”
She hoped that this was a way to look at issues involved in sustainable cosmetics from a different angle; a way of exploring new solutions and, above all, a way that's not just fiction. She viewed it as an “invitation to be aware of the future implications of trends we are keen to follow today.”
“I'm hoping for greater diversity in innovation,” she concluded. “There isn't just one solution for the cosmetic sector to address sustainability issues.”