As more countries shift more and more towards integrated sustainability, few areas remain untouched. The cosmetics industry has the capacity to affect both the consumer and the environment either positively or negatively. This depends on the company’s decision to take part in environmentally proactive innovations.
The beauty and cosmetics industry is one that continues to thrive in Africa and beyond from- L’Oréal, MAC, Fenty beauty, Suzie beauty, Pauline cosmetics, and Alaffia among others. With sales in beauty products expected to increase by 6% to $675 billion by 2020, cosmetics and personal care companies must prepare to transition to the new green global economy.
While sustainability may easily be dismissed as a passing fad, its urgency has stemmed from the undeniable evidence of environmental change. Some may think, ooh but cosmetics is a vain sector consisting of makeup products. Well, this is true but it expands beyond lotions, acne medications, and other human care products. This large range if looked into detail shows the environmental, customer and financial impact a company can have when integrating sustainable practices.
The most detrimental impact of the cosmetic industry is deforestation, yes it contributes to this through palm oil production. As one of the cheapest vegetable oils to be produced, palm oil is widely used and can be found in anything from snacks to cosmetics.
Another impact that comes about as a result of the cosmetic industry is the gross CO2 emissions that are a byproduct of their facilities and deforestation. By 2020, palm oil production is set to release more than 558 million metric tons of carbon to the environment, an amount greater than Canada’s current fossil fuel production.
In addition, the increased desire for transparency and understanding of product ingredients among customers prove that transitioning to sustainable practices is a smart step for companies. People are becoming more aware of the side effects caused by chemical infused products and companies are taking notice as well. The research done on potentially harmful products has sparked companies to provide alternative brands for concerned customers.
The transition to sustainable practices is not only an attempt to end these practices but also to contribute positively to the environment or lead the way for societal changes. Companies who embrace and differentiate their products towards a ‘greener’ consumer, may also find profitability from sustainability.
While many industries have been affected by the societal turn to sustainability, the cosmetic industry is under a particular scope due to the increased demand for transparency of personal care items and the detrimental effects they arbor to the environment. With these facts, it is clear that transforming the cosmetic industry to be sustainable is a vital task for a better society.
Some African brands are already tuning to the sustainability rhythm. Alaffia, a skincare company based in Togo, West Africa. It has managed to embed sustainable practices while at the same time expand its business by increasing its huge range of products from skin to health care. In line with the sustainable development goals, Alaffia runs a couple of empowerment and conservation projects which include- reforestation projects, education projects, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) projects, and maternal care projects.
One concern that arises when considering sustainable practices for a company is the viability and financial repercussion. However, sustainability is not just better for the consumer and the supply chain, but it can also lead to cost-efficient practices and increased sales. Creating a resilient, sustainable business model based on relevant metrics- is key to ensuring this business survives in a resource-constrained world. Just like Alaffia, it is more than just makeup brushes.