On November 10, a video entitled "The coastal town of Mexico is gradually being engulfed, and residents call for attention to climate change" attracted attention. In the news, a coastal town in Tabasco, located in southern Mexico, is being gradually swallowed by the sea.
Most of the residents here live by fishing. However, the rising sea level has turned their houses into dilapidated houses. The residents of the town are forced to move away from their homes and find other places to live.
The serious harm brought by climate change has swept the world, especially in 2022, when natural disasters such as glacier melting, forest fires, river cutoff and so on occur frequently, which has sounded the "alarm" for environmental protection. Nowadays, countries all over the world attach great importance to the "sustainable development" of the ecological environment to a new height.
In the cosmetics industry, sustainable development has always been a "commonplace" topic. In recent years, sustainable development has gradually affected the mainstream development trend of the industry from a seemingly "niche" direction.
Implementation of sustainable development: the gap between ideal and reality
As a gold track for mass consumption, the supply chain process involved in the production of cosmetics is complex, often accompanied by environmental pollution.
Relevant data shows that the cosmetics industry can produce about 120 billion packages every year, of which only 9% of plastic waste can be recycled; In addition, the "permanent chemicals" (note: perfluorinated and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)) used in the cosmetics manufacturing process have become a thorny problem in the industrial waste treatment due to the high decomposition difficulty.
Therefore, achieving sustainable development has become a consensus in the cosmetics industry. With the emergence of such concepts as "pure beauty", "pure" and "natural skin care", cosmetics enterprises are constantly promoting the integration of beauty industry and sustainable concept.
However, in the process of implementing the sustainable development strategy, enterprises often face the problem of "the gap between ideal and reality". Everyone is pursuing sustainable development, but the implementation of sustainable development is still subject to many restrictions.
First of all, the transformation of people's consumption form is constantly promoting the realization of the ideal state of sustainable development.
From the core idea, "sustainable development" emphasizes the coordinated development of economy, society, population, resources, environment, science and technology, and advocates a "natural friendly" way to achieve sustainable economic growth. In the process of pursuing the ideal state of sustainable development, the consumption form is also changing towards a more "green" and "healthy" direction.
In fact, since the 1960s, there has been an upsurge of "Green Consumerism" overseas. Anna Rappe, an American educator, once put forward: "Every time you buy, you are voting for the world you want." This famous saying has pushed green consumerism to a higher moral level.
Consumer led green consumerism, also known as "sustainable consumption", has become the current trend, guiding consumers to purchase products. According to a study by Unilever, one third of consumers will make purchase decisions based on the impact of brands on society and the environment.
Secondly, the emergence of green consumerism also poses higher challenges for product design and development. The R&D and production costs of sustainable raw materials, packaging and other aspects have been advanced.
Take packaging as an example. At present, most brands will use biodegradable recycled paper, natural resin packaging, or component replacement packaging. Most of them consider the sustainability of packaging from both materials and structures. In addition, they also need to consider the chemical stability and physical properties of containers.
Ke Xianwen, Associate Professor, Director of the Packaging Teaching and Research Office of the Printing and Packaging Department of Wuhan University, said publicly that compared with traditional plastic packaging, packaging materials that meet sustainable standards are more expensive, and there are some defects in current production technology and performance.
For packaging forms such as "empty bottle recycling" and "replacement packaging", a large amount of human and material resources will be consumed, which is a big expense for new brands. On the other hand, it also requires a lot of time cost to make use of sustainable development to have more in-depth interaction with consumers and do a good job of market education.
In addition, the pressure of green consumerism on enterprises has also led to many "negative products", such as the "green drift" behavior that has been criticized by many.
"Greening" means false environmental protection propaganda. This formalistic phenomenon frequently appears in various industries, including cosmetics, and has gradually attracted the attention of relevant regulatory authorities. At the beginning of 2021, the European Commission released the investigation results on "green washing", and examined the green claims of 344 suspicious cases in the fields of fashion, cosmetics and household appliances.
Among the numerous "bleaching green" cases in the cosmetics industry, the most typical one is Yueshifengyin. The brand once used the packaging method of plastic bottles with paper shells under the banner of "environmental protection", which was criticized by consumers.
