Summit Tackles Obstacle of Sustainable Cosmetics

Posted on May 30, 2012 @ 08:07 am

The North American edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit was held in New York City on May 17-19th. More than 180 executives from the cosmetics industry discussed key sustainability issues over the three-day summit and the meeting concluded that the cosmetics industry needs to improve measurement techniques for its environmental impacts and increase adoption rates of sustainable packaging.

Numerous speakers discussed methods of measuring the environmental impact of cosmetic products. Although many companies are undertaking life-cycle analysis, varying methodologies, lack of standardized data and general difficulties in analyzing cosmetic formulations prevent accurate measurement. For example, according to Denise Alves from Natura Brasil, because her company sources over 1,000 raw materials it is not possible to examine the supply chains of all ingredients. Natura Brasil finds that 76% of its products environmental impact is from raw materials and final disposal. By measuring and reducing its carbon footprint, Natura Brasil has become one of the few cosmetic companies to become carbon neutral. Its remaining carbon emissions are then offset by investing in reforestation projects.

Other meeting highlights included:

• The Sustainable Packaging session explored environmentally-friendly packaging options. In the opening paper, Intertek stressed the magnitude of the packaging problem by stating it comprises a third of landfill waste. Proceeding papers covered the importance of eco-design in reducing packaging impact, innovations in recycled packaging, the potential of bio-plastics and novel packaging materials. Sustainable packaging solutions case studies were presented. Procter & Gamble showed how it is switching to environmentally-friendly materials for its Pantene shampoos and Gillette outer packs.

• In the Sustainability Best-Practices session, Avon stated it is focusing on resource efficiency, ethical sourcing and green buildings in its sustainability program.

• Royal Ahold USA shared its approach to sustainability, which involves factoring in consumer knowledge. Reducing waste to landfill is a high priority for the international retailer.

• The Green Formulations session highlighted new sustainable ingredients, especially for natural and organic cosmetics.

• Other papers by AAK and Evonik re-iterated the complexity of measuring the environmental footprint of cosmetic formulations.

• Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients, opened the second day of the summit with an opening keynote on the Green Marketing Challenges.

• The CEO Roundtable session included discussions on other industry challenges, including raw material availability, green washing and lack of legislation.