The Future of Beauty: Green is the New Glam

A report-back on the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in New York

The Sustainable Cosmetics Summit – North America edition, took place recently in New York as the first of four conferences facilitated by Ecovia Intelligence, a London-based research and training consultancy. The summit brought together key stakeholders in the global beauty industry, including cosmetics manufacturers, suppliers of raw materials, business innovators, representatives from industry regulation bodies and investors. If anything, the consistent growth of these kinds of initiatives speaks to the fact that the sustainable beauty industry is growing, and we’re honoured to be a part of that transition. 

AI and its future in the beauty industry

Several themes drove the conversation at the summit, but at the top of the agenda was the role that artificial intelligence (AI) can play in the development of sustainable beauty products. In a relatively short space of time, platforms such as ChatGPT have demonstrated AI’s ability to disrupt and revolutionise industries. AI as an emerging technology is still relatively new and the way it will be used and optimised across sectors is only beginning to take shape. But already, several good examples of AI can be used to drive and develop sustainable products have emerged.

For example, AI algorithms can be used to analyse vast datasets and optimise product designs for sustainability. Going forward, AI tools can be used by cosmetics producers to select ingredients that have the smallest possible carbon footprint without compromising on aspects such as quality and performance. AI will also have a major impact on the creation of more sustainable supply chains. How products are transported, how much energy that process involves, how inventory is stored and how by-products are wasted are all factors that AI-powered systems can optimise. 

In the beauty industry, AI also has the ability to assist demand planners with forecasting. Predictive analytics can interpret historical data, market trends and consumer behaviour to help cosmetics producers minimise overproduction, reduce waste and build more sustainable production processes. These are just a few ways in which AI can help industry stakeholders make better, more informed decisions and set more sustainable trajectory for the industry. 
Going green, inside and out

Another key theme to emerge from this year was environmentally-friendly packaging. Experts on consumer psychology have long touted the importance of packaging in how consumers select and buy beauty products. Unfortunately over time, the use of plastic in the cosmetics industry has contributed significantly to the formation of landfills and inefficient waste disposal. The harsh reality is that the most vulnerable members of society have paid the price for the overuse of plastic, and the survival of countless ecosystems has been compromised by the industry’s inability to address these pressing issues. 

Fortunately, the panel discussions and workshops hosted at the summit suggested that more and more product developers are recognising the urgent need for transformation in this area. One of the most prominent developments in this arena includes the move away from single-use packaging to multi-use packaging, which ultimately extends the lifecycle of packaging. The use of compostable or biodegradable alternatives to plastics and plastic derivatives is also becoming more mainstream. 

Not only is this shift important for the producers of beauty products, it also signals positive prospects for emerging raw material developers and innovators who are finding ways to replace the use of plastics with sustainable options. A new generation of eco-savvy investors will play an important role in building the sustainable packaging industry and supporting suppliers across the entire value chain.
A packaging pioneer

We’re proud to say that one of the brands you’ll find on Plain Tiger are really leading the charge when it comes to packaging wellness products more sustainably. Health supplement company, G Herbal uses ingredients that are grown using natural farming techniques and packaging that is almost plastic-free. 

The G Herbal team has managed to eliminate all plastic except for the security seal stickers and expiry date stickers on their test tubes. By weight therefore, you could say that G Herbal’s packaging contains less than 0.1% plastic. Furthermore, the paper used in the brand’s packaging is FSC-certified from a Japanese paper mill and even its refill pouches are a kraft-lined alternative to the standard PE/PET plastic based options, making them recyclable and landfill-friendly.

Beauty industry innovation goes waterless

One of the biggest impacts of climate change is water scarcity – a reality that has extended into previously unaffected territories and has widespread implications for a range of sectors. For many innovators in the beauty space, waterless technology offers the most sustainable solution.  

Historically, the manufacture of beauty products has relied heavily on water-intensive processes, but today, cosmetics producers are employing new technology to reduce and even eliminate the use of water in their production methods. One advantage of waterless technology is the reduction of carbon emissions associated with water transportation and processing. By removing water from formulations, manufacturers can significantly reduce the weight and volume of products, resulting in lower transportation emissions. Additionally, the absence of water eliminates the need for energy-intensive water purification processes, further reducing the carbon footprint of beauty products.

Waterless beauty products also have a longer shelf life compared to their water-based counterparts. Water can serve as a breeding ground for bacteria and mold, leading to product spoilage. Removing water from formulations reduces the risk of microbial growth, allowing products to remain stable and effective for a longer time. This not only reduces waste but also encourages consumers to use products fully before replacing them, contributing to a more sustainable consumption pattern.

Moreover, waterless technology encourages innovation in formulation development. Companies are exploring alternative ingredients and delivery systems that offer the same efficacy and user experience without the need for water. This shift towards waterless formulations encourages the use of concentrated, potent ingredients, reducing the overall amount of product required for each application. This not only reduces packaging waste but also promotes more effective and efficient beauty routines.
A waterless wonder 

One of our own brands, Yodi has embraced waterless technology, and with exceptional results. Forbrand founder, Hélène, creating a range that truly represented sustainable beauty meant finding a solution to water-scarcity as one of the most pertinent climate-related issues the world is facing. 

With water becoming an ever more rare and valuable resource, the mindset of product manufacturers like Hélène Azancot is that in order to create something that has the smallest carbon footprint, it needs to be created without water. The alternative? Aloe vera juice. And it works wonders. In the Yodi range you’ll find skin cleansers and shampoos that come in powder form and take on a foamy or milky texture when coming into contact with water.

As the beauty industry continues to evolve, events like the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will play a pivotal role in shaping its future. The summit's collective efforts and our shared commitments towards sustainability offer hope and inspiration for a greener, more conscious beauty industry that aligns with the needs of both people and the planet.

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