Clean Living: How are Cosmetic Companies Implementing Corporate Social Responsibility in Their Practices? 6 Steps They’re Taking
Traditionally, most cosmetic companies do not have the best clean living image. “Beauty comes at a price”, goes the old saying, and it’s something that certain companies seem to take seriously. They receive criticism for unethical and non-environmentally friendly business practices including animal testing, unsustainable sourcing, and chemical pollution. Pressure from consumers and conscientious retailers means that the beauty industry is investing in corporate social responsibility and clean living sustainability initiatives in order to improve its image. Cosmetic companies can improve their environmental and social impacts by investing in green formulations, sustainable packaging, certification programs, biodiversity, and ethical supply chains, among other things.
Here are 6 steps cosmetic companies are taking to incorporate social responsibility:
Many companies look to the color green, widely associated with nature, the environment and planet Earth, to assure their customers they care. They may use green packaging, green bottles, and images of leaves, infusing the cosmetics with many natural herbs or aromas that certainly sound ecologically friendly. However, there has been controversy; companies like Dove have been accused of producing such ´green lines’ without any sort of sustainable practices behind them, and play off the vulnerabilities of customers who feel they should be making a difference.
Sustainable materials and Packaging
Research conducted by Organic Monitor has shown that most investment goes into reducing the environmental footprint of cosmetic products by using sustainable packaging.
Packaging traditionally leaves a high environmental footprint; naturally, many cosmetic companies look to reduce this by adopting such clean living practices as saving paper and printing instructions on the inside of the packaging, instead of on leaflets. Progressive thinkers like Lush Cosmetics have gone further by offering 55% of its products without any packaging at all. Companies are also look at biodegradable plastics, recycled materials and innovative ways to reduce packaging such as upcycling and lightweighting, as well as the use of new packaging materials such as biopolymers and bamboo.
This is another area that has become important for certain beauty companies who wish to ´give back’ to society. Luxury brand La Prairie gives 1 EUR to the Ocean Futures Society for each sale of its Advanced Marine Biology Cream, while fellow boutique outfit Chantecaille donates 5% of sales from its La Baleine make-up collection to The International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Meanwhile, the stalwart of cosmetics Avon, seeks to give back to women, and works with the Avon Foundation for Women to focus on two goals: eradicating breast cancer and ending violence against women.
A growing number of natural cosmetic and ingredient firms are investing in growth of developing countries. The importance of ethical sourcing has made Fair Trade an issue that stands out. However, certification seems to turn off many companies, and some choose to take the non-certified route because of bureaucracy and the limitations of Fair Trade standards.
Other companies, such as the Body Shop, focus on ethical sourcing as their core belief. They build close relationships with their suppliers and work together to ensure ethical trading. They became a founding member of the Ethical Trading initiative in 1998, and work with over 120 regularly visited suppliers who are monitored to see how they treat their workers.
Greater Options Available
The number and types of sustainable raw materials available has come a long way in the last few decades. Formulators of cosmetics can now pick and choose from the world’s worth of organic, natural and sustainable options for use in their clean living products. Some raw material suppliers publish charts to assist formulators with ingredient selection and use.
However, sometimes unknown ethical consequences can result from the use of new sustainable materials. Poly Lactic Acid (PLA), a natural bio-plastic ingredient found in many cosmetic products, is made from crops used for food. By harvesting these crops to make beauty products, environmentally-conscious companies can contribute to food inflation in developing countries. This is a significant downside of sustainable productivity.
Although a growing number of beauty companies communicate their green initiatives and provide annual sustainability reports, research shows that the majority of consumers are uncertain which companies support sustainable values or which products are sustainable. The growing plethora of eco-labels and seals is making consumers sceptical about green claims.
Companies try to combat this by asserting the ethics of their brand. For example, cosmetics company Lush was not happy to discover that Amazon had been selling bath products that had a packaging design similar to Lush, when users search for the word “Lush” on the site. Their main problem was the fact that the products were produced by Bomb Cosmetics, a UK-based company Lush claimed were not invested in ethical practices.
In taking on such a giant as Amazon over the importance of their ethical label, Lush sent a powerful message to the public that they would take misuse of ethical trading standards quite seriously.