Sustainability continues to be a topic that is top of mind for both consumers and employees of major companies. In a new series of articles, we’re looking at how the industries we service are tackling sustainability initiatives.
Once upon a time beauty companies were satisfied to tout the potentially questionable recyclability of their plastic packaging. As the climate crisis become more pressing, however, and knowledgable consumers are becoming more savvy about the way they spend their money, major companies like Unilever and L’Oreal are developing increasingly sophisticated ways to reckon with their environmental impact.
Incorporating sustainability into the cosmetics industry has required radical change in the last ten to twenty years. In an industry that has long been reliant on petrochemicals, adopting environmentally friendly practices begins with the very formulation of products, continues to packaging and shapes the way companies hire and retain talent.
Ingredients, formulations and manufacture currently comprise the industry’s greatest impact on the environment. Among companies, L’Oréal is striving to be at the forefront of operational change in the cosmetics industries in terms of developing a more sustainable supply chain and manufacturing process. L’Oréal owns 35 brands including Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani and Kiehl’s, and makes billions of dollars as a market leader in beauty.
After investing a billion Euros in sustainability initiatives, L’Oréal’s goal is to have 95% of ingredients derived from renewable plant sources, abundant minerals or circular processes by 2030. Particularly challenging in this quest is finding non-petrochemical based solutions for UV filters, hair dyes, long-wear products and silicone-like textures.
More transparency in formulations
Consumers also increasingly have demanded more natural and environment friendly ingredient formulations, causing cosmetic companies to step up with more information about what goes into their products. L’Oréal has introduced a scoring system that ranks products from “A” to “E” based on environmental impact factors like CO2 emissions, and impacts on water, soil and biodiversity.
Questioning Plastic Packages
The highest environmental impact of beauty products is the formulation and ingredients, followed by packaging. Plastics are a big culprit here and therefore some companies are considering reducing the amount of packaging they use, water in their formulations, and whether glass can be a good substitute. Another option involves creating products that can be refilled.
Companies like Mac, Kiehl’s and Lush encourage customers to return packages for reuse by offering an incentive program. Perfume makers like Mugler have begun to offer refillable inserts for their products. Dior has begun to experiment with refills not only for perfumes, but also foundations and creams.
Changes to Corporate Operations
Last but certainly not least, major companies are re-examining their approach to remote work, and offering their employees more flexibility. This, in turn, can be said to reduce commuting impact and business travel.
ACCUR found in a recent poll that sustainability is a major non-monetary driver of employee satisfaction. And employees further value flexible work arrangements that allow them to spend more time with family and exercise autonomy around how and when they do their best work. For more on these trends, make sure to read our remote work series.