Going greener: The Body Shop investing in ‘regenerative’ supply chain innovation

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

The Body Shop is investing in biotechnology to develop circular beauty ingredients, as well as looking at new ways of using waste and improving regenerative agriculture [Getty Images]
The Body Shop is investing in biotechnology to develop circular beauty ingredients, as well as looking at new ways of using waste and improving regenerative agriculture [Getty Images]

Related tags Natura &Co The body shop Sustainability circular beauty regenerative circular economy sustainable sourcing carbon capture biotech Sustainable packaging

Natura &Co’s The Body Shop will heavily invest in regenerative business innovation over the next decade, including advanced use of biotech and carbon capture, its head of innovation and sustainability R&D says.

South American beauty major Natura &Co had long been focused on sustainability, given its roots were in the Amazon. But last year, the group unveiled its 2030 Commitment to Life​ sustainability and social responsibility vision​ that would be implemented across its global portfolio of four brands – Natura, The Body Shop, Aesop and Avon. Amongst a plethora of pledges and goals, Natura &Co wanted to be net zero in the next decade; foster collective efforts towards zero deforestation by 2025; and become fully circular with 95% or more of its ingredients natural or renewable and formulas biodegradable.

And this latter goal was one The Body Shop was heavily invested in, according to Pauline Cain, head of innovation and sustainability R&D at The Body Shop.

Speaking to attendees at SCS Formulate 2021’s in the ‘sustainability studio’, Cain said: “By 2030, we want all our portfolio to be minimum naturally-derived, across skin care, hair care, body care, fragrance and makeup. We want all rinse-off to be made with 95% biodegradable ingredients. And we want 100% of new formulations to have a lower environmental footprint impact, and we’ll measure that thanks to lifecycle analysis.”

Regenerative beauty – biotech, carbon capture and positive agriculture

As part of this, she said The Body Shop would be investing in “regenerative solutions” ​across its entire supply chain, which would ultimately help advance sustainable formulation innovation.

“We want to invest $100m [€88m), if not more, in developing solutions such as biotechnology, ingredients from waste, and we will talk about plastic, carbon capture etc.”

The company, under the wider Natura &Co group, would also invest in regenerative agriculture in deforested areas to reduce use of chemicals and create alternative to monocultures, she said, and work to create revenue streams from new ingredients that were more economically attractive than deforestation.

Cain said The Body Shop was only just starting its work on regenerative strategies – “it’s brand new and we have really challenging targets”.

“…There’s a lot of work for us about what [regenerative] means; what are the criteria. If you look at the Natura &Co definition, a regenerative solution is one that captures more carbon than it emits and that conserves and restores biosystems.”

Regenerative ingredients need to have a ‘positive impact’

The challenge was translating this into formulations, she said. But The Body Shop planned on doing so by considering several factors: ensuring resources were non-toxic and circular; looking carefully at impact on humankind; considering greenhouse capture and biotechnologies that used carbon capture; investing in conservation and restoration of natural areas; and protecting and promoting biodiversity.

“What is important is to understand we are trying to be neutral; creating new products and packaging that don’t have any negative impact. If you want to be regenerative, every time you use your ingredient you will have a natural positive impact socially – you will develop communities, provide the right remuneration, school development, all the social impacts. You can also think of the social impact of the person buying your product.

“Environmental impact is harder. How do you make sure there’s a positive impact? I talked about carbon capture, helping restore the biodiversity, understanding how the forest works, the soil etc. The idea is, every time you use an ingredient, in a regenerative way, you have a positive impact socially and environmentally,”​ she said.

Regenerative business also needs packaging innovation

Will Connolly, head of packaging at The Body Shop, added that regenerative ideas also had to be translated into packaging.

Whilst PET plastic was recyclable, Connolly said The Body Shop was going further and litter picking in India, for example, to take more plastic out of the environment and put it back into its bottles. “And at the same time, we’re creating jobs, stable employment and health care. We’re not just buying deposit return material from Holland, which is good, but thinking ‘how can we source our materials in a way that creates a positive impact on the globe?’”

This formed part of The Body Shop’s wider packaging 2030 goals, he said, which included reducing total packaging weight across its portfolio by 20%; ensuring 50% of all plastic was from recycled content; and making 100% of packaging materials either reusable, recyclable or compostable.

However, when pushing forward with this sustainable packaging innovation, Connolly said it would be important for The Body Shop, and also wider industry, to ensure this could be achieved without raising carbon output. Smartly designed refill systems were one way of tackling this, though he said single-use packaging still had to be looked at because the refill revolution wasn’t going to happen overnight.

“We need to deal with these issues, but not by doubling our carbon output,”​ he said.

Natura &Co sustainability in the spotlight

CosmeticsDesign-Europe previously spoke with Natura &Co’s VP of sustainability and group affairs Marcelo Behar on the most important focus for the group moving forward with its green ambitions.

Behar said understanding and communicating the impact cosmetics production had on people and planet​ was the “next chapter”​ in the group, and wider industry, push towards full circularity.

The beauty group recently became a founding member of Dutch eco video streaming platform WaterBear​ as part of this.

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