Is green only the new glamorous?

“I cannot speak highly enough of this brand… there are literally 6 ingredients in this shampoo, it’s so pure, I’m so impressed by its quality” Ellen Fisher

No, that is definitely not the typical quote you were expecting. But… in the age of technology, beauty bloggers and influencers, especially in times of quarantine when constantly on social media, you must at least once in the day have encountered an ad for this personalized organic shampoo or this reef safe sunscreen in your feed. While we are very often spammed with ads of some kind of eco-friendly product It is completely fair to wonder if the brands in question are using sustainability as a strategic differentiator and a branding opportunity only or if their products are actually “clean”. Is green only the new glamorous?

Having a dual effect on both the consumers and the environment, the cosmetics industry can have huge impacts depending on whether companies take part in environmentally proactive innovation. Deforestation is the most detrimental impact of that industry, an effect of the mass production of palm oil. Another devastating result is high animal extinction rates. Additionally, each year, more than eight million tonnes of plastic residues from packaging end up in the oceans, endangering marine biodiversity and putting everyone’s health at risk. As society shifts more and more towards integrated sustainability, different sectors are pressured to implementing sustainable practices. Cosmetics and Personal Care Industry is no exception.

Over consumption of palm oil

The consumer's increased desire for transparency about product constituents together with the urge to prevent environmental distress has pushed many companies to opt for sustainable practices and integrate them into their supply chain, packaging, and ingredients. Some of the most impactful actions are the use of RFID for supply chain tracking, pigging systems that increase yields through recovering saleable product which may otherwise have gone to waste, together with faster changeovers in the production process. Other technological advances in the manufacture of the products involving innovative new ingredients, sustainable sourcing of raw ingredients and recyclable packaging play also an important role in that mission.
Eco-friendly refillable packaging 
The desire to attract a new consumer is one reason that companies choose to aggressively implement sustainability practices. That consumer is known as the “Green consumer”. A main feature of that group of customers is their willingness to pay premium pricing for organic and natural products while valuing quality over intrinsic characteristics. Cosmetics sector, contrarily to what many think, is not solely comprised of makeup products, but expands beyond to include lotions, acne medications, and other basic human care products. People are getting increasingly aware of what they are putting on their skin as a supplement to full health and wellness. For that reason, sustainability is becoming more mainstream, almost mandatory and rooted in organizational culture.

An emerging market trend of green chemistry and environmental thought are growing rapidly and are disrupting the cosmetic sector. The rise of ethical consumerism has led green companies to take over the market. Going green has been and is still a trend, but during the past few years it also became a necessity, one that companies took advantage of. The success stories of the large multinational brands that have embraced sustainability are another driving factor for the expansion of what was thought of as a passing fad. Especially if you look at L’Oréal and Unilever that have made significant progress on their sustainability programs and eco-conscious products with seemingly impossible objectives, and consistently achieved them.

In modern marketing, the word “green” has become synonymous with “organic” or “healthy.” When consumers see “green cosmetics,” on a label they automatically make eco-friendly assumptions about the product or company. This cognitive bias causing people’s opinion of something in one domain to influence their opinion of it in other domains is known as the halo effect, and it is what companies most rely on. Typically, the term is used to describe products using eco-friendly formulations, production practices or packaging methods. You may have guessed that in marketing terms even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published guidelines to clarify what green or natural means, these guidelines are still loosely defined. The good news is that even if brands are benefiting of the hype around “going green” small changes to their practices would make a major positive impact on the environment. Netherlands-based LCA center found that if refillable containers were used for cosmetics, as much as 70% of carbon emissions associated with the beauty industry could be eliminated.

For many, sustainability and cosmetics are two terms that do not sit well together. Fortunately, going green is no longer just a trend. Pioneering beauty brands focusing on positive impact innovation and creativity are paving the way for their less sustainable siblings towards an eco-friendlier future.

Link to the Unilever site for more info on their sustainable practices
Link to the L’Oréal website for more info on their sustainability program
More about pigging systems