SustainABILITY – Challenges of an increasingly green industry
We live in a modern world, with limited resources, in which pollution and climate change demand sustainable solutions. All companies globally, from the most varied sectors, are invited to present their action plans to act more positively in the market. The planet needs quick and effective solutions.
The beauty industry has been identified as one of the main villains in the production of plastic waste in the world. According to Euromonitor, 142 billion packages are produced by the global industry each year, and there was an increase in the use of plastics by 17% between the years 2010 and 2017.
What is our ability to create and maintain sustainability? How are companies dealing with sustainable issues, what are the main challenges and what does the consumer think about it? After all, how can we move towards a cleaner future?
Sustainability is a diverse and complex concept. Having the intention to be sustainable is important but taking a truly sustainable path is a big challenge. The high costs to recycle, the limitations of inputs, the difficulties in the recycling chain and so many other points are just examples of the complexity of the theme. But innovation has been a valuable tool in the search for new and creative ways to bring good alternatives to improve the planet.
The main challenges faced by the cosmetic industry to follow the green path are mainly to choose sustainable alternatives for packaging and inputs. The limitation of single-use plastic in the main world markets has led brands to race for the best alternatives for its replacement.
One of the great challenges of sustainable and innovative packaging is its high costs and high initial runs, making some alternatives unfeasible. Despite all the innovations, it is still important to keep the consumer satisfied and keep the product competitive. So creativity and innovation are very important credentials.
There is a lot of confusion and doubt on the part of consumers and brands about which packages are more sustainable than others. Many concepts are poorly understood as compostable and biodegradable packaging and also their benefits. Decision-making involves a comparison between methods and packaging and a careful reflection and learning about pros and cons.
According to a survey by the Yougov source on recycling information on packaging – 51% of buyers find recycling labels ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to understand. Another survey by the Global Web Index source showed that 43% of consumers surveyed would be willing to pay more for environmentally friendly packaging. So despite the challenges, there is still a lot of work to be done and opportunities to be explored.
From concern to action – Green movement
We have seen a great green movement in the industries and the appearance of many products with this positioning. The strengthening of a conscious and active consumer is also perceived. Many brands have reviewed their performance, looked for alternatives and watched the green movement grow every day.
In the cosmetics industry, we have seen several independent brands gain market share with genuinely green credentials. These brands characterize movements like the “farm to face” and have been getting the attention of consumers and continue to bother the big brands, growing and influencing the market with their products.
By philosophy, these brands grow their ingredients on their own or outsourced farms and produce their products almost by hand. The assets are fresh, extracted and processed in order to get the best out of each ingredient. The “farm to face” movement has grown in Europe and the United States and is composed mainly of luxury brands. Caring for the entire supply chain has been a growing differential and the creativity to deal with resources and waste has taken the industry to a new level.
Despite genuine actions and innovative positioning, many beauty brands globally still deal with unethical competitors. There has been a great “green wash” with brands exploiting sustainable credentials in the wrong way. It is still difficult for the consumer to understand these differences and make the best choices.
Being a green company in some way, has become almost a requirement for the cosmetic market. Many industries have been in a hurry to adapt to the demands and that is why they have not been evaluating their sustainable strategies so carefully, often making choices without considering the best alternatives.
It is very important that brands understand that sustainability is a path that needs to be developed with strategy and implemented regularly. Sustainable decisions and green positioning cannot be marketing strategies or commercial claims. Companies today need to have green DNA if they are to survive in the current market and be present in the future.
Many brands today were born green because they were created in this new mentality. For many others, being green is a learning process, a paradigm shift. Learning about sustainability and helping to educate consumers can be a good marketing opportunity for brands.
Sustainable packaging and ingredients are the main ecological concerns on the market. But there are many other ways for brands to act on this path, such as reducing packaging sizes and solving multi-functional products.
The cosmetic market has noticed more and more the interaction between different categories. As an example, we can mention how the hygiene and cleaning sectors have mixed with multipurpose solutions. From hand soap to detergent, we are witnessing the positioning of brands betting on a unique product that cleans the dishes and does not hurt your hands.
Despite the strength and quality that we identify today in green cosmetics, this was not always a reality. At the beginning there was a lot of insecurity on the part of the consumer about the functionality and stability of these products. Formulating cosmetics without traditional preservatives, introducing innovative ingredients, producing simpler products and with better performance, these were the challenges overcome by the industry and that does not stop there.
However, consumers have increasingly challenged brands to improve their products and create more sustainable alternatives, and continue to question their ingredients and packaging. The consumer demands more transparency from companies and wants to understand more about the ingredients, their functions and origins. Trust and ethics have been increasingly important in defining markets. Clear communication with consumers explaining what their credentials and positions are is vital for brands to gain market share.
From the green packaging trend to the understanding of the “recharge culture” a lot of information has been made available to consumers. Many concepts are lost in the superficiality of this excess of information and create more misinformation and confusion. After all it is a lot to assimilate.
There is hardly an ideal environmentally friendly packaging alternative that also works fully in all situations. Brands need to be open to understanding, what works best for their values and the consumer needs to be aware especially if there is consistency on the part of companies and if it makes sense for their values and beliefs.
Many fashions and trends have emerged and there is still much to come. There is no right or wrong exactly, but what actually works and makes sense for each business. Science has been a great ally of natural and ecological solutions and companies need to think “outside the box” expanding their visions to find simpler and more functional solutions.
The consumer has many expectations and has gone beyond; he expects brands to act sustainably inside and outside the “bottle”. But if it is already difficult to distinguish between the ecological options presented, which is the best. Imagine how difficult it is to expect that in addition to actions with products, companies will also present social responsibility to communities and improve the planet.
In addition to all the sustainable credentials and the great pressure of the moment, brands cannot lose sight of the focus on the performance of their products and of course maintain an open dialogue with their consumers. From this approach, simple and valuable ideas for innovation can emerge.
The ability to stay sustainable
The word sustainability is old and by definition it means: “Attribute of what is sustainable, possible to support”. The concept has not always been linked to the preservation of natural resources. Sustainability can be understood as a condition of a system that allows it to remain in some way, for a certain time.
The vision of sustainability as we have it today, as the capacity of man to interact with the environment in a balanced way emerged in the 70’s. During the First United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, in Sweden, in 1972. In this event, the concept of eco development was launched and, since then, the word sustainability has been increasingly associated with this concept.
In 2002, the concept of the 3 pillars of interdependent and mutually supportable sustainable development emerged. Sustainability depends on economic development, social development and environmental protection. From this point on, the importance of viewing each one’s roles for a sustainable transformation was strengthened.
Each part of society has its own vision and perspective on sustainability. The industry perceives sustainability as a systemic process that involves several stages from the product’s life cycle, manufacturing, distribution and packaging disposal.
The government perceives its role as a driver of sustainable development, having the power to educate and create policies that enable a more balanced management of resources.
The consumer’s view is more related to their personal safety needs – will this product be good for my health? And also about sustainability guarantees for the world – are these packages safe for the environment?
Sustainability is the combination of all visions in an expanded and evolutionary perspective. It is a value, a mindset that is being created and shaped continuously. The theme is quite broad, but sustainability can happen in simple, everyday attitudes. Going green is a process that happens little by little and evolves, it needs purpose, focus and a lot of determination to be achieved.