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Report Outlines Critical Actions for Beauty Brands to Sustainably ‘Make Up the Future’

A new report published this week by sustainability consulting group Quantis maps the urgent actions that cosmetics and personal care brands must address to achieve sustainability in today’s fast-changing world.

Make Up the Future: Levers of change for a sustainable cosmetics business provides a primer on the top issues the $488 billion global cosmetics industry faces today, identifies opportunities for collaboration across the industry, and proposes a palette of solutions that will empower sustainability mangers, corporate decision-makers and their teams to set their businesses up for success and shape a sustainable future for cosmetics. The report is also a call to action for beauty players to join forces to fill critical data gaps to enhance understanding of the industry’s impacts.

In Make Up the Future, Quantis demonstrates how science-driven action across three levels — industry, corporate and product — is critical for shaping a sustainable future for cosmetics. The report sheds light on the industry’s biggest challenges to help brands prioritize efforts on the topics that will have a meaningful impact and accelerate industry-wide action — and highlights concrete examples from industry sustainability leaders such as BeautyCounter, Chanel, Coty, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc., French Federation for Beauty Companies (Fédération des Entreprises de la Beauté – FEBEA), Groupe Rocher, L’Oréal, and the Personal Care and Cosmetics Council, among others.

Avoiding waste has become a high priority for today’s consumers — according to recent GlobalData research, 35 percent of consumers would buy more skincare products, or buy them more often, if they were packaged without plastics; and 25 percent of consumers would buy more, or buy them more often, if the products were unpackaged — and therefore, for more and more brands. Major brands including The Body Shop, Olay, L’Oréal and Lush, to name a few have been exploring ways to eliminate packaging waste through innovations such as alternative materials, refillables, take-back programs; and sometimes, eliminating packaging altogether.

Still others — such as L’Oréal’s Garnier and Biolage, Blueland’s personal and household cleaning products, and Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose fragrances — have gone the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ route, where not only the packaging but the products themselves have been evaluated for safety, social fairness, circularity and more.

The continued evolution of circularity

Hear about the latest progress in advancing a global circular economy from practitioners and experts in a variety of industries — at SB'20 Long Beach.

But aside from improving their packaging footprint and the makeup of their products, Make Up the Future outlines other key, systemic topics for the industry to move on, including:

+ Science-based targets and planetary boundaries

+ Metrics-driven decisions and strategies

+ The power of pre-competitive collaboration

+ Product and brand transparency

+ Naturality

+ Ecotoxicity

“Climate change, shifting lifestyles and stakeholder expectations around sustainability will define beauty for the next decade. The time is now to take action to transition to a sustainable model. Indeed, it’s time to design — to make up — the future we want for beauty and personal care,” incites Dimitri Caudrelier, Director of Quantis France and Global Cosmetics Industry Lead, adding, “As a first step, brands will need to assess whether they are operating within or above our planet’s boundaries.”

Make Up the Future asserts that, for the cosmetics industry to catch up to FMCG categories more advanced on sustainability, it will need more high-quality, comprehensive data to understand the full scale and scope of its environmental impacts. In an effort to shed light on key areas of impact, Quantis produced the first full value chain environmental footprint estimate of the cosmetics and personal care industry.

And, the report points out, just as each department contributes something different to a company’s sustainability cause, so does each market. Different regions experience different challenges — ex: water stress, waste management capacity, product expectations, sustainability maturity — so, one-size-fits-all strategies are unlikely to bring about adequate transformation. Quantis recommends that cosmetics companies consult with regional teams to develop action plans tailored to local contexts — to ensure that efforts and resources are focused on addressing the most relevant impacts per region, help safeguard local supply chains and resources, and make meaningful strides towards a company's larger strategy.

Download the report and learn more here.

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