sustainability challenges facing cosmetics and personal care industry

An Overview of the Cosmetics and Personal Care Industry

Valued at USD 130.7 Billion in 2016, the global cosmetics and personal care product market is expected to grow with a CAGR between 4.7% and 5.3% from 2017 to 2023.sustainability in personal care and beauty industry

Also referred to as the ‘Beauty Industry’, the market has successfully proven its ability to accomplish strong and continuous growth, as well as its capacity to be resilient even when the economic climate has been unfavourable.

Booming Beauty Industry

The cosmetics and personal care industry can be divided into many smaller segments. These include make-up, skin care, hair products, fragrances and toiletries. Combined, these segments form an industry that continues to grow, evolve and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

Despite the future looking promising for the cosmetics and personal care sector, the industry still faces challenges and obstacles that it must overcome. This blog article focuses on the challenges impacting global cosmetics and personal care companies regarding environmental sustainability and ethical production.

Some of the most important sustainability challenges include eco-friendly packaging, green formulations, transparency and traceability, climate change, greenwashing, social impacts and water management.

Environmental Impact of Beauty Products

In recent years, sustainability has become a key concern for many businesses in the cosmetics and personal care industry.

Because consumers have become more concerned about health, wellness and issues such as natural resource depletion and environmental degradation, the environmental performance of products and processes has become a key consideration.

At the same time, due to the rising number of beauty blogs, social media accounts and YouTube Channels dedicated to going chemical-free, consumers have access to more information than ever before.

Many consumers are now turning to ‘greener’ alternatives when it comes to beauty and personal care products. They are demanding products that do not harm their skin, nor the environment or society; as well as products that are natural, traceable and free from modified ingredients.

A recent green beauty survey, conducted by Kari Gran, further supports this claim. The survey found that consumers between the ages of 35-54 are increasingly going green with a large majority of them (69%) stating that natural products are important to them. What’s more, an even larger percentage (73%) of millennial consumers surveyed now demand cleaner, all-natural products.

Increasing Focus on Environmental Sustainability

The increasing focus on environmental sustainability and the need for resource efficiency has encouraged cosmetics and personal care manufacturers to look more closely at, and address their environmental and social impact.sustainability challenges facing cosmetics and personal care industry

Most of their attention is going on green formulations and raw material sourcing, as well as more eco-friendly packaging to help reduce environmental impact.

At the same time, many beauty companies are leading the field in monitoring their water, energy and resource use, as well as considering their operational efficiency.

Banning Certain Cosmetics and Personal Care Ingredients

In cosmetics, encouragement of environmentally-responsibility has been largely reported with calls to manage the biodiversity and sourcing of certain ingredients and to phase out others completely.

Recently the spotlight has been on microbeads, with many countries and companies banning their use in cosmetics and personal care products. Microbeads refer to the little pieces of plastic that are added to many cosmetics and personal care ‘rinse-off’ products including face wash, face scrub and toothpaste.

Because microbeads take a long time to degrade and are predominately washed down the drain, they end up in rivers, lakes and oceans and cause serious harm to marine life.

The microbead ban in the UK, USA and many other countries is a great victory, considering experts predict that around 8 million tons of the plastic pieces end up in the ocean every year. The ban is also guaranteed to accelerate the search for ‘natural’ alternatives.

Are Claims of Sustainability Always Accurate?

So, a large proportion of the industry is making positive movements towards embracing sustainability practices.

But, the question remains how can you tell if a beauty product has been manufactured sustainably? At the same time, how can you be certain that the claims of sustainability are not just a form of greenwashing?

Greenwashing accusations have been made to many industries, including the cosmetics and personal care sector. It refers to the practice of making an unproven or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product.

Some Firms Jumping on the Bandwagon

The trends towards ‘natural’ and ‘safe’ ingredients have resulted in an organic beauty boom. They have also resulted in a steady rise in reports of firms engaging in greenwashing.

In the cosmetics and personal care industry, some companies are utilising marketing messages and labelling to somewhat mislead customers into thinking their products are environmentally-friendly. Unfortunately, many so-called green products in the industry are not as eco-friendly as they may seem. In some cases, products touted as natural can contain up to 30% of synthetic ingredients.

Largely Unregulated Industry

Greenwashing comes as no surprise considering the beauty industry remains largely unregulated in the UK and many countries.

So, many consumers are making the mistake of purchasing products labelled as ‘natural’ or ‘organic, believing them to be a safer and better option. Unfortunately, the term ‘natural’ means nothing in the beauty industry. In fact, it’s a completely unregulated term and sometimes used as a marketing ploy.environmental sustainability personal care and beauty

In theory, any cosmetics product can have labelling which states organic and natural even if it contains no organic and natural ingredients.

The Soil Association proposes that firms should focus on reformulating their products, so they are environmentally friendly and toxin-free, instead of spending their money on making broad or unsubstantiated claims about their products.

The good news is that it’s only a small minority of companies. And many beauty firms are actually making great progress with sustainability.

Pigging Helps Beauty Firms Improve Environmental Sustainability

To help reduce their environmental impact, many cosmetics and personal care companies are implementing product recovery (‘pigging’) systems into their processing plants.

Pigging is an innovative and effective solution that is bringing significant cost savings as well as environmental benefits to cosmetics companies throughout the world. Here’s a detailed explanation of what pigging is and how it works.

As well as improving environmental sustainability, pigging systems offers many other benefits; no product is wasted at the end of runs, yield increases are significant, minimal effluent is produced and waste, water, time and resources are reduced. Plus, there are the additional benefits of pigging, such as production turnover is quicker and the improvements in operational efficiencies that the systems deliver.

That’s why implementing fully sustainable product recovery technology such as pigging is one of the most effective actions a cosmetics and personal care company can take to minimise its environmental impact.

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