"Carbon is only part of the story": biodiversity loss takes the spotlight

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

The need for ethical ingredients sourcing is becoming more urgent (Image: Getty)
The need for ethical ingredients sourcing is becoming more urgent (Image: Getty)

Related tags Sustainability Environment circular beauty sustainable beauty green beauty Biodiversity

Biodiversity loss is a key environmental issue for the planet and one that the cosmetics industry will need to pay more attention to going forward…

Ecovia Intelligence, a research and consulting company that focuses on global ethical product industries, said it expects to see more beauty and personal care companies adopt sustainability charters and schemes in the near future, as the need for ethical sourcing becomes more urgent.

Biodiversity in the cosmetics industry is mainly linked to the sourcing of raw materials – and cosmetic and ingredient firms are under increasing pressure to ensure that agricultural-based and wild-harvested materials are ethically sourced.

The recent EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)​ prevents imported agricultural commodities from deforested land from entering the EU, and companies must now trace all commodities back to the land where they were originally produced.

One notable ingredient covered by this legislation is palm oil, which is widely used by the cosmetics industry.

At last year’s UN Biodiversity conference (COP15), 196 countries signed a deal to stop and reverse biodiversity loss. The implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Framework​ will encourage operators to ethically source plant-based materials.

Trailblazing brands taking action

Ecovia Intelligence said it is also seeing more cosmetic and ingredient companies adopting regenerative agriculture and nature-positive production methods that improve soil fertility, store carbon, and protect biodiversity.

Some of the companies it shone a spotlight on were:

  • Italian hair care and skin care company The Davines Group which partnered with the Rodale Institute to set up the European Regenerative Organic Centre in Parma in 2021. On the 17-hectare site it grows cosmetic ingredients using regenerative agriculture.
  • Multinational L’Occitane Group, which has pledged to produce 100% of its raw materials according to regenerative and sustainable agriculture by 2025.
  • Weleda – the world’s oldest organic cosmetics company – which has medicinal plant gardens with over 1,000 different plant species, and over 80% of its plant-based ingredients are grown according to organic agriculture. Many of its products also carry the Union for Ethical Biotrade​ (UEBT) logo.
  • Natura Brasil, LATAM’s largest cosmetics company, has also adopted the UEBT certification in 2018. Its Ekos range is certified and the products contain Amazonian ingredients, such as açaí, andiroba, castanha, and murumuru, which are ethically sourced and that respect the rights of indigenous people.

"A complex ecosystem of challenges"

The cosmetics ingredients manufacturing companies, such as international chemicals company Croda, are also moving in this direction.

“The personal care industry faces a complex ecosystem of challenges,”​ said Claire-Marie Grizaud, Customer Alliances, Group Sustainability, Director at Croda, who will be speaking at the upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit​ in Paris in late October.

“From reducing carbon footprints, water-impact and waste, to increasing renewable raw materials and the use of non-fossil fuel energy; along with the greater efficiency of products in use, sustainable raw material supply with transparency through value chains, and consideration for environmental and social aspects, there really are many pressing sustainability issues for our industry.”

According to Grizaud, many of Croda’s peers have already set targets aligned with the Paris Agreement to reduce the Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) by 50% by 2050.

“The recent adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) by 196 nations in December 2022 is another step in this journey to halt and reverse nature loss,” ​she said.

“As the Personal Care industry is moving from petroleum based to renewable materials, climate and nature needs to be addressed jointly, as they are intertwined.”

In 2022, Croda stated its ambition to become ‘net nature positive’ and Grizaud said the company is currently “exploring numerous avenues and pathways to do this in collaboration with customers and industry peers.”

She also said it was committed to achieving net zero by 2050 and aiming to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 46.2% by 2030, as well as its Scope 3 (upstream) emissions by 12.5% in that timeframe. 

“A number of strategies have been put into place to help us meet these targets, including decarbonisation roadmaps at every global site and the availability of carbon footprint information right down to a product level,”​ she shared.

For many companies, switching to renewable energy sources and improving the efficiency of manufacturing operations can address Scope 1 and 2 emissions, but as Grizaud points out, the vast majority of emissions for cosmetics companies fall into Scope 3​ – those emissions that are not produced by the company itself and that occurred in the upstream or downstream processes when creating a product.

Grizaud shared that her presentation at the upcoming summit will “look at how we can effectively identify, track and reduce Scope 3 upstream emissions within personal care supply chains.”

She continued: “We will introduce the benefits of product carbon footprints, as well as explore specific carbon reduction opportunities. And, perhaps most importantly, we will also cover the overwhelming need for meaningful collaboration and uncover the various forms that this could take to be able to collectively deliver meaningful impact.”  

Grizaud said that in the coming year Croda will release further data points on new sustainability parameters at the product level. “This is exciting, since the increased availability of this data will enable our customers to make much more informed choices and further their own sustainability and de-carbonisation initiatives,”​ she said.

“Carbon is only part of the story though,” ​she concluded. “Collaboration, however, is the thread that runs throughout!”           

 

 

 

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