The Green Transition Of The Beauty Industry: A Path Of Necessity

947 wordsPublished On: March 25th, 2024

In Xunzi’s “Tian Lun,” it is stated: “All things get their harmony to live, and to grow.” The essence of this statement is that in nature, the fates of all living beings are closely intertwined. Biodiversity fills the earth with vitality and is also a necessary condition for the survival and development of humanity. Therefore, environmental protection and sustainability are not only urgent matters but also the essential path for the continuous high-quality development of the industry. In the field of cosmetics, the concept of “sustainability” has been frequently mentioned by major brands in recent years and has become popular among consumers in the form of environmental concepts. According to market intelligence data from the “Magic Mirror,” consumer discussions about sustainable beauty products increased by 56% in 2022, and sales of eco-friendly skincare products related to the concept of “environmental protection” increased by 308.16% year-on-year.

Looking at the trends from the perspective of brands, many beauty brands have been focusing on sustainability in areas such as packaging, raw material formulations, production energy, and processes. Furthermore, both domestic and international beauty industry leaders have been emphasizing the development of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) practices, which advocate for environmental, social, and governance performance over and above traditional financial metrics. Not long ago, Amorepacific signed an environmental packaging development agreement with LG Chemicals, while Estée Lauder collaborated with SK Chemicals, with SK Chemicals providing them with circular recycling solutions. How are beauty brands implementing sustainability practices today? What kind of sustainable directions are likely to be trends both now and in the future? Based on these questions, Jumei Li has compiled the actions of beauty brands in the sustainability aspect.

Here are four ways to drive “recyclable” packaging:

1.Bottle Recycling: Many brands globally have introduced bottle recycling programs, eco-friendly packaging, and replacements. For example, L’Oreal China launched a bottle recycling initiative under the theme “Beauty for All” in 2013, with 11 brands participating by 2018. The total bottle recycling in L’Oreal China had exceeded 260 tons by September 2022. Domestic brand Zhiben launched the “Bottle Travel in Time” mini-program in August 2022, collecting 39,400 bottles, reducing 3955.30kg of carbon dioxide, and recycling 1773.68kg in total. Brands like L’Oreal’s Helena partner with Cycle Terry Environmental for bottle recycling, transforming materials for reuse, promoting consumer involvement through point accumulation systems.

2.Eco-Packaging: Besides recycling programs, cosmetic brands incorporate eco-friendly materials, biomaterials, and biodegradable materials in packaging. For instance, L’Oreal introduced innovative packaging using Carbios’ enzymatic recycling technology, planning for full production by 2025. Meanwhile, Jialan Group focuses on sustainable packaging technologies, implementing the first-in-class injection molding . This technology reduces paint usage significantly, cutting carbon emissions by up to 90% for immense environmental benefits.

3.Replacement Packaging: Replacement packaging, a plastic reduction strategy, allows consumers to refill products directly into original containers, saving costs. Brands like L’Occitane have long promoted refillable products, reducing plastic usage by an average of 85%. Zhiben’s replacement packaging initiative addresses complex material composition issues, using 100% recycled paper for enhanced sustainability.

4.Eco-Friendly Shipping Boxes: Cosmetic brands like Zhiben, Didi Jami, Perfect Diary, and Peloraya are adopting eco-friendly shipping boxes to further sustainability. These initiatives showcase the industry’s commitment to environmental responsibility, extending beyond product material selections. By utilizing recyclable and biodegradable shipping materials, these brands underscore their dedication to reducing plastic waste and minimizing their overall environmental footprint. This holistic approach across the supply chain reflects a collective industry effort towards a more environmentally conscious future.

Cosmetic raw materials are transitioning to greener alternatives.

In addition to using recyclable materials in product packaging, the investment and development of sustainable raw materials have become a growing trend. In 2023, at the Third Sustainable Development Forum organized by Jumei Li, in partnership with DSM-Firmenich, the beauty industry’s future direction was explored from various angles of technology and market insights. Consumers are increasingly willing to spend on environmentally safe products and prefer natural, safe, effective, and chemically minimal formulations, highlighting the demand for safer materials. An increasing number of consumers in China are willing to spend more on environmentally friendly beauty products, indicating a substantial desire for innovative sustainable development concepts within beauty brands.

Cosmetic companies are incorporating sustainable raw materials in three main ways:

1.Self-developed sustainable raw materials: Brands like Amorepacific harness the entire life cycle of their products, starting from research and development to marketing, to minimize their environmental footprint. Material giants DSM-Firmenich produce fragrant materials through yeast fermentation, transforming sugar sources into fragrant raw materials, ensuring precise conversion and significant yields. Similarly, Guerlain Group’s Natural Angel advocacy emphasizes natural and sustainable materials, focusing on extensive research into sustainable ingredients such as super-yeast Yumiehm from the Himalayas and space-bred rose cells.

2.Utilization of new eco-friendly materials: Brands are incorporating new sustainable alternatives like plant-derived squalane to substitute traditional moisturizing ingredients and utilizing abandoned materials such as grape skins, coffee bean waste, and vanilla beans for innovative cosmetic production.

3.The emergence of “waterless beauty” product formulations not only addresses water shortage concerns but also promotes sustainable practices in the beauty industry. By producing products with higher core ingredient concentrations, waterless beauty formulations offer potent solutions that are not only effective but also environmentally friendly. This trend encourages a shift towards more sustainable beauty choices, aligning with the growing consumer demand for eco-conscious products.

In conclusion, the global shift towards sustainable development has been formalized through new standards, emphasizing the importance of ESG reporting. Companies are increasingly publishing annual ESG reports, with a projected 93% expected to do so by 2026. In the cosmetics industry, research and innovation are key drivers for future development, aligning with the growing focus on sustainability. Sustainable cosmetics are no longer a trend but a necessary pathway for the industry’s future growth.

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