Clean beauty is here to stay; what started as a trend is now a solid category in the beauty landscape. Sales of natural and organic beauty products are expected to grow twice as fast from 2018 to 2027 compared to the traditional beauty market, to reach $54.5 billion globally (according to Statista).
The claims of “do good” and “better for you, better for the environment” need to evolve so they include the totality of a product—from formula to package.
Consumers are Driving Change
Consumers are driving change—and demand for greater transparency and reduced waste for cosmetics may catch the industry off guard.
Transparency related to ingredients is shifting to materials. The fashion industry is undergoing a deep self-analysis stemming from consumer backlash, with many content with repurposing and reusing gently worn clothes as both a fashion statement and trend style statement. The waste and, in some cases, deplorable conditions of workers in Third World Countries manufacturing the clothes has raised bells loud enough to get the attention of the fashion elite.
In the cosmetics industry, we have seen consumer activism tied to ingredients and perceived safety of beauty products drive the conversation all the way to Congress where there’s an active interest to update the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).
Might we see a growing concern from a more ecologically aware public more closely scrutinize the chemicals, toxic ingredients, plastic use and overall packaging waste sometimes associated with beauty products?
Retailers Take a Stand
We see some retailers already taking a stance on how they can become part of the solution and better connect with their consumers’ ethos.
In 2019 Walmart announced their sustainability aspirations whereby their own private label brands and vendors are asked to optimize package design, source more sustainably or support recycling efforts.
Most recently, beauty retailer Credo announced their ambition to become more environmentally friendly and part of the sustainability movement that their consumers are so passionate about, and put the onus on their vendors to comply.
Phase 1—ongoing through 2021—is focused on eliminating single-use masks and wipes, expanding packaging takeback, prohibiting PVC, PFAS and BPA while phase 4—ongoing beyond 2023—will be focused on vendors that can meet a circular system.
The Circular Economy Approach: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The traditional model we’ve seen so far has been based on “take, make, waste” whereby the circular economy approach is based on three main principles: reduce, reuse and recycle.
The circular economy framework has an emphasis on the raw materials and ways of designing out waste and pollution; Keep products and materials in use and, last but not least, regenerate natural systems, meaning where parts of the product can go next.
Some have taken this circular economy to heart as part of their brand DNA—from responsible sourcing practices prioritizing locally sourced raw ingredients and materials for packaging and or organically grown ingredients, such as biosourced sugarcane, FSC-certified wood and paper, recycled and recyclable plastics.
Limiting the amount of plastics in packaging is great—as over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year globally with an estimated 120 billion cosmetics packages created annually mostly not reused or recycled, according to Harper’s Bazaar Magazine. Unsustainably sourced cardboard contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year—forest that could be absorbing thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Several Indies have shown great resourcefulness, showing that sourcing materials from impoverished communities can make a 360-degree difference. For instance, Axiology uses paper for the lipstick boxes sourced from a women-owned recycled paper boutique in Bali that collects materials from hotels, offices and households.
Human Nature a Laguna based company, offers hundreds of Filipino farmers benefits and double the minimum wage and profit sharing, by sourcing from them raw materials used in cosmetics such as coconut oil, lemon grass and seaweed—and uses paper packaging rather than small-size PET bottles.
Recyclable & Composted Materials
Utilizing biodegradable carbon-neutral materials and ingredients, Biossance uses squalane ethically and sustainably sourced from 100% plant-based, renewable sugarcane for product formulation and packaging along with Forest Stewardship Council-certified boxes (FSC).
BYBI short for “by beauty insiders” has transparency at its core—from seed to shelf—so consumers can make truly eco-friendly purchasing decisions. Raw materials come from responsible sourcing suppliers while part of their products’ packaging uses a carbon neutral bio-plastic material derived from biodegradable sugarcane, both recyclable and compostable. Their shipments are wrapped in grass-paper boxes, which need 80% less energy than wood pulp to be produced. All in all, only 3% of BYBI’s packaging isn’t recyclable.
Reuse Materials—Give Ingredients a Second Life
Some Indie brands are upcycling other industries’ by-products, such as coffee grounds or fruit stones, and turning them into new sustainable ingredients.
UpCircle as the goal of saving 120 tons of coffee within the next five years. Spent coffee grounds, used chai tea spices, and leftover fruit stones become natural ingredients for soaps, face masks, serums and exfoliators without the need to farm or grow anything new—not only preserving our planet’s natural resources but also preventing new waste from hitting landfills.
Kaffe Bueno, a Denmark-based startup, upcycles coffee waste from two hotel chains and one office building in Copenhagen, into active and functional ingredients for cosmetics, nutraceuticals and functional foods.
Did you know that when brewed, coffee grounds release roughly only 1% of their health-enhancing compounds, leaving the rest inside the spent coffee grounds as an untapped resource that ends up decomposing in landfills and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that has a warming effect 86 times higher than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period?
Bloomeffects Is the First To Use Picea Wood Tubes
Bloomeffects in the first beauty brand to use Picea in the U.S.
Picea wooden tubes are made from sawdust collected from German carpenters and can be recycled over and over -- with the added benefit of having a carbon footprint that is 40% smaller than conventional plastic tubes. Over 95% of the materials used in these tubes are derived from renewable resources.
Indie Brands Take a 'Circular' Approach
Small steps make a world of difference. Many in the Indie community have sought to take a stance and create products that make a statement and have a “circular” holistic approach.
Beyond “doing the right thing” and minimizing reputational risks, the biggest opportunities of going circular probably lie in the potential for differentiation by innovation and strengthened supply chain collaboration.
So what can we expect to see next?