Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe: Major Outcomes

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Natural & organic Cosmetics in a Berlin specialised organic shop.

Natural & organic Cosmetics in a Berlin specialised organic shop. Photo © Karin Heinze

About 140 senior executives from the beauty industry convened in Paris for the European edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit last month. Discussions over the three days centered on green formulations, sustainable sourcing, social impacts, and sustainable fragrances. One of the major outcomes from the summit was that cosmetic and ingredient firms need to move from linear to circular models. A number of speakers highlighted the need to move to ‘closed loops’ whereby waste (used products and / or packaging) finds new applications. With over-reliance on landfill and marine pollution becoming major concerns, the cosmetics industry needs to move away from traditional thinking of waste if it is to become more sustainable.

Best practice exampleswere presented by several companies from different sectors of the industry. Luigi Bergamaschi, owner of L’Erbolario, kicked off the summit with a keynote on green values. The leading Italian natural cosmetics brand has been involved in various sustainability initiatives over its 40 year history; it has recently set up an eco-friendly logistics hub, adopted green polyethylene packaging, and is growing many of its plant materials according to organic farming methods. L’Erbolario products are now in over 40 countries, generating more than 15 million product sales per annum.

Packaging makes a difference

Carletta Steiner-Heinz, owner and CEO of Heinz-Glas, gave insights into the German companies’ sustainability programme. With a long history since 1622, the family-owned business aims to become the most sustainable glass producer in the industry. It is investing in recycling and eco-efficient processes to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2020.

Consciousness and traceability


Malin Lundahl from H&M gave a paper on the ‘key sustainability lessons from the fashion industry’. To make sustainability fashionable, the retail group has launched H&M Conscious Exclusive Collections, which use sustainable materials. It also has Ecocert-certified products in its H&M Conscious Beauty range.

Traceability and transparency were cited as major sustainability challenges faced by personal care retailers, according to Andrew Jenkins from Boots. He believes the way forward is radical transparency whereby companies disclose what they know and do not know. Deforestation, chemical management, waste & the circular economy, and ocean pollution were stated as other major challenges for retailers.

Details were given on the growing array of green materials for cosmetic & personal care products. Mariana Royer from Bio ForeXtra gave insights into new actives that are sourced from the Boreal forest in Quebec. The Canadian company is using forest biomass to produce actives for anti-ageing, hydration, and skin protection. Other new green materials featured in this session included bio-based esters, emulsifiers, and surfactants.

L’Oreal showed how it is reducing the environmental impact of its products by the eco-design approach; it is focusing on biodegradability and water footprint in new product formulations. DNA Gensee demonstrated how genetic fingerprinting can be used to provide traceability of green ingredients.

Sustainable sourcing in demand

Adrian de Groot Ruiz, Executive Director of True Price, opened the sustainable sourcing session with an explanation of the true cost of agricultural ingredients. He showed how the environmental and social costs of many cosmetic ingredients were not factored into actual prices.

Beraca outlined how it is addressing biodiversity and social impacts when sourcing clay-based ingredients from Brazilian biomes. The importance of cross-sector collaboration was stressed by Fanny Fremont from the Responsible Mica Initiative, which has the goal to set up a legal mica supply chain in India. Other case studies of sustainable sourcing were given by Cargill (seaweed-based texturisers), Firmenich (fragrances) and Silab (chestnut active).

Gabbi Loedolff from Lush gave some insights into how the ethical cosmetic brand is undertaking sustainable sourcing. It set up the SLush Fund in 2010 to finance sustainable farming and community projects in various parts of the world. A key lesson from Lush is that a participatory approach provides most returns. The role of certification schemes was debated by key speakers in the panel discussion; some stated it legitimises marketing claims, whilst others said honest communications were more important.

Social value for cosmetics

Another session explored the various ways cosmetic companies can add social value to their products. Julian Baggini, Philosopher and Author, called into question the moral and ethical perceptions of beauty and the role of cosmetic products. According to the philosopher, the role of cosmetics should not be undermined as they play an important role in society. Andrew Wallis of Unseen UK highlighted the invisibility of modern slavery in supply chains. His organisation believes there are about 40 million slaves worldwide, bringing many business risks.

The role of fairtrade in creating positive social impacts was discussed by Rüdiger Meyer, CEO of FLOCERT. He called for more companies to use certified fairtrade ingredients to help tackle global poverty. The session adjourned with participants discussing approaches to improve social value. Some called for companies to look beyond sustainable sourcing of raw materials and consider wider initiatives.

The summit ended with a workshop on sustainability and fragrances. The workshop leader discussed the sustainability issues associated with fragrances, highlighting the green options available to cosmetic formulators and product developers.




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