Formulating in the Climate Change Age – your actions can make a real difference

Formulating in the Climate Change Age – your actions can make a real difference

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national
crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.”

― Abraham Lincoln

As a formulator and/or decision-maker in the beauty industry, you have a heavy responsibility to make the right choices. Your decisions are not only to achieve volume sales but, because of Climate Change, consumers expect you to also strive to reduce your companies negative impact on the planet. To make these right choices you need, as Lincoln said, the truth. You need to have the real facts. The in-cosmetics Formulation Summits are designed to bring those who know the facts to speak to those who need to know and sometimes over beer.

Your actions make all the difference

This year the in-cosmetics Formulation Summit focused on Formulating in the Climate Change Age. This longstanding debate amongst scientists around human activity causing climate change is no longer disputed by any scientific body of national or international standing [1]. Andrew McDougall, Mintel set the scene for the beauty industry, with his opening presentation, ”Eco-conscious living: Navigating a safer future”. Without a doubt, climate activist, Greta Thunberg and English broadcaster and natural historian, David Attenborough have alerted the World to the many problems caused by consumerism. The general public now realise how climate change is real and how it is everyone’s responsibility to start correcting.

In under 3 mins, this argument is taken a step further in Anne Reid’s excellent BBC video

In the video clip, Anne Reid brilliantly points out how the world we live in is the result of all our choices; she says ”Every single thing that’s gone wrong… it is your fault! … What is? … Everything! It is all our fault. …It’s that £1 T-shirt. A t-shirt that costs a £1 …. And the shopkeeper gets five miserable pence for that t-shirt …. And some worker in a field gets 0.01p… and we think that is fine. All of us! We hand over our £1 and buy into that system for life….”.

The point being made in Anne’s video and by the speakers at in-cosmetics Formulation Summit 2020, is whether it is rainforest clearing, modern slavery, the growth of the dark economy, death of coral reefs or greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, they are all due to the decisions we make.

Consumers expect brands to be responsible

Ever since Anita Roddick started encouraging consumers back in the 1980s to purposely spend their money for good, we have seen the numbers of vigilante consumers increasing until now they include all consumers. In a report commissioned recently by, a survey found that 76% of consumers questioned, said it is important to them that the fashion items they buy are sustainable. And it is not just a quest for sustainable fashion, consumers are turning away from brands who do not have evidence of their socially responsible [2]. Jayn Sterland, Welanda introduced the British Beauty Council’s publication, The Courage to Change, where Anna Teal and Millie Kendal, lay out a vision of how the beauty industry can ”move forward together to create an industry that nurtures the planet that we love and all that live on it” (Anna Teal is CEO, Aromatherapy Associates and British Beauty Council Pillar President for Innovation and Millie Kendall MBE is CEO, British Beauty Council) [3]. They reported how 86% of beauty consumers want information about ingredient supply chains. Without a doubt, consumers expect brands to be responsible.

The Sustainable Journey

Global beauty brands already participate in sustainable initiatives. Natura is working hard to make a difference in Brazil with, among other ventures, the championing of palm oil plantations, designed to be in sympathy with the surrounding wildlife. Weleda’s long responsible farming partnership in Argentina, has restored biodiversity, transforming the over-grazed desert-like flatlands into a fertile jojoba farm. Neal’s Yard Remedies are proudly celebrating 11 years of being Carbon Neutral. Apivita’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint through the responsible management, eco-friendly design of its products studying the life cycle of its products illustrates well how it is not single sustainable undertaking by a few beauty brands that will halt Climate Change but a journey involving us all.

Can your actions really make a real difference?

Would choosing to buy only sustainable products really improve the world? The answer must be yes but with the proviso that the products labelled as sustainable must really be 100% sustainable. Here is where we need the truth. Supply chains that are 100% transparent leave absolutely nowhere for dishonesty and stupidity to hide. The consumers purchasing from brands offering this level of radical transparency, can be sure they are making a difference and of course, with full vision of supply chains, a combination of law enforcement and conscious consumerism will destroy the dark economy giving it no choice but to simply dwindle away.

Transparency is key and achieved by combining technologies

Despite our increasing best efforts, the dark economy continues to grow and today it is estimated that over 25 million people are being exploited globally in supply chains. Choosing RSPO palm oil has not hated rainforest destruction. Just as the horse meat in beef products scandal showed us, back in 2013, there are weaknesses within even the most tightly controlled traditional supply chains. Auditeddocument trails are vulnerable to fraud. Maybe there has been a switch between the correctly labelled RSPO palm oil and a corrupt consignment of palm oil? No reputable brand chooses to buy materials derived from crops grown on illegally cleared rainforest, yet these unsustainable materials find their way into our purchases.

