In its new Strategic Insights report, Organic Monitor assesses corporate and social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability initiatives in the beauty industry. The research finds that most investment is going into reducing the environmental footprint of cosmetic products by using greener formulations and sustainable packaging.

Sustainable packaging

According to Organic Monitor, packaging is receiving high interest because of its high ecological impact. Companies are looking at biodegradable plastics, recycled materials and innovative ways to reduce packaging such as upcycling and lightweighting, as well as the use of new packaging materials such as biopolymers and bamboo.

A major finding is that natural and organic cosmetic companies are leading the way in terms of CSR & sustainability initiatives. “Many of them have sustainability built into their corporate DNA,” says Organic Monitor.

The report highlights the achievements of the Brazilian company Natura, which has been championing environmental causes since its foundation in 1969. “It was the first major cosmetics company to become carbon neutral, offsetting its carbon emissions by reforestation of native tree species,Organic Monitor notes. Beraca, another Brazilian company, is also commended for its social and biodiversity investment projects in the Amazon.

Various dimensions of sustainability

By the use of case studies, Organic Monitor highlights the various methods of reducing the environmental and social impacts of cosmetics products and ingredients. The importance of ethical sourcing is making fair trade prominent, with a growing number of natural cosmetic and ingredient firms investing in grower projects in developing countries. Certification is a major barrier however, with many companies preferring to take the non-certified route because of bureaucracy and the limitations of fair trade standards.

Corporate philanthropy is another area becoming important for some beauty companies wishing to ‘invest back’ into society.

The report gives details of the various standards, certifications, labels and indexes for CSR and sustainability in the beauty industry. Natural and organic cosmetic standards have received most attention, however new schemes are emerging that look at the various dimensions of sustainability. Cradle to Cradle certification is becoming popular for companies such as Aveda and Kiehl’s as it gives a life-cycle analysis of cosmetic products.

CSR and sustainability initiatives in the beauty industry will be extensively featured in the upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, taking place in Paris, 18-20 October 2010. The summit will look at how beauty companies can lower their environmental and social impacts by investing in green formulations, sustainable packaging, certification programmes, biodiversity & ethical supply chains.