Measures including “green” makeup formulations, resource efficiency and packaging to reduce environmental impacts have little effect on the overall environmental footprint of cosmetic products, according to summit organizer Organic Monitor. The research and consulting company says a number of life-cycle analysis studies show that the highest environmental impact of cosmetic products is at the consumer level.
For example, one study shows that 94 percent of the carbon footprint of a shampoo is at the consumer level. Small changes in water temperature during an average wash can significantly reduce the overall environmental impact of the product, Organic Monitor says.
SGS will present its latest life-cycle analysis findings on environmental footprints at the New York summit, May 16-18. The findings show that after consumption, the highest environmental impact of cosmetics is from raw materials and packaging. Although there is a growing trend to use raw materials from renewable sources, such ingredients can have complex footprints because of differences in extraction and processing techniques.
Organic Monitor says lack of choices, high prices and perceived quality of green cosmetics are major barriers to sustainable purchases. The high incidence of greenwashing in the cosmetics industry also undermines companies’ efforts to influence consumer behavior.
Advances in mobile communications provide an opportunity for brands to engage consumers for positive change, Organic Monitor says. Social media in particular improves transparency and encourages two-way dialogue between brands and consumers.
Many large cosmetic companies, including Procter & Gamble and L’Oreal, have made commitments to reduce their environmental footprints while growing their business. P&G, for example, has committed to powering its plants with 100 percent renewable energy and using 100 percent renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging by 2020. Other P&G goals include zero consumer and manufacturing waste sent to landfills and designing products that conserve resources while meeting consumer needs.