State of the industry: Reflecting on what’s to come in 2020

Cosmetics Europe on 2020: ‘It’s not really possible anymore to disregard the green agenda’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

Beauty and personal care will have to consider emissions throughout its supply chain and chemical impact on the environment (Getty Images)
Beauty and personal care will have to consider emissions throughout its supply chain and chemical impact on the environment (Getty Images)

Related tags: Sustainability, green beauty, European Green Deal, Cosmetics europe, carbon emissions, Chemicals

The beauty and personal care industry must reassess its environmental position collectively because the green agenda is front and centre of Europe’s political and regulatory landscape and here to stay, says the director-general of Cosmetics Europe.

The green agenda, digitalisation, free from, animal testing and alternatives, microplastics and endocrine disruptors – just some of the biggest topics to consider moving forward into 2020, according to John Chave, director-general of regional trade association Cosmetics Europe.

As the beauty and personal care industry moves into the next decade, CosmeticsDesign-Europe caught up exclusively with Chave to reflect on these issues in depth, starting with an important spotlight on sustainability.

Green issues now involve ‘every aspect of business’

Earlier this month, the European Commission published its European Green Deal​ – declaring its goal to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 and enshrine climate-neutrality into law.

John Chave, director-general of regional trade association Cosmetics Europe.
John Chave, director-general of regional trade association Cosmetics Europe.

This deal, Chave said, had important and wide-reaching implications for beauty and personal care. “Firstly, because we’re a manufacturing industry and our processes are subject to scrutiny in terms of emissions, but also there’s an increasing focus on the impact of chemicals in the environment.”

For a long time, he said conversation around chemicals in cosmetics had been focused on human health and impact but now concerns had pivoted towards the environment – a focus that would develop further in the future.

“The green agenda has really been central and has become front and centre in the European Union’s political and regulatory environment,”​ he said. “…It’s not really possible anymore to disregard the green agenda. And I know companies don’t, of course, but for people working in the policy environment, green issues are now coming into more or less every aspect of business. For that reason, I think two things will be important: firstly, we have to be vigilant about policy developments to make sure they’re well-founded and appropriate and secondly, I think we need to be really proactive as an industry.”

Breaking away from a ‘passive’ perception

Chave said one of the biggest challenges the beauty category faced regarding environmental or green goals was being perceived as passive.

“This is where industry will need to develop its approach,” ​he said. “Of course, many of our cosmetic companies have very dynamic and proactive environmental initiatives in play but I think it’s important that the industry as a whole is perceived and understood as a contributor to achieving environmental goals and sustainability goals.”

For industry to truly make an impact on the green agenda, he said it had to “speak with one voice”.

“If we’re perceived to be divided or following radically different agendas or approaches, people will draw the conclusion we’re not really a committed stakeholder on the environmental agenda.”

Industry would therefore have to “reassess its position”,​ he said, making sure it was fully-committed and ready to act when necessary.

“The pressure for us to do that will become intense from a policy point of view, but in any case, it’s the right thing to do - we want to be an industry perceived to be on the side of the environment, and not against it.”

Collaboration versus competition – can these go hand-in-hand?

A green future for beauty requires collaboration (Getty Images)
A green future for beauty requires collaboration (Getty Images)

One eco design expert recently told CosmeticsDesign-Europe competitive advantage had to be put aside​ if the beauty industry was to truly advance in green efforts. 

Asked if this was something he agreed with, Chave said: “I think it’s not quite as simple as that because competition generates innovation and innovation generates solutions to sustainable challenges. So, the idea that you can solve these problems without companies pushing ahead and trying to find their own solutions in a competitive way seems wrong. Nonetheless, I still think there are certain areas where industry can say, as a whole, ‘this is our position and commitment and what we’re working on’.”

‘A green uprising’ is one of CosmeticsDesign-Europe’s top trends to watch for 2020 across the EMEA region – you can find out more in our video on the biggest global beauty trends for next year.

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