Cosmetic Industry develops Environmental Impact Scoring System

Five cosmetic industry giants are joining forces to develop an environmental impact scoring system that their customers can refer to when purchasing any item. 

Henkel, L’Oreal, LVMH, Natura & Co and Unilever are developing a cosmetic industry environmental impact scoring system for beauty products. The aim is to design a common approach to provide consumers with clear and transparent environmental impact information. 

“All companies will benefit from this pre-existing work and are invited to contribute their own experience,” said the five groups in a statement.

What does the system look like?

The values to be used in the scoring system haven’t been detailed yet but it could use a harmonised scoring system, which refers to a range like A to E used in the Eco-Score system. In the Eco-Score system, there is a colour range from A to E and products are assigned a letter value as well as a colour value. The letter and colour refer to the environmental footprint of the product as well as the packaging.

Whilst this new scoring system is similar to Eco-Score, which has been adopted by the likes of Lidl, the new system has a few differences. The new system may not be colour gradient based at the moment – although it may be added in the future – and is more focused on the total carbon footprint of the product. This includes the environmental impact from growth, farming, collection, delivery, storage, packaging and distribution.

What is the aim of the system for the cosmetic industry?

The five cosmetic giants of the cosmetic industry have set up a cross-brand scoring system rooted in science methodology. The aim of this scoring system is to provide consumers with clear, transparent and comparable information on the ecological impact of a product.

As mentioned, this new scoring system also takes into account the entire life cycle of the product, taking into consideration growing, sourcing, storing, producing, packaging and distributing,

Sustainability consultancy Quantis, which launched the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for Cosmetics in 2018, will lead the initiative to ensure a robust and scientifically backed approach. They will also operate independently so as not to be influenced by any one of the giant cosmetic companies at the head of this initiative.

Furthermore, the assessment of the environmental impacts during the life cycle of products will be backed by the principles of the “Product Environmental Footprint”. This measurement is based on the EU’s scientific method for quantifying the environmental footprint of products. 

What are the system’s principles?

This is a voluntary system but one the cosmetic giants have signed up to in good faith. The system is built on four principles: 

  1. Collaborative methodology for measuring environmental effects for standard ingredients. 
  2. A shared methodology for measuring environmental effects for raw materials. 
  3. A synergetic tool for calculating environmental impact per product. 
  4. An aligned scoring system that allows consumers to make comparisons easily.

System integrity and scrutiny

The cosmetic giants will also be inviting external scientists, academics and NGOs to scrutinise the system and its findings to ensure the integrity of the scoring system and the process as a whole remains intact. They have also asked other companies in the cosmetic industry to join the initiative, with the hope that this can become an industry standard.

For years, companies and NGOs have tried to launch an environmental scoring system for cosmetic products but to no success. These initiatives, finally put into place by the cosmetic giants themselves, will most definitely impose the change quickly. 

Other cosmetic brands will have to follow suit as the giants begin to offer a comparison tool for customers that doesn’t include any other cosmetic industry brands apart from the five largest. 

Nevertheless, the biggest winners here are the consumers. They are going to be more informed about the nature of cosmetic products than ever before. And, in an age of environmentally-conscious consumers, this can only be seen as a positive move towards customer tendencies.

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