Key findings from the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit

The European and North American editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit were hosted on online platforms this year. The summits brought together over 200 executives from the beauty industry to discuss sustainability issues.

Key outcomes of these virtual editions were:


Cosmetics in post-COVID society

Pavan Sukhdev, internationally renowned environmental economist, opened the European edition with his keynote on green lessons from the pandemic. He called for cosmetic companies to identify and measure corporate externalities like natural and human capital if they are to becoming truly sustainable. According to Sukhdev: “Today’s externalities are tomorrow’s risks, and day-after-tomorrow’s losses”. The way forward was measuring impacts across the entire value chain for cosmetic products and more transparency in reporting.

Move towards a circular economy

In her keynote, Emma Burlow from Resources Future called for organisations to move away from incremental changes in product design and ‘re-think their business models’ if they are to make the transition to a circular economy. Jay Bolus, President of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, showed how the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Design Approach is creating such products. Garnier, Calvin Klein, Aveda, and Kiehl’s are some of the brands with C2C certified products.

Building sustainable supply chains

With increasing scrutiny about raw material sources, case studies were given on how operators are strengthening their supply chains. Tristam Lecomte, Founder of Pur Projet, explained the role of insetting in ingredient supply chains. His organisation is working with operators like Chanel to reduce their impacts across their value chain.

Forestwise gave details of its deforestation-free ingredients. The Dutch company is working with indigenous communities in Borneo (South-East Asia) to collect wild harvested rainforest ingredients, such as illipe butter, kukui nut oil, and kemiri oil. Cirebelle also gave details of it sustainable sourcing programmes for African botanicals.

Social impacts in value chains

Justine Currell from the NGO Unseen highlighted the various social risks in supply chains for cosmetic ingredients. She said social risks were ubiquitous, and not just limited to third world countries. She called for companies to be more diligent and engage with their suppliers to identify risks. The NGO’s vision is working towards a world without slavery by supporting, equipping and influencing.

AAK gave an update of its ethical sourcing initiatives. Its Kolo Nafaso programme for shea butter is now creating a positive social impact for over 300,000 women in West Africa. Gabbi Loedolff from Lush gave insights into how the company is setting up sourcing projects for its raw materials. Lush is investing in regenerative agriculture to conserve and reforest land. It gave details of the impacts created by projects such as Cork Pots, Geranium & Tagetes, and #SOSsumatra campaign. Lush and AAK both received recognition for such programmes by winning Sustainable Beauty Awards (co-hosted alongside the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit).

Novel green materials

A wide range of green materials are now available for cosmetic & personal care products. Many new materials were showcased at the summit. Shara Ticku from C16 Biosciences showed how her start-up has developed a palm oil alternative from the fermentation of food waste and industrial byproducts. The sustainable oils are expected to be in personal care products in 2021.
Upcycling is a major trend in the beauty industry. Tony Abboud from Renmatix highlighted the opportunities presented by upcycling; the company is using discarded wood chips from the construction industry to make active ingredients. Green preservatives and alternatives to Nylon-12 and PMMA were presented by Clariant and Merck respectively.

Rise of clean beauty

Discussions covered the rising consumer appetite for clean beauty products. Mike Indursky from Hear Me Raw and Priyanka Yoshikawa from Mukoomi shared their experiences in developing clean beauty products. Croda and RAHN AG gave details of the cosmetic ingredients that can be used in clean beauty products. ICADA presented its new clean beauty standard at the summit.

Changing consumer behaviour

The coronavirus pandemic is changing consumer behaviour, especially the way cosmetics & personal care products are bought and perceived. According to WGSN, consumers are demanding more transparency and accountability from beauty brands. The agency says that consumers are also ‘buying local’ as they want to support small businesses during the pandemic.
Although online retailers have reported strong sales during the coronavirus crisis, WGSN believes physical retailers will continue to play an important role. The way forward maybe hybrid shopping experiences whereby consumers visit physical stores yet buy online.

Rose Lounsbury, author and simplicity coach, highlighted the growing trend towards minimalism. Genderless beauty and multi-functional products are a manifestation of this trend. She called for brands to create products with ‘less in mind’ to meet changing consumer expectations.

Upcoming Events

The Society of Cosmetic Scientists, Singapore - 11th SCSS Suppliers Day, August 2021

Marriott Singapore, Tang Plaza Hotel. 320 Orchard Road
Thursday 26th & Friday 27th August 2021

PCHi - Shenzhen 2021

Shenzhen Exhibition & Convention Center
24 - 26 March 2021

NYSCC Suppliers’ Day 2021

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York
4 -5 May 2021

Cosmetic Ingredients & Technology Exhibition Japan (CITE JAPAN)

Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall / North / Annex Hall
19 May – 21 May 2021

in-cosmetics Asia 2021

BITEC Bangkok, Thailand
2 - 4 November 2020

Upcoming Events

The Society of Cosmetic Scientists, Singapore - 11th SCSS Suppliers Day, August 2021

Marriott Singapore, Tang Plaza Hotel. 320 Orchard Road
Thursday 26th & Friday 27th August 2021

PCHi - Shenzhen 2021

Shenzhen Exhibition & Convention Center
24 - 26 March 2021

NYSCC Suppliers’ Day 2021

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, New York
4 -5 May 2021

Cosmetic Ingredients & Technology Exhibition Japan (CITE JAPAN)

Pacifico Yokohama Exhibition Hall / North / Annex Hall
19 May – 21 May 2021

in-cosmetics Asia 2021

BITEC Bangkok, Thailand
2 - 4 November 2020