Health and social impact lead sustainable developments

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© simpson33 / Getty Images
© simpson33 / Getty Images

Related tags Sustainability Body shop Unilever Dr bronner

As the 12th edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit shines a spotlight on the industry’s latest sustainable developments, health and social impact, climate change and plastic pollution dominate calls for progression and proactivity in the beauty space.

“Sustainability issues are evolving in the cosmetics industry,” ​Amarjit Sahota, Founder and President of Ecovia Intelligence and Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, told us. Beauty and personal care (BPC) brands are focusing their efforts on driving change through actions that support people, communities and the wider planet.

In the last 18 months, the industry has seen a significant shift. “Whereby operators are looking at health and social impacts more closely,” ​said Sahota. Led by the pandemic, cosmetics brands are now realizing they need to “pay greater attention to social impacts if they are going to become truly sustainable”​.

“The pandemic has affected marginalized communities disproportionately,” ​he added. “Another factor is the BLM movement, which highlighted police brutality and prejudices against ethnic minorities.”​ Cosmetics companies are now increasingly understanding the role they play in being a positive force for good and advocate for social change. 

New sustainable developments

As the doors close on another North American sustainability summit, Sahota revealed three of the cosmetic industry’s key developments and subsequent actions taking place in 2021 in its efforts to evolve and become more sustainable.

1. Social impact support

  • The Body Shop launched product packaging in 2019 with the first fairly-traded plastics. The Community Trade initiative is helping 2,500 waste collectors in Bangalore, India.
  • Unilever released the first deodorant, Degree Inc, for people with disabilities in April 2021.
  • Companies like Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps are investing in social causes. Apart from setting up ethical sourcing projects for ingredients like olive oil and coconut oil, it is involved in constructive capitalism and philanthropy. It supports federal/state initiatives for fair pay and wage equality. The company is actively promoting its social causes on product packaging.

2. Climate change

A growing number of companies are making commitments to become carbon neutral. The move follows in the footsteps of Natura Brasil, the largest cosmetics firm in Latin America, which has been carbon neutral since 2007, and leading UK organic cosmetics brand Neal’s Yard Remedies, which became carbon neutral in 2008.

3. Plastic Pollution

Innovation is taking place in the development of green materials, with the number of sustainability options increasing. The use of bamboo, biopolymers, and recycled plastics in product packaging are proving popular choices. Good examples of innovation are TerraCycle’s Loop platform and EraZero Waste in Germany; both companies have set up online platforms for products that do not use single-use plastics.

Creating a truly sustainable economy

A significant issue facing the beauty industry is how it can support a system change to produce a sustainable economy. “This is a big question,” ​he said. “The answer is in revolution and not evolution.”

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