In a world in which we are witnessing the constant increase in temperatures and with the levels of the seas constantly rising, individual and collective responsibility for the environment has become a social need of great urgency.
The impact that companies have on environmental pollution can and must be contained and during the most recent period, we are seeing a real reversal of the trend compared to the past, with companies investing in systems that reduce the environmental impact and oriented towards sustainability at different levels of the production chain.
Research and innovation: how companies evolve in the Green
In the cosmetics industry, this implies paying attention to the selection of raw materials, packaging materials, the environmental impact of production activities and the transport of goods. For this reason, sustainability is achieved and developed in a complex process with different criticalities. The focus of all activities is on reducing emissions to the environment and consumption to ensure environmental balance.
A first approach is in the selection of raw materials, with cosmetic companies increasingly focused on the use of ingredients of natural origin compared to petrochemicals and respecting the environment in the productive modalities and in the working conditions of the employees. The use of plant raw materials is therefore dictated not only by business needs and “appeal” to the consumer, but also by a real need for environmental sustainability.
The future challenges of sustainable cosmetics
With regard to packaging materials, this also involves reducing packaging, using recyclable materials and clearly communicating disposal through environmental labelling (which will be mandatory starting in 2023). The market is also pushing for the promotion of a culture of consumer awareness, asking to avoid wasting cosmetics, to use them in an informed way and with proper waste disposal methods.
The use of gases in cosmetics has been greatly reduced, with the increasingly frequent use of mousse in which the delivery of the product is determined by the mechanical pumping system and not by the presence of propellant.
Regulations and definitions: a necessary step for sustainable cosmetics
In this varied panorama of possibilities to reach sustainability, it is necessary to pay attention to the presence on the cosmetic market of several companies, that consciously or not, implement the process of “Greenwashing”, deceiving the public through “the misappropriation of environmental virtues aimed at creating a green image” (as defined by the European Commission).
Until now, there are different ways to communicate sustainability to consumers: through product certifications (for example, the Nordic Swan, in the countries of Northern Europe the environmental issue is particularly felt by the public), with the obtaining of process certifications (ISO 14001 sets out the requirements for an environmental management system) or through working methodologies to assess the environmental footprint (LCA, Life Cycle Assessment, which in turn uses two industry ISO standards as a benchmark for assessing the environmental performance of a company’s products, processes and services). Therefore, the use of a natural raw material on its own is not sufficient to communicate sustainability to the consumer.
There are many strategies in place and, in the lack of univocity of guidelines (very difficult to obtain given the different business complexities), it is currently the responsibility of companies to clearly communicate to consumers, without misunderstandings, the strategies put in place to produce sustainable cosmetics, indicating not only the results achieved but also future objectives.