Climate collaboration: Innovation cycles have ‘dramatically shortened’ during COVID-19, says Solvay

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

There will be a lot more partnerships to drive sustainability in beauty and personal care this decade compared to the last (Image: Getty Images)
There will be a lot more partnerships to drive sustainability in beauty and personal care this decade compared to the last (Image: Getty Images)

Related tags circular beauty Green chemistry sustainable beauty sourcing Supply chain Collaboration Innovation COVID-19 Solvay

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has fuelled a raft of sustainable beauty and personal care innovation, creating a wave of more value chain collaboration that will likely stick, say executives at chemicals major Solvay.

COVID-19 had drastically shifted many things in the beauty world in recent months – from consumer needs and shopping habits​ to the cost of doing business. But on a research and development level, it had also had a significant impact on beauty, according to Eric Leroy, global marketing innovation director for home and personal care at Solvay.

“Clearly the COVID-19 crisis changed many things, not only in sustainability but as well in innovation,” ​Leroy told CosmeticsDesign-Europe. “…Innovation cycles have dramatically shortened.”

Because of this, he said the beauty and personal care industry was “fostering more partnerships”​ to work on next-generation products collaboratively.

“Our customers are really looking and understanding that with all those changes happening, and maybe as well with the high level of uncertainty, that they cannot rely solely on themselves; they have to open up. There’s more opening up, so definitely we’re working more closely with our key customers.”

Green innovation – solid beauty, supply chain transparency and reformulation efforts

And this was especially the case for green innovation, Leroy said, including work on refining solid beauty formulations; securing better sustainable transparency around key ingredients like guar polymers and palm oil; and the elimination of microplastics.

Anne-Charlotte Butrot, sustainable project manager at Solvay, agreed: “Following the COVID-19 crisis, it became more important to have resilient value chains, working on the local value chains as well but looking at new ideas to make sure we use less resources – linked to the circular economy.”

“…Partnerships we see are merging in different topics around sustainability and we see that, if we want to go further, we need to work together,” ​Butrot said. This was certainly true for topics like CO2 emissions and biodiversity protection – covered by Solvay’s climate pillar in its Sustainability 2030 goals – that had become increasingly important for both industry and consumers recently, she said.

“I’m pretty sure that we’ll see a lot more partnerships than what we [saw] in the last decade because if we really want to fight climate change and work on sustainability, we will need to work together.”

Solvay, in its revision and definition of its sustainability goals for the next decade, she said, had dedicated an entire focus on climate, for example – “clearly showing it is a priority”.

EU regulatory backdrop to boost circular beauty drive further

Leroy said end-of-life and the “environmental fate”​ of a beauty product was also a “strategic subject”​ for Solvay as well, and one that aligned with the direction of regulatory change in the EU.

“We clearly see, for instance, that with the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability and the Green Deal, these are very much connected to the topic of circularity and regeneration. So, the topic of the environmental fats, biodegradability, reusing waste and so on is the next big thing.”

Concerns about protecting the quality of portable water would also soon reach Europe as a critical focus in beauty and personal care market, he said, with considerations for chemical persistency, mobility and toxicity “beyond what we used to know as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC)”.

“…Our innovation and products are always centred around sustainability, and the evolution of the regulation framework is a big driver and criteria in our innovation projects,” ​he said.

Butrot said these upcoming regulatory changes in the EU had to be considered an opportunity that would push industry to improve its environmental impact via alternatives. And this stretched beyond reformulation with different ingredients to include alternative methods of sourcing ingredients, and importantly using digital tools to track and ensure transparency on this, she said.

Circular beauty – How industry can make this a mainstream reality

Interested in hearing more on how industry can collectively push towards a circular beauty market? Our recent Circular Beauty​ webinar provides in-depth insight from key stakeholders in the space, including Garnier and TerraCycle, to discuss the opportunities and challenges in improving formulation, packaging and more. You can register to watch this one-hour webinar on-demand now​.

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