At Cosmetics Europe, we take to heart the principles of sustainable development, as illustrated by our mission statement: "Cosmetics Europe's mission is to support the development of an innovative, sustainable, competitive and respected cosmetics industry in Europe, which best serves consumers".
The United Nations defines sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, based on three pillars: economic development, environmental protection and social responsibility.
In line with these pillars, we strive to:
1. Reduce our environmental footprint
There is a drive within our industry towards more environmentally efficient manufacturing techniques, reducing waste and emissions. Many companies are for instance lowering their Co2 emissions by reducing energy consumption, water consumption and waste generation throughout the product life cycle by using more sustainable materials for products and packaging, and taking steps to limit the amount of waste going to landfills.
2. Generate economic benefit through high value jobs and growth
We are a strategic sector with high value jobs, providing direct and indirect employment for 2 million people and we contribute significantly to economic growth in Europe.
3. Enhance the social value of our products and support the communities in which our products are manufactured (including value chain) or purchased
Our industry has invested in programmes that enhance the communities in which our value chain operates. Numerous specific initiatives are underway within areas including health education, fair trade, health research and provision of education opportunities.
Environmental sustainability in action
All consumer products create environmental impacts throughout their lifecycles. Recognising the need to design products and processes that minimise their environmental footprint, companies in the cosmetics industry have implemented a broad range of strategies that contribute to improving the sector’s sustainability. Clearly, environmental sustainability programmes will evolve further in the future. For example, the use of biodegradable, recyclable and reusable packaging continues to increase and packaging is designed more and more based on a life cycle thinking. Eco-design of formulas and packaging is encouraged and is more and more accompanied by education and sharing of best practices.
- Environmental and social criteria are increasingly considered when sourcing ingredients and packaging materials. Deforestation is being minimised and steps are taken to ensure that biodiversity is conserved.
- Efficient processes and technologies are progressively being used during manufacturing to reduce the consumption of energy and water and to minimise emissions, pollution and waste. Where possible, energy is derived from renewable sources.
- To reduce the emissions from transport, cosmetics companies are adapting their distribution practices.
- The findings of Cosmetics Europe’s study into the environmental footprint category rules for shampoo can also be considered by companies for application to related product types (e.g. rinse-off shower and bath products).
- Given that a large share of the environmental footprint of many cosmetic products arises during use and subsequent disposal, the cosmetics industry is increasingly looking at ways to engage consumers, also via digital media.
To learn more about the examples of sustainability action taken by the cosmetics industry at different stages of the product life cycle, read the updated version of the “Environmental Sustainability - The European Cosmetics industry's contribution 2017-2018” report.
Cosmetics Europe has engaged in a number of initiatives that support sustainable development.
Recommendation on solid plastic particles
The occurrence and persistence of plastic debris in the marine environment and waterways is an issue of increasing public debate, with the vast majority of small plastic particles in the seas originating from the breakdown of bigger plastic materials.
Although often highlighted in the context of marine litter debate, the contribution of solid plastic microbeads from cosmetic and personal care products is limited compared to other sources. However, in view of public concerns, the cosmetics industry began the process of phasing out solid plastic microbeads some time ago, and as a result there has already been a dramatic reduction in their use in wash-off personal care products.
Cosmetics Europe has lent its support by recommending to its membership in October 2015 that it should seek to discontinue the use of synthetic, solid plastic particles used for exfoliating and cleansing that are non-biodegradable in the marine environment in wash-off cosmetic products placed on the market as of 2020.
Environmental footprint of shampoo
The European Commission has conducted a series of pilots on the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) of organisations and products that will guide future policy proposals.
In parallel, Cosmetics Europe has studied the PEF of shampoo. Cosmetics Europe followed as much as possible the Commission’s guidance, methodology and timing. The results of the project were published as an article Developing Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for Shampoos: The Basis for Comparable Life Cycle by L. Golsteijn et al. in the Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management Journal in August 2018.
The outcomes of the Cosmetics Europe project include a communication component that is intended as a first step towards raising public awareness of the environmental footprint of shampoo and outlining ways in which companies and consumers can reduce this footprint. See the video on this page. All the Shampoo PEF study reports are available here.
Conservation of biodiversity: access to and use of genetic resources (ABS)
Cosmetics Europe, together with three European associations representing cosmetic ingredient suppliers (EFfCI and UNITIS), is working on substance for the cosmetics sector related to the EU Regulation 511/2014 on access to genetic resources, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their utilisation (abbreviated ABS). This Regulation implements in EU law the Nagoya Protocol on the conservation of biodiversity. Cosmetics Europe, EFfCI and UNITIS are also working on Best Practice for the Cosmetics industry, to provide tools and processes that will facilitate companies compliance with the Regulation and the controls by the competent authorities.
Cosmetics Europe, through its efficient network of 27 national associations assists more than 4000 SMEs in Europe, helping them to be compliant with environmental regulations and to engage in sustainable development activities.
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