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Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Paris 2014

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The 6th European Sustainable Cosmetics Summit was held in Paris from 24th to 26th November 2014. At a time when people are becoming increasingly interested in sustainability it is often considered from an environmental perspective. But what about the social and economic pillars? Sustainability and innovation are inseparable, so what progress has been made in green technologies and green ingredients? Moreover, although sustainability appears to be a concern for numerous customers, the organic and natural cosmetics market in Europe represents only a 4% share of the total market. What are the marketing developments and the triggers that increase customer demand? All key topics were covered at this new edition of the European Cosmetics Summit, and here we present some of the highlights. Please read the report filed by Aude Rothschild.

Alexandra Palt, CSR and Sustainability Director at L’Oréal, the number one cosmetics group worldwide, shared with us the group‘s ambitions with a time horizon of 2020. With the objective of targeting a billion new consumers, the guiding principle of the CSR policy is based on four points: Innovate, with 100% of products providing an environmental or social benefit; Produce, with a 60% reduction of the environmental footprint; Live, by empowering the consumer to make sustainable lifestyle choices. Considering that 58% of the environmental impact takes place at the consumer level, for her the most difficult issue is: “How do we engage in conversation with the consumer?” Finally, a part of the objective of the fourth pillar, Develop, is getting 100% of the key suppliers engaged in the CSR policy as well as establishing a social policy whereby every L’Oréal employee would benefit from healthcare, social cover and training. (Photo: Alexandra Palt from L’Oréal)

With his introductory “Let’s celebrate the human footprint!”, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart came with the intention of waking us up. He is the founder of EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung and co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design. “We lose 4,000 – 6,000 times more humus each year than we produce, although it requires 100 to 300 years to build up 1cm of humus, and 25 cm of humus are required for the generation of soil,” he explained. In contrast to the Cradle-to-Grave approach, Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) emphasizes the concept of eco-effectiveness as opposed to eco-efficiency. The point is to create a positive environmental impact and not to minimize the negative impact. “Do the right things and not the things right!” he said. The largest environmental footprints to generate the largest benefit, that’s the motto of C2C! Many brands are already following a C2C approach (Ecover, Frosch, etc.) within the cosmetics sector, and Aveda was one of the first to adopt it. (Photo: Michael Braungart from EPEA)

“Forget about the concept of waste; waste does not exist in nature!” said Chris Baker, General Manager Europe at Terracycle UK. Instead of the usual bury or burn, which deals currently with two-thirds of our waste (5 billion tons/year), the question we should really be addressing is whether our waste can be recycled or not. What is sustainable consumption? Three key words are recycle, upcycle and reuse. There is no shortage of examples: Garnier’s waste transformed into beauty pouches and candy bags upcycled into purses. And it’s been growing since Terracycle launched a programme to collect beauty and personal care products which, in a matter of 33 months, got more than 3.5 million participants involved in the United States alone.

The social objective, maintained Vicky Murray, the Head of Sustainability at Neal’s Yard Remedies, is ensuring that our ingredients are either 100% organic or fair trade certified. The brand is covered by three different certification systems - Fair Trade, Fair Wild and Fair for Life -  and consumer demand for fair trade products keeps growing. The Fair Trade label itself is recognized by 78% of consumers in the UK. (Photo: Vicky Murray from Neal’s Yard Remedies)

The point underlined by Florent Levavasseur, the Local Footprint Business Developer at Utopies, was that the economic pillar, often ignored, is however the only way to ensure sustainable business. The economic pillar covers a fair share of the profits, prices, wages, taxation, etc. He said that at Utopies they defined four criteria to evaluate the socio-economic impact of projects: the direct effects, the indirect effects (suppliers, sub-contractor etc), the induced effects (taxation, public spending, household income) and the catalytic effects (attracting business, tourism, competitiveness, trade, investments). An example from business was the project in collaboration with Pierre Fabre on the Madagascar periwinkle (Cataranthus roseus) that demonstrated that one job created within the project was able to support 27 others in Madagascar.

In terms of innovation, what are the new green technologies? Oscar Exposito Tarres, the CSO and Co-founder of Phyture BioTech, specialized in the development and production of plant stem cells for dermo-cosmetic application. The technology brings about many benefits compared with the conventional extraction methods. These benefits include solvent-free, reduction of water consumption, negligible waste, a minimal footprint in eco-systems since only few seeds or plants are required. By using this technology, the company has launched its first suncare product based on Arabian cotton. Concerning the new green ingredients, Anthony Verdugo, the Purchase Manager at Naturex, presented Moabi Butter – extracted from the seeds of the moabi tree that is being threatened by deforestation in Cameroon. Naturex participated in building up a project around moabi butter with the local communities and the numbers speak for themselves: the profit generated by moabi butter production has overtaken the profit generated by the sale of timber in less than 3 years of sustainable operations to the extent that the project will generate in 30 years a profit close to €100,000. At the same time, 22,000 trees have been planted by the local population. He said that the key to success relies on 8 pillars: local investment, availability of raw materials, technical know-how, quality and traceability, access to markets, long-term profit, transparent communication, and preparation for the future. (Photo: Long-term team member Tina Gill from Organic Monitor welcomes the participants)

