Sustainability and Cosmetics

… that if Procter & Gamble moved its entire … presence in the beauty business. Earlier this year … : Beauty Kitchen, Blueland, Frosch, L’Oréal hair care ( … companies have joined ASD including: Beiersdorf, Chanel, Clariant, Clarins, Clorox, Croda, Estée Lauder …

Sponsored by:

Melissa Juried Kriebel

IceCream Sunscreen


Sustainability remains front and center for cosmetic industry suppliers, formulators and, most importantly, consumers.

A February 2022 survey of 16,000 global consumers found that more than half (51%) of respondents say environmental sustainability is more important to them today than it was 12 months ago, according to a global survey conducted by IBM Institute for Business Value. IBM also found that consumers’ actions are starting to match their intent. Half of consumers said they’ve paid a premium—a whopping average of 59% more—for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the past 12 months.

With that in mind, the New York Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC) recently held an all-day seminar on the topic of sustainability. The event was co-chaired by Stacey House, KDC/One, and Ben Blinder, Gattefossé.

Sandra Goldmark, Barnard College/Columbia Climate School

“Every year the NYSCC Chair pre-determines the monthly event program and the event chairs get to work to determine the location and identify the best speakers to support our focus. We select themes that are relevant to our members and the industry to keep all dialed into current topics,” noted House. “Sustainability happens to be one that is not a trend, but an opportunistic challenge that impacts all of us today with our decisions starting from a product concept to our purchases.”

Blinder noted that NYSCC Chair Giorgio Dell’Acqua is heavily invested in the topic of sustainability, circularity and naturality.

“He gave us the general topic but left it to Stacey and me to organize the speakers and program,” said Blinder. “We received a lot of support from the NYSCC team to help organize the practical details of the event; such as booking the venue, publicity and managing registrations. That allowed us to focus squarely on the content and the speakers.”

House said she was very pleased with the turnout. In fact, the event, held at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, New York City, was sold out and sustainability will again be on the NYSCC Seminar agenda in 2023.

Blinder noted that people often think of sustainability simply as “recycling” and “reducing waste” but it is so much more than that.

“There is so much more to be done to improve sustainability in our industry, and the speakers gave us a lot to think about,” recalled Blinder. “They also made it personal; by that I mean that in addition to large-scale efforts the audience could support within their own companies, the speakers also suggested many things individuals can do on a personal level; for example, relating sustainability to concepts like diversity, equity and inclusion.”

All the World’s a Stage…for Sustainablity Efforts

Reuse is a key component of sustainability, yet it is a poor stepchild in most discussions regarding reduce-reuse-recycle. Sandra Goldmark, Barnard College/Columbia Climate School, reworked the conversation by pointing to a World Resource Institute study that found by doubling global circularity in the next 10 years, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be reduced by 39% and shrink the total material footprint by 28%.

Reuse took centerstage when Goldmark detailed a Barnard Collage case study involving stage scenery.

“Thousands of pounds of stage scenery ended up in the dumpster,” she recalled.

In her study, Goldmark found all new scenery material cost $10,000. Half used/half new cost $5,000 and all used scenery cost just $2,000. Goldmark took those lessons to the street, with Fixup, a series pop-up repair shops all over New York City. The company was originally staffed by stagehands.

“Stagehands can fix anything,” she noted.

Since its inception, the program has fixed lamps, small appliances, jewelry, clothing and more. Fixup partners with companies such as Patagonia and Darling Coffee, as well as

Yarden Horwtiz, Spate

organizations like the YMCA.

Next, she wrote a book on the experience, called Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet.

“The circularity wave is happening,” Goldmark insisted, noting that by 2040, Target plans for 100% of its owned brand products to be designed for a circular future.

Searching for Sustainability via Spate and Google

Spate mines Google search data to uncover trends in a variety of industries. Ironically, according to Google Co-Founder Yarden Horwitz, consumers are showing interest in “sustainability,” but are not using that language for beauty.

“In beauty, language is evolving and certain categories are more top-of-mind for sustainability,” she said.

For example, there’s been a 36.7% YoY increase in Google search for “sustainable soap” and related terms. More impressive, searches for “sustainable nails” jumped 62.4%. But at the same time, there’s been a 32.2% increase in searches related to “sustainable sunscreen.”

“Consumers were looking at terms such as ‘reef-safe sunscreen,’” she noted.