According to Sydney Morning Herald, in May this year, Australian beauty brand Bondi Sands was also sued for falsely promoting its sunscreen as "coral friendly". It has been proved that although the sunscreen products of this brand do not contain oxybenzone and octanoate, they use other harmful ingredients such as avobenzone, hypersalicylate, octanosalicylate and octyline, so they are considered as false publicity.
In 2021, a non-profit organization, Toxin Free USA, filed a lawsuit against COVERGIRL, the cover girl of the American cosmetics brand, accusing the company of falsely promoting the safety and environmental protection of some of its cosmetics, but actually containing the carcinogen PFAS. At the same time, they also accused the sustainable development report of Coty Group, the parent company of the brand, of falsely promoting environmental initiatives and safety strategies.
In addition, some international famous brands have been questioned by "floating green". For example, in December 2021, Shiseido was accused by consumer groups that its BareMinerals cosmetics falsely advertised its products as "clean and pure" and "free of irritating chemicals", but actually contained PFAS.
Consumers require Shiseido to carry out public publicity activities, inform consumers of the truth about PFAS, fully disclose PFAS, and remove PFAS from products. At the same time, they also demand monetary compensation according to various regulations of New York State focusing on false advertising and consumer protection.
Recently, L'Oreal has also been complained by consumers for suspected false green claims. It is said that L'Oreal's "Elvive Full Restore 5 Shampoo Set" claims to use a sustainable "100% recycled plastic bottle", but its bottle cap is not made of recyclable materials, which has been criticized by foreign netizens.
While the phenomenon of green bleaching has been repeatedly prohibited, the industry has gradually realized that how to put the concept into practice is still a problem that needs to be solved urgently.
AI artificial intelligence, carbon capture and other technologies will bring spring breeze to "sustainable"?
Cosmetic raw materials and innovative technologies related to sustainable development not only have more availability, but also meet the expectations of the whole market for products. More and more brands are beginning to realize that environmental protection cannot only be regarded as a "marketing highlight", but needs to be put into practice.
Fortunately, the cosmetics industry is stepping into an industry 4.0 era driven by technology. New technologies from artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), data and analysis, cloud computing, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are promoting the development of beauty technology.
While Industry 4.0 brings more intelligent technologies to the industry, it also provides more technological innovation directions for sustainable development. Dominated by multinational companies, they often have a more complete supply process in the product production process. Therefore, the concept of sustainability also extends to all links in the supply chain. International brands are injecting innovative technologies related to sustainability into manufacturing, packaging, waste management and other processes.
1) AI and NFT technologies solve the problem of waste of production resources
According to a research report, as AI, AR, big data and other technologies begin to be applied to the cosmetics industry, cosmetics have also entered the era of intelligence. Digital and intelligent chemical plants at home and abroad are assisting in more efficient development of cosmetics through AI technology to reduce resource waste in product research and development.
For example, last year, the international essence and fragrance giants Chiwharton and IFF introduced an "AI product strength evaluation system" famous for "AI mind reading" into product research and development, so as to develop high-quality and safety compliant sustainable products. This technology integrates emotional computing, cloud computing and other artificial intelligence algorithms. Through cutting-edge technologies such as consumer micro expression recognition and emotional computing, it helps enterprises establish an efficient product evaluation system in product research and development, and achieves "zero carbon emissions" in the field of product evaluation through "paperless".
DSM is also using AI, artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies to improve the efficiency of all aspects of product development. For example, they use 3D facial color imaging technology to assist product efficacy verification and provide customized solutions for consumers; In addition, DSM also launched the Sunscreen Optimizer sunscreen simulator, an intelligent tool, which can show the SPF performance of sunscreen products and the impact of the formula on the environment, thus helping to develop sustainable sunscreen products.
Unilever also applies AI in the field of plastic recycling. As early as 2020, Unilever created the first large-scale AI closed-loop plastic recycling system in China. They launched the recycling equipment with AI identification function offline to automatically identify the recycled plastic bottles, and then transported the plastic bottles to the recycling plastic processing center, so that these high-quality plastics can be reused after treatment and processing, thus forming a plastic closed loop.
