Organic Monitor organized Sustainable Cosmetics Conference in Paris
by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 1)
The European edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit drew to a successful close at the end of October, bringing together in the French capital 140 delegates from the beauty industry in 17 different countries. Discussions over the 3-day summit centred on sustainability metrics, ethical labels, green materials and digital marketing. The organiser was the London-based consultancy and conference organiser Organic Monitor. Since 2009, the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit has been covering sustainability issues in the cosmetics and personal care industry. The international series of summits now takes place in the major geographic regions of the world. The European edition was hosted at the Paris Marriott Champs-Elysées on 21-23 October 2015.
The summit shed light on some of the sustainability shortcomings in the cosmetics industry. With the highest environmental impact of many products at the use phase, what can be done to encourage responsible consumption of cosmetics? How can consumers be encouraged to undertake sustainable purchases? How can greater traceability be provided in ingredient supply chains? What can be done to reduce the packaging footprint of cosmetic products? How can the technical issues of using natural ingredients be overcome? What green alternatives are emerging to replace contentious synthetic materials?
Bruce Lourie called for a clean-up of personal care formulations
Bruce Lourie, a leading Canadian environmentalist and author, kicked off the summit with a keynote speech on safe cosmetics. Lourie is co-author of “Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World” and “Slow Death by Rubber Duck”. He stated that environmental pollution as it used to be has got a lot better in Western countries. Now the risks come from plastics and chemicals in our daily environment. Experiments have shown how quickly certain chemicals enter our bodies. Scientists measured before and after the use of products containing critical chemicals (like triclosan, bisphenol A and others) over a fixed period. The result was that the rapid uptake of triclosan for instance was measured in our bodies. The good news is that when we stop using these products the figures quickly go down again. He stated that special attention must be paid to the chemicals that mimic hormones and act as endocrine disruptors, as they have a big influence on the hormone system and can cause breast cancer. He called for a clean-up of personal care formulations, stating the possible health risks of controversial chemicals.
Subsequent speakers looked at the practical use of metrics for sustainability. Claude Fromageot (Rocher Group) stated that metrics have improved the environmental and social footprint of all Yves Rocher products. The company’s sustainability activities include growing organic ingredients, ethical sourcing, eco-design of packaging and waste management. Sustainable metrics means, for example, quantifying product footprints, carbon-neutral and metrics case studies, Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and packaging impacts. These methods show how the practical use of sustainability metrics can help brands on their way to more sustainability. The Rocher Group has a sustainability department and steering tool, coordinating 31 countries, 71 sites and 400 indicators. Yves Rocher is engaged in decreasing paper consumption and improving product packaging (for example, eco design, new eco tubes with 25% less plastic). Of course, energy management with the increased use of renewable energy and energy efficiency is important. The aim for 2020 is to reduce energy use by 20% per finished product compared with 2010.
Amarjit Sahota, President of Organic Monitor and organiser of the conference, adds that P&G and L’ Oreal too have reduced negative environmental impacts. Important metrics are carbon footprints, energy input, output of emissions, waste and packaging. Sahota is convinced by the idea behind it: “What gets measured gets done.”
"Fromageau confirmed that the turnover of their certified eco line is very small with regard to the rest of their assortment. They are not positioning themselves as a natural cosmetics company. But seemingly they are eliminating at least the most harmful substances as ingredients in their products," concluded the natural cosmetics expert Kirsten Hüttner in her article "Changing the Face of the Beauty industry by Sustainable Development".
Neal’s Yard Remedies, a true organic cosmetics company, shared its very impressive experiences in becoming the first carbon-neutral retailer in the UK. With over half its carbon footprint created by its premises, the company has built an eco-factory to minimise energy use. Together with a consulting company called “Carbon Neutral” they analysed and found the right tools to measure the change in energy use and waste recycling. Moreover, they measure commuting by their employees (how they get to work), business travel, hotel stays, distribution of goods and much more. “We know exactly how far our products travel,” Louise Green said. She added: “It’s an amazing tool to get the message out”. The natural remedies company has now developed a cycle-to-work scheme. Neal's has its own ethical and fair project in Madagascar, where they buy raw materials.
Green polyethylene made from sugar cane
Martin Clemesha from Braskem showed how cosmetics brands can reduce their packaging impacts by using green polyethylene made from sugar cane. Their major product is a green PE called I’m green™, a renewable replacement for regular PE but with the same properties. It is recyclablebut not bio-degradable. One of the manufacturers using the green PE is Ecover, with a mix of 25% recycled regular PE. Other well known brands using the green PE are Aveda and Shisheido.
Novel sources of active ingredients were featured in the Green Materials session. Chris Kilham, Sustainability Ambassador of Naturex, showed how trees can become a source of new actives. Quillaja and Dragon’s Blood were given as examples of two actives with green credentials.
Marinova outlined the opportunities provided by marine extracts; the Australian company is producing actives from hand-harvested organic wild seaweed. Active Concepts highlighted the use of plant cell technology, whilst JRS showed how cellulose is a viable green alternative to polyethylene beads in exfoliants.
A keynote speech by Peter Brändle, Regional Director of Weleda in Western Europe, started the Ethical Labels session. With a proliferation in the number of labelling schemes, Brändle said it was more important for cosmetics brands to have a green ethos than to adopt multiple logos. Urtekram highlighted the issues involved in using various standards. This Danish company has adopted the Ecocert/Cosmos, Nordic Swan, Vegan Society, Fairtrade and Asthma Allergy certified labels. According to their R&D manager Tom Hornshøj-Møller, multiple standards create too many restrictions with little overlap between certification criteria. Amarjit Sahota, President of Organic Monitor, called for some harmonisation of existing standards, otherwise proliferation could dampen consumer demand. Citing Organic Monitor research, logos and symbols were no guarantee of success in the increasingly competitive natural cosmetics market.
The Digital Marketing session explored the opportunities provided by social media. With over 70% of European consumers now internet users, David Dewilde from Disko Paris believes cosmetics brands can’t risk lagging behind the digital revolution. He stated a common mistake is for brands to focus on the product (and not the people) in digital marketing activities. Richard Stacy echoed this sentiment, stating that social media enables brands to undertake individualised marketing. He believes algorithms could make marketing redundant in the future.
The European summit in pictures:
The next Organic Monitor Sustainable Summits:
North American edition: 12-14 May 2016, New York; Latin American edition: 14-16 September 2016, São Paulo
Asia-Pacific edition: 14-15 November 2016, Hong Kong
European edition: 28-30 November 2016, Paris