Horwitz turned to the growing clean beauty trend. The top trending clean beauty brands based on Google search data are:
The Ordinary
Fast-climbing beauty brands in the space include Merit Beauty (144.7% YoY growth) and Topicals (134.8%).  

“Being a clean beauty brand doesn’t mean you’ll win, but it helps to build trust for new brands,” she concluded.

Biology Is THE Technology

NYSCC may need a new name. Biotechnology is reshaping the cosmetics industry, according to Arcaea’s Jasmina Aganovic. She commended the industry’s move to a plant-based supply chain, but noted that if Procter & Gamble moved its entire manufacturing procedures to a plant-based model, it wouldn’t find enough feedstock on the market. Instead, Aganovic argued, the solution is biotech.

Jasmina Aganovic, Arcaea

She reviewed several common beauty ingredients and explained how biotech makes them better. For example, panthenol was traditionally derived from petroleum, but the material can be created via bacterial fermentation. Squalene, at one time, was extracted from sharks, but it can be made via yeast fermentation. And hyaluronic acid, the humectant-of-the-moment, once came from rooster combs, now it comes from bacteria.

“Think about what we could create if we built products based on biotechnology,” she said. “The future is expressive biology. It a new ingredient palette based on the Tree of Life!”
Ginkgo Bioworks just does that. The company programs cells to make everything from food to materials to therapeutics.

Arcaea was incubated in Ginkgo Bioworks, and is a growing presence in the beauty business. Earlier this year, Arcaea acquired Gadusol Laboratories, an Oregon State University spinout that seeks to synthetically produce UV-absorbing compounds found in marine life. No launch date has been set, but Aganovic has stated her goal is “developing the cosmetic lab of the future” and building a “biology-first minded beauty company.”

What companies are investing in biotech? Aganovic used an X and Y axis graph to plot the leaders and laggards in the field. Among global CPG companies, Natura and L’Oréal standout. Indie beauty leaders include The New and Beautycounter. Top biotech startups are Amyris and Checkerspot. On the supply side, leaders include Givaudan, Croda and Firmenich.

How do these companies assess their progress? Aganovic said multinationals and their suppliers rely on globally-recognized, science-based metrics.  For multinationals, that includes LCA-based targets that include Scope 3 emissions and consumer-use phase. Leading suppliers also use Scope 3 emissions. In contrast, according to Aganovic, only one indie brand, Beautycounter, mentions mapping 53 emissions and engaging their suppliers in sustainability efforts. Other takeways? Among multinationals, zero-deforestation claims are universal and other ingredient related targets, such as 100% biobased (L’Oréal) and 100% biodegradable (Unilever) are beginning to emerge. Among suppliers, terms like “bio-based” and “no deforestation” are beginning to emerge. Among indie brands, locally sourced and reduced transportation goals are unique to this category as they are feasible for smaller brands, according to Aganovic, citing third-party landscape assessments.

To get started on a sustainability journey, Arganovic suggested the following steps:
• Material assessment;
• Target setting and reporting frameworks;
• Product design with lifecycle thinking (design for the environment);
• Supplier engagement; and
• External partnerships.

She noted that materiality defines what can have significant impact on the activities of an organization and on the ability of the organization to create value for itself and stakeholders. Aganovic suggested using a globally-recognized reporting framework and set of standards lends credibility to the numbers and, more importantly, provides guidance around impact. She called the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) the most highly-regarded reporting framework within the industry.

“The product design process must include life cycle thinking in order to achieve net positive impact for the company,” she said. “Industry leaders already have targets for 2030 across the whole product life cycle.”

But to truly achieve net-zero or net-positive status, marketers must partner with suppliers. The Carbon Disclosure Project and Ecovadis are two widely-used organizations that help suppliers reach their sustainability goals. As a supplier, Aganovic noted that Arcaea will be subject to the ESG assessments that many large retailers use. Walmart’s Supplier Sustainability Assessment Questionnaire is a good example.

Connecting Formulators and Suppliers

How can formulators find like-minded suppliers? Yashi Shrestha, Novi, walked attendees through the current jargon, noting that “clean beauty has evolved beyond ‘free of’ claims.” To safety and efficacy requirement, the market demands sourcing and end-of-life data. At the same time, ingredients and formulas must have negligible impact on climate and society.
She reviewed popular labels such as USDA Organic, Ecocert and Credo and noted that as consumers demand more transparency, retailers have responded by updating their policies and compelling brands to look deeper into their supply chains.

