Could Emissions Labels Encourage More Sustainable Beauty Brands?

Skincare brand Cocokind puts the “Sustainability Facts” label on all of its products. It resembles the nutrition label on food products but instead of calories, it shows the total carbon emissions of the product.

The macronutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are replaced with terms like pre-manufacturing, production, and packaging. The label also provides specific details on how to recycle the product.

Cocokind is making sustainability labeling a new norm

Cocokind shares the carbon footprint tracking results for each product on the product packaging and website. These results stem from its effort to measure and reduce the environmental impact of all of its products.

To do so, it breaks down the product journey into 4 phases: pre-manufacturing (sourcing raw materials and packaging components), production (addressing issues like ethical labor, fair pay, and safe manufacturing), distribution (creating efficient delivery routes), and disposal (upcycling, recycling, or reusing).

Along with a third-party audit firm, it uses the Life Cycle Assessment methodology to measure all of its products' carbon footprint or the total greenhouse gases emitted from pre-manufacturing through end-of-life.

As it measures, reduces, and offsets the carbon emissions of its products, it also continuously updates the sustainability label on different products. This allows customers to track the brand’s progress towards becoming more sustainable, making it a green skincare brand.

However, Cocokind is just one brand and does not have the same distribution as larger brands. Let’s see if bigger and well-known beauty brands are also making efforts to be more sustainable and transparent.

How transparent are large beauty brands about their sustainability?

L’Oréal, Unilever, P&G, Estée Lauder, Shiseido, Beiersdorf, LVMH, Kao, Coty, and Johnson & Johnson: these companies generate the highest revenue in the global beauty and personal care industry. Carbon Trust, a climate consultancy, conducted an assessment to determine how well these brands are reducing and offsetting their carbon emissions.

In its report, Carbon Trust mentioned that most of these brands have reduced their operational emissions by using more renewable energy at their manufacturing locations.

The report reveals that raw material sourcing accounts for 30-50% of the industry's emissions, yet these brands have not acknowledged these emissions in their reporting. If they do not acknowledge them, how can we expect them to measure and reduce them?

The beauty industry has considered making its packaging more sustainable. Packaging serves as the first consumer touchpoint, and many consumers are urging brands to adopt more sustainable packaging. However, the industry still mainly relies on single-use packaging.

As of 2019, the personal care and beauty industry produced over 120 billion units of packaging annually. In 2018, the U.S. alone produced 7.9 billion packaging units for beauty and personal care products. Almost 95% of this waste ends up in landfills and oceans.

Consumer use of beauty products after purchase contributes the most to emissions, including activities like rinsing off face wash or shampoo with heated water. Although these emissions are indirect, brands can have an impact by raising consumer awareness and designing products that use fewer resources. Unfortunately, only 2 out of the 10 brands have set out clear plans to address this issue.

Larger beauty brands should take inspiration from smaller brands like Cocokind. Just imagine if all beauty and personal care products come with sustainability labeling. It would help consumers choose more sustainable products, and brands would be motivated to improve the figures on these labels.

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