From The Editor's Desk

Get sustainability right or you may regret it!

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Get sustainability right or you may regret it!
One of the buzz words at this month’s in-cosmetics Global event in Paris was undoubtedly sustainability. It’s been on the radar for years, but it’s not going away. In fact it is only gaining momentum.

A business without a sustainability initiative is simply not planning for the inevitable in the future – sustainable eco-friendly practices are rapidly becoming the norm, so not adapting to such practices points to an unclear future, at best.

But just because a solid and seemingly well thought out sustainability initiative is in place, that does not mean to say that everything is fine and your business is set to reap the benefits.

The perils of a flawed sustainability initiative

Plenty of warnings have been given about how a flawed sustainability initiative can come back to bite your business where it hurts. And Hard. So what are some of potential hazards to look out for and what can be done to ensure that a sustainability initiative is water tight?

And although sustainability is more closely linked with companies operating in the natural and organic area, all that is now changing, as we see an increasing number of meaningful sustainability initiatives implemented by some of the biggest multinationals.

But getting sustainability right is all about planning for every eventuality. If you have sustainable packaging, but the formulation has a terrible ecological profile, then you can be guaranteed that the claims about the packaging will be undermined by a formulation that is potentially damaging to the environment.

Some one will catch you out.

Likewise, if you’re using a naturally sourced ingredients and they have the farmers harvesting the raw ingredients are deemed to be have been exploited, bang goes your credibility.

The four key areas to look out for

Last year, my colleague, Lucy Whitehouse, wrote an article outlining four key areas that are defining beauty sustainability today​, which provides a fairly comprehensive map of the broad measures that both manufacturers and brands should be considering.

Attributed to Ecovia Intelligence, a market intelligence provider focused on the natural and sustainable beauty, the four key areas are:

  • Eco Labeling – which encompasses natural and sustainable certification programs
  • Green formulation – getting rid of contentious synthetic ingredients
  • Packaging – with a focus on non-biodegradable plastics
  • Metrics – systematically measuring

Focus on the metrics for a comprehensive plan

The metrics aspect is perhaps the most encompassing part of this process. The part that crosses all the t’s and dots all the i’s, ensuring that no stone is left unturned.

Cosmetics Design spoke with Gay Timmons of Oh Oh Organic, a leading distributor of organic ingredients based in the San Francisco area to find out about how a business can approach this area.

The bar is set highest for business like this, working in the organic area, so I asked her what had been the best tools to ensure that the sustainability profile of her business went beyond any potential scrutiny.

According to Timmons, getting the sustainability equation right is very difficult because there is such a lack of definition.

“Brands have to first define what they actually mean by the term sustainability, then they have to explain the short- and long-term goals. Then finally, they have to connect the dots concerning how they actually plan to achieve it,”​ said Timmons.

The B Corps Model is one viable alternative

Cluing in on the all-important metrics aspect of sustainability, Timmons chose to pursue the B Corps Model to build her business on sound and manageable sustainability principles.

The B Corp Model is a certification program established by London-based B Corps, which is targeting all aspects of sustainability, including social, environmental, transparency and legal accountability.

Timmons says that she is still working towards securing the certification, but feel this program is the most comprehensive for creating a truly sustainable business, but is also a good fit for her and her employees.

“While we have it licked in terms of the industry that we support and promote, I also needed to look at the human face: I decided that having a ‘sustainable’ business included ensuring that employees are on salaries and have medical coverage. And now we have an annual bocci ball tournament, because this kind of thing is really important.”

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