“It is important for the industry to collaborate in order to improve transparency,” Shrestha explained. “Novi enables data-driven formula development.”

The company extracts thousands of data points from supplier documents which feed internal algorithms that vet ingredients and products. Novi’s all-in-one workflow helps regulatory departments vet every ingredient against sustainability standards and claims, and provides access to substantiating documentation for validation as well as product registration needs. For procurement departments, Novi provides real-time access to supplier quotes and availability, and facilitates purchase orders, shipping and transaction reports. For R&D departments, Novi’s marketplace allows discovery of innovative ingredients that meet the brand’s product briefs with readily available technical information.

“We work directly with retailers, brands and suppliers to inform every side of the system. It is important for industry to collaborate in order to improve transparency.”

The Sustainable Packaging Picture

Adrian Apodaca, HCT Packaging, took to the podium and admitted, “I am a plastic addict. It is functional, cheap and versatile.”

And not good for the planet. The new normal for beauty packaging, he said, is functional, sustainable, utilizes recyclable and/or recycled materials and is refillable when possible.

Adrian Apodaca, HCT Packaging

“The main goal for new packaging is to reduce single use plastic as much as possible,” Apodaca insisted.

He reviewed several cosmetic packages that do that. Fenty’s Icon lipstick outer componentry contains PCR material. It is refillable and durable for many reuses. Similarly, Skkn by Kim packaging contains PCR material. Its refillable componentry is polypropylene and cartons are mad with recycled paper pulp. The Humanrace sun care line includes up to 60% PCR on outer componentry. The refillable tubs make it possible for outer componentry reuse.

Despite these advances, it’s obvious that plastics will remain a key component of beauty packaging. To improve sustainability profiles, the goal is to replace most if not all of a component’s part list with a single material. Traditionally, packagers used a variety of different plastics and other materials to fine-tune function and aesthetics for each part. Moving to single material is easier for simple componentry like bottles, but it becomes a challenge for mechanical assemblies such as pumps and lipstick mechanisms, noted Apodaca.

Some marketers are getting there. NuSkin’s Nutricentials Hyaluronic Acid Pump, for example, has outer componentry made from polypropylene and PCR content. Its refillable inner chamber is made from 100% polypropylene.

Manufacturers and suppliers aren’t the only culprits in the plastics issue. Apodaca noted that it takes plenty of diligence by end users to properly recycle components—and proper recycling infrastructure is lacking in most of the US.

“Even with proper recycling, there is a limit to how much PCR plastic can be used and how many times it can be recycled,” noted Apodaca.

Of course, plastic isn’t the only headache for recyclers. Most cardboard palettes have an outer plastic coating that prevents them from getting properly recycled. The best option is to use uncoated cardboard. To further reduce recycling issues, Apodaca recommended tin jars replace outer plastic packaging. The inner container could be polypropylene for recyclability. These innovations won’t cure the beauty industry’s plastic addiction, but could temper it.

Transparency, Traceability and Green Chemistry

Shaun Barker, Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), said sustainability has been central to how ELC and its brands have operated. But he also noted that many blame the cosmetics industry for making false claims and greenwashing. Barker blamed it, in part, to a disconnect between cosmetic labels and consumer understanding. He pointed to a Mintel survey that found:
• 68% of respondents said it is important or extremely important to consider the ingredients when deciding which products to buy;
• Only 2% of respondents understand the entire label;
• 45% are often confused by the ingredients; and
• 80% of US consumers are confused regarding overall labeling.

To improve transparency at ELC, the company maintains glossaries on more than 100 key ingredients across 11 brands, as well as an ELC corporate glossary. These glossaries detail the functionality, and in some cases, sourcing of these ingredients.

“We use blockchain for traceability,” Barker added.

Shaun Barker, The Estée Lauder Companies

He noted that Aveda was one of the first beauty companies to launch a commercial blockchain. The technology debuted in 2019 and focused on the Madagascan vanilla supply chain. Consumers use online mapping tools to follow vanilla’s journey from Madagascar to France to Minnesota. Now, the technology is expanding to other key ingredients.
ELC incorporates green chemistry principles in its product development process.

“It took 10 years to develop this system,” said Barker, explaining the company spent many years collaborating with experts in the field, assess its internal capabilities and developing tools to enable ELC teams to seamlessly leverage green chemist in their daily work.

