The PCPC’s focus on science, safety, and sustainability

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / (Petmal)
© Getty Images / (Petmal)

Related tags Science Personal care products council safety Sustainability

At the start of March, the Personal Care Products Council held its annual meeting event, complete with educational panels, keynotes, and breakout sessions. This year’s topic was sustainability. And Cosmetics Design was there to connect with the experts, hear from industry insiders and allies, and meet with the organization’s chief scientist, Alexandra Kowcz.

The Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) has been around for 125 years now; and the national trade association’s membership comprises over 600 companies in the beauty manufacturing, distribution, and ingredient supply sectors. The PCPC annual meeting is not only a gathering of industry decision makers; it’s a gathering of beauty insiders whose decisions affect the entire industry. 

Roughly half of PCPC member companies are small to midsized businesses. While a quick look at the Council’s leadership turns up a who’s who of multinational companies in cosmetics, personal care, and fragrance: Amway, Beiersdorf, Church & Dwight, Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, The Estée Lauder Companies, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, LVMH, Mary Kay, P&G, Revlon, Shiseido, Unilever, and more.

2020 PCPC annual meeting focuses on sustainability

The Council titled this year’s program Envisioning a More Sustainable World for Beauty. And to coincide with the topic, the PCPC put together a first industry-wide sustainability report.

“With the PCPC’s first sustainability report, we aim to demonstrate industry’s commitment not only to ethical and transparent practices but also to the responsible management of our environmental impacts and economic and social value,” ​says Lezlee Westine, President and CEO of the PCPC, in her letter introducing the report.

“The repost focuses,” ​she says, “on the issues and opportunities most material to our industry and seeks to showcase the innovative ways in which member companies have integrated sustainability into their business practices.”

The report shows that sustainability issues such as climate change, water use / conservation, packaging waste / recycling, and greenhouse gas emissions / renewable energy, are important to both the PCPC membership and to stakeholders. And it highlights initiatives such as zero-waste-to-landfill commitments for manufacturing from companies including Beiersdorf,  Burt’s Bees, Colgate-Palmolive, Coty, Henkel, Firmenich, IFF, L’Oréal, P&G, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Unilever.

There is information in the report as well on the reduction of packaging waste, low-carbon operations, water conservation, as well as on product and ingredient safety. Following from the report’s content, this year’s PCPC annual meeting program included a key note from Tom Szaky, Founder and CEO of TerraCycle; a session called The Future of Beauty is Green, Clean, and Gen Z that opened with a talk by Andea Campbell of Conde Nast, and included a panel discussion among Samhita Mukhopadhyay of teenVogue, Maya Penn of Maya’s Ideas, Sazky, and Esi Eggleston of Unilever; and there was also a session on industry-NGO cooperation led by Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group (EWG); among other programming.

Cosmetics Design spoke with both Cook and Szaky during the event; and those video interviews will be published here online later this month.

The PCPC’s ongoing commitment to science and safety

The association’s sustainability report shows data indicating that product and ingredient safety are of the utmost importance to both PCPC members and stakeholders. And this has been a focus of the PCPC since the beginning.

Now, since the start of 2018, Alexandra Kowcz is the association’s Chief Scientist. Her role, as she explains it Cosmetics Design, is to “oversee PCPC’s scientific programs, technical committees and publications, and serve as the industry’s scientific liaison for domestic and international organizations.”​ 

Asked about the voice of science today both within the industry and in the consumer space, Kowcz acknowledges that “science is never easy to communicate. But,” ​she emphasizes, “we will continue to educate and tell our story because no one knows it better than we do.”

“Safety,”​ she says “is a top priority for our industry. And, it’s why we employ thousands of scientific and medical experts who are devoted to studying the human and environmental health impacts of our products and the ingredients used in them.”​ 

And she goes further, noting that cosmetics and personal care “companies work with and employ thousands of chemists, toxicologists, biologists, environmental scientists, epidemiologists and other experts to evaluate the safety of cosmetic products before they go to market.”

Kowcz models the sort of messaging that the PCPC shares with government, media, and consumers in her remarks to Cosmetics Design: “By taking a science-based approach, we prioritize safety throughout the product formulation process—from concept to design,”​ says Kowcz. “Scientists critically consider an ingredient’s potential to cause harm—from irritation and discomfort to more serious short-term or long-term health effects—and set a safe range for that ingredient to be used. The next step is determining safe product use, where all ingredients are evaluated again to ensure they are safe for people and the environment when used together as a complete product. If the product formula is not deemed safe, the process starts over.”

“Scientists rigorously analyze the effects of ingredients and potential products on people and the planet over time, and closely monitor products after they are available to consumers as well. And safety evaluations don’t happen in a vacuum—they’re shared across the industry, so all companies have access to the right information to keep their consumers safe.”

And she says that “While we believe consumers have a right to know the facts about the products and ingredients they use, we also believe they have a right to understand. PCPC shares safety information on our science of beauty website, We also use every opportunity with a variety of stakeholders to explain how companies demonstrate their commitment to safety while trying to demystify complex scientific issues.”

“Our goal,” ​emphasizes Kowcz, “remains to help consumers make informed decisions and have confidence in the products they use each day.”



Deanna Utroske is a leading voice in the cosmetics and personal care industry as well as in the indie beauty movement. As Editor of the news website, she writes daily articles about the business of beauty in the Americas region and regularly produces video interviews with cosmetics, fragrance, personal care, and packaging experts as well as with indie brand founders.

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