In addition, some companies also use AI technology to achieve sustainable traceability of raw materials. For example, OpenSC, a blockchain supply chain startup, uses AI to verify the sustainability of the supply chain and ensure that the source of raw materials meets sustainable and environmental standards. They track the flow of ingredients through the blockchain (NFT), and consumers can scan the product QR code to access the product historical data stored on the open blockchain.
2) Application of carbon capture technology in cosmetics industry
Carbon capture technology is a technology to capture carbon dioxide generated during coal combustion through chemical reaction, and it is also one of the most important technologies to deal with global climate change in the short term. This technology originated from the energy industry in the 1970s, and has been frequently used in the cosmetics industry in recent years.
LanzaTech, a biotechnology company, mainly uses biology and big data to produce environment-friendly materials and fuels, and enters the industrial market through the "carbon capture" technology with "gas fermentation" as the core. It is said that many commercial facilities, including the cosmetics industry, have authorized the use of LanzaTech technology to convert various waste carbon sources into ethanol, including industrial emissions in China.
In the cosmetics industry, carbon capture technology has been widely used in both ingredient research and packaging design. As early as 2020, LanzaTech cooperated with L'Oreal and Total, an energy giant, and began to use carbon capture technology to produce cosmetics packaging.
It is understood that they first capture industrial carbon emissions through a special biological process and convert them into ethanol, and then convert ethanol into polyethylene through a series of processes. Finally, L'Oreal uses this polyethylene to produce packaging with the same quality and performance as traditional polyethylene.
This year, Coty Group, a beauty enterprise, also exhibited a "green perfume" at the Consumer Expo, which uses LanzaTech's carbon capture ethanol. It is said that this "composition capture technology" not only makes secondary use of carbon, but also consumes almost zero water in the whole process, which can achieve green production.
Chiwharton also announced this year that it will cooperate with LanzaTech to develop sustainable perfume ingredients by using carbon capture technology. Chiwharton said that it will establish new production routes for key perfume ingredients used in the product portfolio through synthetic biology, and carry out the production and research and development of perfume in a sustainable way.
In April this year, Beiersdorf Group announced that its brand NIVEA MEN launched the world's first beauty product, Climate Care Moisturizer, which uses recycled carbon dioxide to extract ingredients. 14% of the ethanol raw material in this product uses the carbon capture and utilization (CCU) process to extract the recycled carbon dioxide. The formula of this product is 100% free of micro plastics, organic silicon, mineral oil and PEG/PEG derivatives, 99% biodegradable, and is made of 100% renewable energy electricity. The packaging is also recyclable.
In order to practice the concept of sustainable development in China, Nivea Men's Polar Oil Control Series products under the Group are specially customized for Chinese consumers to use green and environment-friendly packaging, and their bottles are made of FDA certified food grade recycled plastic, effectively reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 16%, so as to achieve low carbon and promote the circular economy.
The packaging of NIVEA Men's Polar Oil Control series products has been introduced to use green environmental protection packaging. The bottle body is made of FDA certified food grade recycled plastic, which effectively reduces the carbon dioxide emissions by 16%, so as to achieve low carbon and promote the circular economy.
Can a single spark abroad start a prairie fire at home?
Multinational companies implement sustainable development in the whole production and operation process including R&D, production, supply chain and sales through innovative technologies, intelligent factories and other forms. It is understood that companies such as Bayersdorff, DSM and Evonik are also responding to relevant domestic policies and actively promoting the implementation of sustainable development in China.
Therefore, the "east wind" of sustainable development has also led many local enterprises to take responsive actions. For example, this year, skin care brand Lin Qingxuan invested nearly 300 million to build a new "carbon neutral factory". Lin Qingxuan said that this is a modern beauty research and manufacturing base integrating digital, carbon neutral and high scientific research. They will build a "carbon neutral energy efficiency platform" to achieve "zero emission" of carbon dioxide.
In addition to the digital factory, although the domestic emerging brands are relatively scarce in basic resources, they are also implementing the goal of sustainable development step by step through the development of green packaging forms such as "replacement cores", "recyclable materials" and "filling bottles".
For example, so far, 100% recyclable materials and paper have been used to make the outer box of the product, saving wood energy consumption, and the replacement packaging has been introduced for many series of products such as "Special Safety Repair". In addition, they also choose PEFC&FSC forest certified source paper and tape free form for the materials of the express box. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, they can also be modified into a storage box for secondary use.