Central to the ELC approach is the Green Score Program which, Barker explained, provides a quantifiable method for its formulators to benchmark and inform their formulation choices based on the principles of green chemistry.

Green Score data can be leveraged to inform and guide future innovation, according to Barker. Specific ingredient choices can have different magnitudes of impact on formula Green Scores. For example, impacts are influenced by formulation choice complexity and respective ingredient Green Scores, use levels and efficacies. The tool will be continuously updated, too.

Barker reviewed several ELC packaging goals. For example, by 2025, 75-100% of packaging will be recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled or recoverable. Also, by 2025, ELC will increase the amount of PCR material in its packaging to 25% or more. He reviewed the company’s climate accomplishments such as sourcing 100% renewable electricity globally for its direct operations. The company has solar projects in New York, Minnesota and Switzerland. Regarding social investment, 95% of ELC brands identify causes that are meaningful to them. Since 1992, The ELC Breast Cancer Campaign and Charitable Foundation have funded more than $108 million globally.

Cradle to Cradle Certified

Noting that 95% of packaging in the cosmetics industry is thrown away, Monica Becker, Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, told attendees it is critical to formulate for the circular economy.

“Today, only 8.6% of the global economy is circular,” she explained. “We need to get to 17% to make an impact.”

The Institute’s vision is a world where safe materials and products are designed and manufactured in a prosperous, circular economy to maximize health and wellbeing for people and planet.

“The transition to renewable energy will address only 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Becker. “The remaining 45% must be addressed by transforming the way we make and use products.”

The Cradle-to-Cradle principles are a design framework characterized by three principles derived from nature:
• Everything is a resource for something else;
• Use clean and renewable energy; and
• Celebrate diversity.

According to the Institute, safe, circular and responsibly-made cosmetics involve three channels:
• Ingredients that are safe for humans and the environment. They should be renewable, upcycled and rely on regenerative agriculture, and responsibly sourced;
• Manufacturing that relies on renewable energy, water and material efficiency, and respects human rights, and fair and equitable business practices; and
• Packaging that uses safe chemicals and materials; includes PCR and renewable content; is designed for refill, recycling, composting systems, and supports infrastructure for circular systems.

Becker called the Cradle to Cradle Certified program, the most ambitious and actionable standard yet for designing and manufacturing products and packaging that is safe, circular and responsibly made. It addresses material health, product circularity, clean air and climate protection, water and soil stewardship, and social fairness. She said the program provides a pathway to measurable improvements and innovation. The program certifies products, packaging or both.

Cradle to Cradle-certified brands include: Beauty Kitchen, Blueland, Frosch, L’Oréal hair care (Carol’s Daughter, Garnier, L’Oréal Paris Elvive and Ever Pure, Pureology and Redken), Maybelline and Nu by YSL.

Going Beyond RSPO

The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) got the conservation conversation going on one important cosmetic ingredient. But what’s next? Laurent Schubnel, Gattefossé SAS, detailed Action on Sustainable Derivatives (ASD). The industry-led platform brings together companies in the home and personal care, and oleochemicals industries to collectively tackle supply chain issues around palm oil and palm kernel oil derivatives.

This collaborative effort includes suppliers and formulators who share the same objective and ambition to accelerate transformation of the complex palm derivatives sector.
ASD’s three main goals are:
• No deforestation;
• Human rights respected; and
• Livelihoods supported.

The ASD framework for action includes transparency and monitoring, supply and market transformation, and positive impact. ASD monitors plantations, mills, and refineries and crushing facilities.

“Through ASD, we have more ability to address grievances and correct them,” explained Schubnel. “Alone, we wouldn’t have access to all of this information. Join us!”

ASD membership generates a positive impact and members are trusted brands for customers. At the same time, members ensure long-term sustainable supply and improve internal quality control and accountability processes.

Since its formation in 2019, 25 companies have joined ASD including: Beiersdorf, Chanel, Clariant, Clarins, Clorox, Croda, Estée Lauder, Evonik, Gattefossé, Galaxy, GSK, Henkel, Innospec, Johnson & Johnson, L’Occitane, L’Oréal, LVMH, Natura, Nuxe, Orkla, Reckitt, Sasol, Seppic, Solvay, Stearnere Dubois and Zschimmer & Schwarz.

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