Premium Beauty News - How has the rise in environmental and societal concerns transformed your business?
Thomas Riou - These issues are not new to us, with our clients, we have been focusing on them for a long time. What we have achieved in partnership with Guerlain perfectly exemplifies this approach. Our CSR strategy is based on three pillars: the safety and well-being of our employees (People First), the positive impact of our presence in the territories, with the creation of short supply chains (Act for Society), and the development of innovative solutions to reduce the impact of our products and processes (Eco Solutions).
We were awarded the EcoVadis Gold CSR medal, in other words we are among the top 1% companies in the world, with a rating that has increased significantly (77%).
The big change is that consumers no longer tolerate green-washing. It is a matter that can no longer be taken lightly. This is one of the reasons why we have developed for our products a life cycle analysis software (LCA) certified by Evea Conseil. We want to go one step further and develop a tool to measure the impact of decors on the recyclability of glass and thus help change practices in our industry. In addition, our next CSR report (and the data used to achieve it) will be certified by an external auditor.
Premium Beauty News - Premium brands seem to be more and more attracted by recycled glass. How is this market, on which you were precursors, evolving?
Thomas Riou - Verescence was the first premium manufacturer to develop recycled glass with the launch of Infinite® Glass in 2008, and then with its Neo version in 2015. In total, more than 30 million bottles were produced worldwide!
One of the remarkable features of glass is its endless recyclability, with no alteration of its properties. All premium glassmakers reuse about 30% of the glass coming from their production process; what’s new with the Neo version is that we have integrated it in the glass PCR loop (Post Consumer Recycling or PCR). For Infinite® Glass Neo we use 25% PCR, 65% recycled cullet and only 10% of natural raw materials.
We have been pioneers and we remain leaders in this area. However, we don’t believe in single solutions. We also offer solutions with lightened glass, with jars or bottles whose weight can be halved. And of course we can combine lightened and recycled glass with Infinite® Glass Neo, like for Guerlain’s Abeille Royale skincare jar.
There are many other areas of progress. We are working in particular on decoration processes where huge progress has been made. And we don’t hesitate to forgo some innovations, like glass metallization, if we consider that they are the source of too many environmental problems.
Whatever the goal, progress goes hand in hand with measurement. That’s why we are striving to develop tools to measure the environmental impact of the different technologies.
Premium Beauty News - Refill and reuse solutions seem to become more and more common in the beauty sector?
Thomas Riou - It’s one of the solutions that brands are exploring and this trend could quickly gain momentum. Glass, strictly speaking, is no longer the main focus of concern. Pumps which are easy to disassemble while being aesthetic, are required in perfumery. For our part, we have developed and patented a solution of refillable glass jars and we have also patented treatments allowing to make unbreakable glass. We can also design machine washable decorations. These solutions are part of the "Reuse" pillar within our 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) eco-design programme.
Premium Beauty News - What are your main levers of action to address concerns related to climate change?
Thomas Riou - Over the last fifty years, the CO2 emissions of glassmakers have been reduced by 80% per tonne of glass produced. As for Verescence, it involves improving our industrial and logistic performances. We are constantly working on reducing our sites’ emissions. All our furnaces are new and have, on average, gained 15% energy efficiency compared to the previous generations. We are working on recovering the heat produced, on improving the insulation of our premises, and on using electric vehicles where possible.
Let’s be clear, to produce glass energy is needed. But we are working hard to reduce our emissions. Our goal is for all our decorations sites to become carbon neutral. For the production of glass it will obviously take more time because a furnace has a service life of 10 to 15 years.
For us glass is the best material in the world. In line with an environmental approach, glass must be given pride of place. This is actually what’s happening: launches with glass stoppers are multiplying. More generally, a "glassification" trend can be observed, with an increasing use of glass in many beauty segments. Glass allows going upmarket, it is recyclable, and it’s the only material with no interaction with its contents.
In my opinion, the question of weight is a non-issue. To imitate glass, the weight or thickness in plastic are often increased. Even in the case of lightweight plastics, when assembly takes place in Asia, emissions linked to transportation can be significant!
Premium Beauty News - In this context, what were the lines of investment chosen by Verescence?
Thomas Riou - Our corporate project, Verescence 2022-Forming the Future, aims to make the Group the world’s leading glass manufacturer in the beauty industry. This project consists of five pillars focused on sustainability: People First, Customer Excellence, Competitiveness, One Verescence and New Territories. This project is supported by a EUR 122 million investment plan that focuses on increasing our glass productivity, our capacity and capability and on improving our processes.
Today decoration is the predominant growth vector. Since 2010, we have chosen to internalize all the finishing operations and today, 90% of them are performed in-house. This gives us flexibility, complete quality control and a mastery on the environmental impact of our processes.
Our other areas of investment concern the digitization of factories, innovation and sustainable development. Digitalization covers many areas such as the fast processing of production data, which is a powerful performance driver. Similarly, the development of technological breakthroughs in our processes and products is both a source of competitiveness and of added value for our clients and for us. And finally and more importantly, the continuous improvement of our environmental impact. We are constantly investing in new decorative offers, greener processes, natural alternatives to chemicals, energy and raw material savings, and in reducing emissions. A synthesis of all these advances was presented, once again, at Luxe Monaco.