“There is so much food waste,” said Dr. Meryem Benohoud, the Lead Product Development Scientist at Keracol which, in collaboration with Marks and Spencers, this year launched a cosmetics product range based on the by-products of wineries. From the crushed residual pulp is extracted the famous resveratrol, a phenolic compound whose antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, etc., have given rise to its famous nickname French Paradox. With grape pomace (skin and seeds) making up 12 - 20% of the harvested grapes, there is a huge opportunity for both the food and the cosmetics sector. (Photo: Meryem Benohoud from Keracol)

How do retailers deal with sustainability? Andrew Jenkins is the Sustainable Development Manager Products at Boots. He said: “At Boots, faced with growing and complex sustainability problems, we developed an online tool that enables us to measure the sustainability footprint of every product by means of 24 criteria.” From this emerges a profile according to 5 themes: sustainably sourced, design and manufacture, product supply, use at home and end of life. He explained that this tool allows them to quickly identify where improvements have to be made, and that’s why they launched a new edition of the Botanics range in 2012 with a net improvement of 30%. The key to success in his view: “Involve your marketing team and not only your sustainable development team.”

In terms of marketing developments, what are the strategies to adopt? “At Léa Nature, economics and ethics go hand in hand; we have strong values that we put into practice,” said Jeanne Christensen, the Director of International Development at Léa Nature. Mrs Christensen went on to say: “Our strength lies in the fact that we have our own sourcing, our own research & development and our own production.” If Léa Nature restricted itself to the French market up to 2012, since then its marketing strategy has focused on international development and, within two years, the customer database has been multiplied by a factor of three. The key to success?  In her words, a combination which could be summarized by “strategy, means and patience”. (Photo: Jeanne Christensen from Léa Nature)

Henk Gerbers, the CEO and co-founder of Bio+, launched the company with the motto “Good food for all!" It’s a successful bet: in 10 years, it has become well established and belongs to the top 10 Dutch brands, with Bio+ the only organic brand. The company’s mission:  “We are a platform between the organic producers and the distributors.” Although in the Netherlands the average organic market share is 2.4%, Bio+ is delighted with its market share of 7.9%. The recipe for success? A joint innovation? Renewed packaging? Direct and immediate product traceability through a QR code? Promotions? Tasting events? An advertising campaign on TV? “It’s all ultimately about connections between organic farmers and the consumers,” he said. “Those who do that with the right touch will win.” (Photo: Amarjit Sahota and his team from Organic Monitor)

What are the consumer profiles nowadays? Amarjit Sahota, the President of Organic Monitor, reported on the 2014 market study carried out among 100 consumers in London. Compared with the previous study carried out in 2007, consumers clearly appear more concerned by the safety aspect (90% consider it is very important or important to avoid synthetic products), they are better informed about the content of products (63% know which chemicals to avoid compared with 34% in 2007), 50% choose natural and organic products for health reasons, and they care more about labels (43% in 2014 against 33% in 2007). The sources of information have evolved considerably over the last seven years, with the internet becoming the main source (35% in 2014 compared with 16% in 2007), followed by family and friends (22%) and finally the media (20%). Social networks will no doubt play a major role in promoting sales. (Photo: Amarjit Sahota)

Between the super-green consumers, driven by conviction, and the anti-green consumers, most consumers define themselves simply as green, and for these people the green message does not need to be underlined. However, other arguments should be put forward. Here are five steps to convince this population group, as explained by Kathleen Enright, the Director and Sustainability Communications at Ogilvy Earth: find the pleasure spot and celebrate it; redefine “normal” to give the feeling that what they buy is the mainstream; recreate the epiphany moment; give Mother Nature a rest and, finally, banish the word “sustainability” but make the product sustainable. (Photo: Kathleen Enright from Ogilvy Earth)

Riikka Poukka, the Manager for Sustainability Services at Deloitte in Finland told the audience to make sustainability obvious, meaning that they should connect sustainability to consumers’ commitment. Otherwise how is it possible to solve the discrepancy between the consumers’ good intentions and their actual purchasing behaviour? (87% say they consider a company’s social and environmental obligation when considering what and where to buy, but environmentally friendly personal care products have only a 3% share of the global market). According to Riikka Poukka, there are three barriers to overcome: limited Availability-Affordability-Accessibility, Ingrained Habits and Lack of Trust in the companies’ CSR policy. Given these limitations, three principles should be taken into consideration when developing products and communicating them to the relevant consumers: “It has to be simple; it has to be attractive and personal; and it has to be social as well.” (Photo: The venue was the Marriott Hotel in Paris)

During the Summit, the 2014 Sustainable Beauty Awards, which reward organisations that push the boundaries of sustainability in the beauty industry, were presented. The happy recipients included Cruelty Free International, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Aveda, Whole Foods Market, Nuxe, Surya Brasil, AAK, Mibelle Biochemistry, Abaché Organics (Greenlab Organics) and Pure & Green Organics. The first award in the “Lifetime Achievement” category was given to the late Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients and largely recognized as a visionary, who passed away earlier this year. For further information, please go to




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