Sustainable Cosmetics Summit: Key Takeaways

The Sustainable Cosmetics Summit drew to a successful close two weeks ago. Over 140 senior executives from the beauty industry convened in New York City to discuss sustainability issues. Organized by Ecovia Intelligence, here are some of the key outcomes of the summit.

 

Packaging Innovations: With growing consumer awareness of plastic pollution, the beauty industry is facing pressure to reduce its packaging impacts. Examples of innovative packaging solutions were presented. Seed phytonutrients gave details of its compostable bottle made from post-consumer paper, while the Korean company, InnerBottle, showed how its new packaging technology creates zero waste. The way forward appears to be innovative rather than incremental measures, like lightweighting.

 

Consumer Impacts: In his opening keynote speech, Colin Beavan called for  awareness of the impacts created in everyday lives. The influential writer and internet blogger shared his own personal experience in trying to create zero impacts for one year. While living in New York, he and his family lived without electricity, ate locally grown foods, and produced no trash. According to Beavan, individuals should not just reduce impacts, but should also create positive impacts; examples include growing plants, trees, and vegetables and volunteering.

 

Scrutiny of Supply Chains: Raw material supply chains are becoming increasingly scrutinized for environmental and social risks. Verisk Maplecroft Research showed that shea butter, milk, vanilla, and cocoa are cosmetic ingredients with some of the highest social risks, including human trafficking, child labor, discrimination, and land grabs. Using essential oils as an example, Dee-Ann Prather from Down Under Enterprises showed how ingredient suppliers can provide traceability in their supply chains. Since adulteration is a major issue, the Australian supplier is looking at blockchain technology.

 

Wide Range of Green Materials: New sources of green ingredients are emerging. DuPont showed how it has created its Genencare OSMS BA material from food side streams. Genomatica is creating butylene glycol from plant sugars, while Aprinnova is making squalane from sugarcane. Butylene glycol is a petroleum-based solvent, whereas squalane is an emollient that has been traditionally sourced from shark liver oil. Details were also given on how plant cell technology is being utilized to produce active ingredients.

 

Look Beyond Organic: Diana Martin from the Rodale Institute called for farmers to adopt regenerative agricultural systems. The new Regenerative Organic Certification adds soil health, fair trade, and animal welfare to existing organic farming practices. The new scheme currently has 21 pilots worldwide and is backed by leading operators, such as Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Patagonia.

 

Creative Solutions: Several speakers suggested creativity is required to resolve major sustainability challenges facing the industry. Molly Rowan Hamilton from Pearlfisher urged beauty companies to design sustainability into their brands. According to Hamilton, one-size-fits-all does not work, considering sustainability has so many facets. The sentiment was echoed by Enoch Palmer from the design agency CASE, which helps brands in product design and communications.

 

Green Packaging Materials: Andrew Dent from Material ConneXion highlighted the issue with existing packaging materials: less than 5% of plastics are recycled in the United States. He called for brands to look at green materials so they can prepare for a circular economy. Examples were given of recycled materials, compostable packaging, and recent innovations. Bio-engineered solutions on the horizon involve algae, fungi, and bacteria.

 

New Business Models: TerraCycle showed how brands can move away from single use packaging through its new Loop shopping platform. Described as a circular shopping platform, Loop enables packaging to be returned to brands and re-used. Loop made its debut in the United States this month; partners include P&G, Unilever, Colgate-Palmolive, Walgreens, and Kroger.

 

Natural and Organic Cosmetics: According to The Benchmarking Company, 68% of American females purchase natural and organic beauty products – up from 49% in 2008. Health reasons are the primary factors cited by 73% of buyers. The adoption rates are expected to continue to rise as consumer demographics change.

 

Create Marketing Experiences: Millennials and Generation Z now represent half of American consumers. According to Sourabh Sharma from FIG or Out, these growing influential consumers expect sustainability to be a core value of companies. He called for brands to create marketing experiences for these consumers. Winners in the digital age are likely to be brands which utilize these characteristics.

 

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