Supply chains have two distinct parts; the physical material (or product) and the identifying supporting documents. Both parts are susceptible to corruption. The physical material can be exchanged for cheaper alternatives, diluted or in some extremes, never exist. Where materials are substituted with cheaper alternatives, for example when the highly expensive 100% sustainable vanilla from Madagascar is substituted with a cheaper source of vanilla, it is almost impossible for a chemist to prove there has been a substitution, especially once the ingredient have been formulated into a product. Brands, for example, using expensive organic grades of materials have to rely on the audited procedures and supporting documents to confirm their organic claim. Sadly, once auditors leave the premises, they can no longer be sure of what is happening and paperwork, whether hard copies or digital, can easily be falsified or muddled.

Forensic technology with Blockchain reveals and secures supply chains

Just as you put a label on your suitcase when you travel, bespoke DNA strands can be added to materials, packaging and products, at ridiculously low concentrations (parts per trillion). When your suitcase is out of your sight, airport handlers etc., read you suitcase’s barcoded label as it travels on to your destination. By analogy, a quick identification test can be carried out on materials containing the bespoke DNA tag, as they travel through the supply chain. If the bespoke DNA is absent or only weakly present, then the item can be rejected. The tests are based on the same fast techniques being used to detect Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). They are accurate and accepted in the law courts. Thanks to DNA tagging and other forensic technologies, brands can now insist on all the elements in their supply chains being forensically labelled, track and traced in real time[4].

Blockchain technology is the way to secure documents. Their digital shared ledgers, in which all transactions between parties are permanently and verifiably recorded cannot be corrupted [5]. Bespoke DNA with its unique sequence of nucleotides, seamlessly converts into binary code suitable for including in Blockchain digital data. Once included the code cannot be tampered with and will always be part of accompanying digital documents. When, for example, a consignment of DNA tagged 100% sustainable vanilla from Madagascar arrives, the quality department quickly confirms it contains bespoke DNA matching the code in the Blockchain documents. Authentication takes minutes and is failproof. Should someone try and make retrospective changes to documents then all the participants in the Blockchain will be alerted. Should the bespoke DNA be missing or present at lower levels than expected levels then the consignment of vanilla is rejected.

Conscientious consumers can change lives and save the planet

As a conscientious consumer, who wants to change lives for the better, do not assume that the supply chains leading to the products you buy are ‘clean’ just because the brands believe they are. As product developers and brand owners, insist on proof beyond paperwork and audits. All of us must ask questions and insist on scientific proof to support the answers. For the sake of the planet, as Anita Roddick said “Get informed. Get outraged. Get inspired. Get active.”


1. “Scientific Consensus: Earth’s Climate is Warming”. Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA JPL. 28 March 2020.
2. BOF TEAM. JUNE 2, 2020
3. The Courage to Change, Anna Teal and Millie Kendal, British Beauty Council. November 2020
4. Applied DNA Sciences
5. The Blockchain Developer: A Practical Guide for Designing, Implementing, Publishing, Testing, and
Securing Distributed Blockchain-based Projects 1st ed. Edition, Elad Elrom. July 2019.

You can read more from Dr Barbara Brockway here.

Tagged , , , .

Barbara is Past President, Hon Education Sec. of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists, Chair In-Cosmetics Formulation Summit (London). Her cosmetic career began nearly 30 years ago, at the Body Shop, after 8 years postdoctoral research/lecturing in Food Science and Technology at the Reading University. The new millennium found Barbara in New York managing the NPD lab. for Dr James Hayward, then CEO of the Collaborative Laboratories LLC, who were leaders in Liposomes and high shear technology for cosmetic actives. After extending her stay in America to manage Huntsman LLC Personal Care laboratory in Austin Texas, she returned to the UK and worked for the next 12 year as Scientific Advisor for Personal Care in Sales & Distribution for IMCD. Barbara re-joined Dr James Hayward, now CEO and Founded Applied DNA Sciences, in New York and became a Forensic Cosmetic Scientist, working to use DNA technology to secure cosmetic supply chains. Barbara is a frequent contributor to industry journals and her special interest is in how the very latest technologies impact the cosmetic industry.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *