Beauty under carbon constraints… with enthusiasm!

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But what does “decarbonizing” mean? How can this be done? What are the solutions ? On this point, we can draw a parallel with energy.

“Decarbonized” energy is an energy source that generates no CO2 emissions. In a common understanding, all renewable energy, as well as nuclear energy, is considered “decarbonized” (the latter is however not a renewable energy). [1]). But in reality, no energy source emits “zero carbon” if we include the upstream and downstream stages of energy production (manufacturing and end-of-life processing of solar panels, wind turbines, nuclear reactors, etc. ). We must therefore speak of “low carbon” energies.

In the beauty industry, decarbonizing means moving towards products and business models that emit as little CO2 as possible. Firstly by reducing emissions at source (less material and energy consumption). In addition, one can also “offset”, ie participate in initiatives to trap CO2 and offset emissions that can no longer be reduced.

Announcement effects and hype

However, we are currently witnessing a flurry of announcements about compensation measures. Unfortunately, these mechanisms are still poorly regulated and unreliable. That a brand claims to be ‘carbon negative beauty’, ‘carbon positive’ or ‘carbon neutral beauty’ is not plausible without a standardized reference system, which does not yet exist (after ‘green washing’, it will be necessary to deal with ‘carbon wash‘!).

Emmanuel Faber, the former CEO of Danone, suggested that the carbon impact of companies be measured with the same parameters, to allow consumers to make informed choices. Cosmetics brands such as Cocokind (US) and Shiro (JP) have started to “break down” the lifecycle carbon footprint of each product on the back of their packaging. This approach will undoubtedly become mandatory in the years to come – it was also initiated by the food industry (La Fourche), as was the fashion sector (carbon score adopted on March 21 for consumer products) , and the transport sector…

3R essentials

In this context, the most effective and immediate solutions would be to thoroughly review the 3R steps (1. Reduce; 2. Reuse; 3. Recycle – at the very end). According to Bertrand Piccard [2], half of our natural resources are wasted and 95% of our waste is wasted when it really needs a second life! [3]. Creating value with our waste and as part of the circular economy: a whole new field of reflection and action is opening up before us!

Already quite widespread in cosmetic formulations (Laboratoires Expanscience, Kadalys, Free State of Orange, etc.), this recovery (or upcycling) of “waste” only needs to be strengthened. In the future, the many vertical farms located in cities will be a potential source of supply for independent brands (without competing with the food sector). The same goes for packaging materials: the rapid development of molecular recycling techniques (and, tomorrow, enzymatic – cf. Carbios) makes it possible to recover (upcycled) and reintroduce into the loop materials that were previously sent to incinerator or landfill, in the form of high-quality materials, all with a much lower CO2 footprint and resource consumption, compared to the production of virgin material (cf. Carbon Renewal Technology® from Eastman for PET or Borecycle ™ from Borealis for polyolefins).

Sure, the best waste is that which is not produced! The same adage has been taken up by solid cosmetics (Pachamamai, Lamazuna, Umaï, Mélo ayurveda, Respire, etc.), cosmetics to be diluted (Neo, 900.Care) and/or with a deposit and refill system (Amalthéa, Cozie , Naked shop, Floratropia, Zao…).

New avenues for improvement

Another way to save CO2 is to use the right dose (Clever Beauty), to optimize the collection of liquid formulas (Porex), to work in short circuits (Oden, Freeedge beauty…) and/or in green biotech (Codif) . Reducing the number of ingredients per product (Yodi, Typology) and reducing launches (Minori) is also essential. Besides, how can a brand claim a commitment to sustainability, and at the same time continue to launch a plethora of products?

A circular economy also makes it possible to strengthen the safety of ingredients. At Mustela (BCorp certified), CEO Sophie Robert Velut calls out to her teams: “We are in 2028 and oil is becoming scarce, how do you secure your business? or “Ingredients needed to make products are stuck in countries, transportation costs and shortages are ongoing. What’s your plan B?”

In the food sector, a new model is emerging: “Regenerative Organic Certification”, which aims to repair ecosystems, restore biodiversity and care for living organisms. It is particularly relevant for soils and ingredients. And beware of extrapolations, for a cosmetics brand to call itself ‘Regenerative’ is greenwashing!

To conclude, we are moving towards a green industry with a real driving force, as advocated by Bertrand Piccard: “profitable environmental protection through new economic opportunities [4]. By 2030, companies will probably have to align themselves with the “Zero Loss of Biodiversity” objective, through an overall biodiversity score (note: ecocide has been recognized as a crime since March 2021). In a virtuous way, they will join forces more and more to deal with legal constraints (to set up recycling channels, make listing indices open source, etc.). The era of ‘Coopetition’ (Cooperation beyond competition) has arrived! Heading for industrial opportunities, heading for new exciting and collective economic and ecological logics!

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