For a better tomorrow: China's beauty brands embrace ESG focus as consumer priorities shift – Cargill

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

ESG considerations have emerged as a central focus for China's beauty brands. [Getty Images]
ESG considerations have emerged as a central focus for China's beauty brands. [Getty Images]

Related tags China ESG Skin care Cosmetics

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations have emerged as a central focus for China's beauty brands, reflecting a notable shift among consumers towards sustainability priorities, says Cargill.

As ESG values take centre stage as a pivotal focus for consumers, businesses across China are reshaping themselves to reflect their values.

“When we talked about sustainability six, seven years ago in China, we didn't receive lots of positive feedback. It was more of a good-to-know kind of thing. But now, it’s changed a lot because we’ve seen ESG becoming a very important topic in China. For instance, more and more of the public companies disclose annually about the ESG targets,”​ said Oliver Luo, sales director for Cargill Beauty APAC.

While this movement may be consumer-driven in many markets, Luo believes that the heightened awareness is attributed to the Chinese government and its move to tackle environmental issues.

“In the past five to 10 years, whenever the government talked about the importance of environmental protection, people just thought it was a good thing to have. But now, I do believe people have seen the positive impact from it. A simple example is air pollution. Now that it’s much better than before people understand how it makes a great impact in our daily lives,”​ he said.

Furthermore, related values such traceability resonates strongly with Chinese consumers, who are very discerning when it comes to product quality and safety.

“I think it’s not surprising that people have this image because when you try to improve the sustainability of your product, or even the lifecycle, you are definitely set the priority for the traceability. And for quality control itself, traceability is very important as you're looking to every process,”​ said Luo.

Luo told CosmeticsDesign-Asia​ that the focus on ESG is possibly one of the biggest opportunities in the Chinese beauty market today. These brands are striving towards these goals not just to appeal to the domestic market but the overseas markets as well.

As such, the company is increasingly working with domestic brands in China to build out their sustainability stories through its sustainable sourcing programs, such as its Red Seaweed Promise, Cocoa Promise, and Jojoba Promise initiatives.

The company has also simplified sustainable ingredient selection with the Cargill Beauty Sustainable Ingredient Score (SIS), which was launched last year.

The SIS is a third-party verified scoring system for Cargill’s personal care ingredients which indicates how sustainable an ingredient is.

According to the firm, the system is based around criteria in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and based on three pillars: clean sourcing, clean transformation, and environmental impact.

Cocoa cosmetics

At the recent Personal Care and Homecare Ingredients (PCHi) trade show held in Shanghai, China, Cargill showcased its newest products including its CocoaDesign line of emollients derived from the cocoa bean.

“The CocoaDesign products are derived from the cocoa butter industry. Cargill is one of the top cocoa butter suppliers in the food industry for chocolate and we have our Cocoa Promise, meaning we can use the same story for cosmetics and our customers can benefit from the additional value to the product,” ​said Luo.

According to Cargill, the program was designed to enable farmers and their communities to achieve better incomes and living standards while growing cocoa more sustainably.

In 2023, the Cocoa Promise program has had reached a significant social impact on local population by working with more than 240,000 local farmers.

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