Sustainability takes center stage: a glimpse into the future of cosmetics

By Cassandra Stern

- Last updated on GMT

"Sustainability is now seen as an integral part of the cosmetics industry, with investments being made in green ingredients, packaging, and new product formats," said Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence. © pcess609 Getty Images
"Sustainability is now seen as an integral part of the cosmetics industry, with investments being made in green ingredients, packaging, and new product formats," said Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence. © pcess609 Getty Images

Related tags Sustainability sustainable beauty green beauty circular beauty

As sustainable practices become increasingly integrated into cosmetics and personal care products, innovations, regulatory changes and technological advancements will continue to shape the trajectories of these industries.

A recent NIQ report analyzing trends in sustainable beauty notes the continued popularity of sustainable cosmetic options for beauty consumers, stating that “while definitions of sustainability may vary, it is becoming more important to consumers.” In a recent NIQ survey, “62% [of respondents] stated that sustainability is more important to them than it was two years ago," and the beauty industry is continuing to respond accordingly. 

CosmeticsDesign spoke to Amarjit Sahota, founder of Ecovia Intelligence for more insights into the drivers of this year’s trends in sustainable beauty. According to Sahota, sustainability has become deeply ingrained in the cosmetics industry, with brands investing in green ingredients, packaging, and novel product formats. 

Innovations shaping the landscape

"Sustainability is now seen as an integral part of the cosmetics industry, with investments being made in green ingredients, packaging and new product formats," Sahota began.

First, regarding industry innovations, he emphasized the significant shift towards plant-based ingredients. He explained that cosmetic companies and ingredient suppliers have been moving away from petroleum-based raw materials for about 15 years.

Notably, he highlighted advancements in upcycling, where waste materials from diverse industries are repurposed into cosmetic ingredients. For example, he shared, “Palmless and NoPalm are making palm oil alternative using fermentation techniques.”

Other innovations include “bio-based feedstock [which] is being used to make packaging materials that can replace plastics,” he added. “Such materials include wood chips and agricultural fibers [and] the Finnish company Sulapac is a pioneer here with its packaging materials that are made from wood waste and plant-based binders,” he explained.

“Some of the exciting innovations are involving carbon-captured molecules,” he shared further. For example, “Coty, in partnership with Lanzatech, is making sustainable ethanol from industrial emissions, [and] plans to use this sustainable ethanol in the majority of its fragrances, removing the need for agricultural land and reducing its environmental footprint.” 

Addressing deforestation with sustainable sourcing & navigating regulatory changes

Discussing sustainability challenges, Sahota drew attention to deforestation and the cosmetics industry's response. “What is interesting here,” he said, “is that new enterprises are coming up with sustainable sourcing methods that are encouraging regeneration.”

For example, he highlighted Dutch-Indonesian company Forestwise as a pioneer in sustainable sourcing. The company emphasizes working with indigenous communities to collect wild-cultivated ingredients while fostering forest protection agreements. This approach aims to combat deforestation while promoting regenerative practices, he explained. 

Regarding regulatory efforts, Sahota focused on the EU Green Claims Directive, which is aimed at curbing greenwashing practices. He explained that "the European Council passed the so-called 'Green Claims Directive' which will require green claims to be substantiated," which is “a great step forward for the industry, [as] European consumers have been falling victim of false marketing and misleading green claims.” 

Harnessing technological advancements 

Technological advancements will also play a pivotal role in the cosmetics industry's sustainability journey." We are seeing new technologies having a major impact in various ways,” said Sahota. 

“In terms of product development,” for example, “companies are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make customized skin care and personal care products for consumers, [and] AI is also being used to monitor and anticipate consumer behavior,” he shared. 

“New technologies are also being used to produce sustainable ingredients,” he added.” The last decade has seen new processing and extraction methods for plant actives, said Sahota, and companies like Mibelle Biochemistry are great examples of this trend in sustainable advancement through their use of “stem cell technology to produce natural actives from plant cells,” he shared.

A promising future

“This year looks as if it will be an exciting one in terms of sustainability in the cosmetics industry,” Sahota concluded. “We are seeing more green materials introduced, with innovations in terms of feedstock, production and processing methods, as well as new technologies. [And] we are also seeing new green packaging formats, using bio-based feedstock and green materials,” he summarized.

As sustainability continues to drive consumer preferences and regulatory landscapes, brands must adapt and innovate to thrive in this evolving paradigm.

To learn more about these topics and others in the sustainable cosmetics space, consider registering​ for the US edition of Ecovia Intelligence’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, which will be held in New York City from June 4 to 6, 2024.          

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