Cosmetics summit highlights sustainability shortcomings

Cosmetics summit highlights sustainability shortcomings

Greater steps need to be taken to reduce the environmental impact of cosmetic formulations and packaging.

The 2nd Latin American edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit drew to a successful close a few weeks ago in São Paulo. The summit highlighted shortcomings in the sustainable development of the cosmetics industry. Although Latin American firms are leading in some areas of sustainability like ethical sourcing and biodiversity, greater steps need to be taken to reduce the environmental impact of cosmetic formulations and packaging.

More than 150 senior executives from the cosmetics industry convened in Sao Paulo to discuss sustainability issues. The summit showcased industry best-practices from leading companies, such as Grupo Boticário, Natura Brasil, Unilever and Grupo Pão de Açúcar. Several speakers highlighted the growing complexity of sustainability; Malu Nunes from Grupo Boticário stated that sustainability can no longer be an isolated function, ‘it has to be spread across organization departments’. Natura Brasil, which has been carbon neutral since 2007, gave details of its carbon measurement program. The largest cosmetics company in Latin America has reduced carbon emissions by 28 percent since 2006 whilst expanding its business.

Difficulties in raw material sourcing were cited as one of the reasons behind the low production levels of natural and organic cosmetics. Although cosmetic companies are interested in green formulations, very few have developed certified products. Arte dos Aromas and Feito Brasil Cosméticos were presented as two Brazilian companies that have managed to overcome the technical hurdles. IBD Certification and Ecocert gave an update on the adoption rates of their standards in the region. According to IBD Certification, government regulations were preventing the organic cosmetics market from taking off. The panel discussion was on the environmental impact of ingredients, with some debate whether plant-based materials were always more sustainable then synthetics.

Approaches to reduce the environmental footprint of packaging were also featured. Karen Santos, CEO of Creez Communicação e Design, encouraged cosmetic firms to think of packaging waste as materials for new products via the cradle-to-cradle design approach. To reduce packaging waste, the retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar has set up recycling stations at its stores. The cosmetics association ABIHPEC is working with local government agencies to set up reverse logistics schemes to remove packaging from waste streams. In its paper, ACV Brasil stated companies should also factor in social impacts when considering life cycle assessments.

In the marketing session, a number of papers highlighted the pervading influence of digital technology. In his speech on social media, Gabriel Borges CEO of Ampfy said “the Internet has changed the game of everyone a voice!” Cosmetic brands were encouraged to utilize social media to build partnerships with consumers. The growth in mobile devices was making TV the secondary screen to most consumers, according to the agency DP6. Other speakers covered digital marketing and sustainability communications.

Discussions about sustainable development of the cosmetics industry will continue in the upcoming European (Paris, Oct. 21 to 23) and Asia-Pacific (Hong Kong, Nov. 11 to 13) editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.



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