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What Does Sustainability Mean In The Beauty Industry, And What Are The Common Practices?

Written by: Anna Misztela, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


With the severity of implications of the climate crisis, we are all taking steps to help reverse the course of global warming in any way we can. Many of us have reduced our use of plastics, others look to eat more sustainable foods, while the number of electrically powered cars we see on the roads increases each and every day. But how many of us have actually considered the sustainability of the beauty products we purchase?

The good news is if you are one of those that have moved towards a more sustainable diet, this will most certainly include fresh fruit and vegetables, which make up a great start to a healthy and nutritional diet which will by itself improve your appearance and self-esteem. But do these actions and other similar ones necessarily transfer to the beauty industry? Well, recent independent consumer research suggests this is indeed the case, with 90% of shoppers reporting that a company’s sustainability efforts and general ethics are very important in their purchasing decision. However, less than 25% of these shoppers feel that the cosmetic and beauty industry are being sufficiently transparent about the environmental and social impacts of their manufacturing processes. When the study dug a little deeper into the consumer mindset, it found that part of the reason for this apparent mistrust was an insufficient understanding by a fair majority of consumers (66%) of what the claims on their packaging or website truly meant. It also found that consumers are overwhelmingly in favor (85%) of having an independent entity supplying verification of sustainability claims rather than having to believe the company’s own packaging or marketing claims, or that of influencers or bloggers.

Digging further into their research, it was determined that nature and animal welfare (in terms of organic, cruelty-free, vegan and/or coral reef safe) was most important to consumers, with over 93% reporting that it was at least “somewhat important”. Waste contribution and use of recyclable or compostable packaging were observed to be equally significant by 92% of respondents, whereas treatment of workers in terms of Fairtrade and living wage was identified as important by another 92% of respondents. Impact on climate change through the use of renewable energy and small carbon footprints or net zero manufacturing processes was identified by 88% as being at least “somewhat important”, while 82% lauded a commitment to community, including family-owned businesses, commitment to diversity in the workforce and through charitable donations. In fact, it was just 5% or less of the respondents found any of these themes not important at all.

The research also found that showing a full list of ingredients was the most important thing a manufacturer could do to win consumer confidence in all sustainability claims (61%), followed by the use of an independent, third-party verifier of these claims (52%). We know that beauty products are not regulated to the same extent by the FDA as pharmaceuticals, so understanding how to read an ingredient list on a beauty product becomes even more important.

Nowadays, many brands are seeking to share their best practices with a common goal to help the industry become more transparent in their sustainability practices. In some countries, this goal is being supported by regulatory codes, such as the UK Green Claims Code that informs companies that they may make any sort of environmental claims, but that they could be inspected on their adherence to these claims and if found untrue, they could be held accountable and in violation of consumer protection laws. In the USA, the Federal Trade Commission has similar policies. Some believe that these steps will lead to a day when beauty products will display a rating for their environmental impact, much like consumer electronics do today.

So that is a look at how consumers feel and where the industry will hopefully go in the future. But how about the present? What are manufacturers doing now to help move in this future direction? Are their common practices? The answer is yes. Recycled packaging is becoming more commonplace in the form of a reduction in the use of plastic packaging, along with increased use of biodegradable options for applicators to return and refill options for some products. The use of toxic ingredients are now being curtailed, as evidenced by the state of California Consumer Protection Bill 2762 that is now law and the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which addresses the use of plastic microbeads in exfoliants that would eventually find their way into our waterways. Today more companies are embracing environmentally and sustainably friendly manufacturing processes that include a reduction of the use of synthetic ingredients, converting their supply chain to sustainable and natural products, using renewable energy for their manufacturing processes and reducing their carbon footprint, reducing their use of synthetic ingredients and redesigning products to include less water content.

The good news is that many beauty companies, from large corporate entities to small and medium-sized enterprises, are evolving their business model to include sustainability practices, and attempting to do so not only in a manner that is transparent to consumers, but also through reporting to third party verifiers and/or internal and external stakeholders that hold these companies accountable to their sustainability claims and practices.

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Anna Misztela, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Anna Misztela’s interest in nutrition analysis and beauty began after she won the Mrs Polonia 2017 and Mrs Polonia World 2018 beauty contests. She then completed a Nutrition Science certification and became a Board-Licensed Esthetician. Her goal was to unlock the mystery of naturally beautiful hair, skin and nails. She was astonished by her discoveries of how sulfur and different types of vitamins work in our body. Since Roman times sulfur baths and sulfur waters have had known health and beauty benefits. Anna has included these compounds in her unique product, which helped many women to transform their hair, improve skin conditions, and get stronger nails. That’s how Beauty&Cutie was born.



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