Choosing sustainable products has become such an important trend for consumers that brands can no longer ignore the need to be eco-conscious. In their recent 2022 Sustainability Barometer report, Mintel found that over 40% of consumers reported they would be encouraged to purchase products where the labelling shows how a product is environmentally friendly and/or its impact on the environment.
Proving and explaining sustainability is also so important, particularly considering potentially misleading ‘green washing’ claims, that around 60 cosmetic stakeholders, including some very big cosmetic brands and associations, have come together to form an EcoBeautyScore consortium. You can track the progress of its development here – but while we wait for the full details of how sustainability of cosmetic ingredients and personal care products can be ‘scored’, here are my top tips to help you make your brand more eco-transparent for your consumer and support your sustainability message.
Eco-ready tip # 1: Clarify what sustainability means to your brand.
One of the simplest definitions of sustainability could be: being able to be maintained at a certain rate. For example, if we need to chop down a hectare of three-year old trees to obtain an ingredient, then we need to replant a hectare of those trees – and should have already planted another two hectares of those same trees two and three years ago.
Unfortunately, true sustainability, when you consider a broader meaning of the term, such as ensuring the rate of use can be maintained over several years, and in fact, ensuring longevity of the supply for future generations, it becomes much hard to define and prove. It becomes even harder when you try to apply either definition to the cosmetics industry!
There are very few cosmetic ingredients that can be plucked from a source and used as they are – in fact, there are hardly any. Just about every cosmetic ingredient needs at least a purifying step, while many cosmetic ingredients can have multiple processing steps, and even international transport, before they are used in a cosmetic formula. Each of those processing steps can have a significant carbon footprint, not to mention the impact of any shipping methods over long distances – so it goes far beyond replanting the original material in a growth-rate related manner.
Other considerations can include, but are not limited to: the impact on local societies, where farming or culture is impacted; and waste matter, throughout the production process. Watch this video which also explains how natural ingredients can still have a significant carbon footprint – and what you might need to check with your supplier to make sure you haven’t misinterpreted their meaning of green.
True sustainability needs to take into account the overall impact of an ingredient – not just if it can be regrown or replanted in a time efficient manner. It’s this overall impact that is much harder to quantify not only for an individual ingredient, but for a multi-component product, including all elements of its packaging, such as a finished cosmetic or personal care product.
The EcoBeautyScore will take into account all of these factors, so get your brand ready by clarifying: what aspects of sustainability have you taken into account, and what areas of sustainability have you not yet considered?
Eco-ready tip # 2: Start collecting documentation.
As with any claim, evidence is required to support it. Previously, with a claim such as sustainability within the cosmetics industry, there has been no standard to use as a scoring model – but the EcoBeautyScore will change this. Read this blog to check you aren’t guilty of greenwashing without the right evidence!
While using the EcoBeautyScore on your brand’s products will be optional, with key industry players taking part in developing the scoring standards, brands that don’t adopt the scoring system may be considered as not being pro-active by conscious consumers.
But – your brand doesn’t have to be left behind! Start collecting evidence about the sustainability of your cosmetic brand’s ingredients now by contacting your suppliers for clarification of their sustainability statements. You may be surprised to learn that many suppliers are ready for this next step by industry already – many will already have data that could include a green score, a carbon rating, biodegradability information and even marine impacts. They would commonly also have statements or information on the sourcing which could include environmental impacts.
And don’t forget your packaging! Your packaging suppliers would also have considerable data about the sourcing, recyclability and biodegradability of their components also. Watch this video for some great packaging innovations and where industry is heading.
Reach out to your suppliers now to collect the information and data they have to support your eco- and sustainability messages as it will take time to collate and sort this information. You can guarantee any eco statement is going to need some or all of what you collect.
An up-side to this data collection is that your brand may discover some great stats or information it can use to support and clarify its meaning of sustainability – messages that your consumer is wanting to hear but you possibly weren’t even aware you had access to yet!
Eco-ready tip # 3: Speak to your consumer.
One of the great things about the EcoBeautyScore system is that it will use real-world language a consumer will understand. It is going to be based on validated science, but translated in a way that an everyday consumer, without a strong background in science, can easily interpret: what does this eco-beauty-score actually mean?
You can prepare your brand for the coming changes by using clear, unambiguous terms about:
- what sustainability means for your brand (refer to tip # 1), and
- how your brand has achieved this with each of your products, once you’ve collected all of that important evidence (refer to tip # 2).
Test the terms you want to use on your target market via your social media channels – it will not only build confidence in the sustainability message of your brand, you may find it doesn’t need to be adjusted greatly once the EcoBeautyScore terminology is finally provided.
Finally, if you need some tips and ideas on how to boost your brands sustainability profile, consider this video which shows some leading sustainable innovations.
It’s encouraging to see industry working together to protect our planet and safeguard consumers’ purchases. Get ready for the EcoBeautyScore system by preparing your cosmetic brand with these easy to implement steps and see how responsive your consumers really are.
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