As the demand for more sustainable consumer products is increasing, the range of nature-based and natural cosmetics has been growing in recent years. By 2025, the global organic and natural personal care market is expected to reach more than 22 billion euros. But what sparked this beauty revolution?
It all started when cosmetic connoisseurs began examining the ingredients in their beauty products. With the rise in sensitive skin from pollution and stress, they turned to beauty products from local organic grocery stores or made them in their own kitchens. However, these home-made solutions were often less stable, less durable, and sometimes even sticky. Once larger organizations saw these needs, they started providing effective cosmetics with more nature-based and natural ingredients, develop more sustainable packaging methods and have a stronger focus on ethically sourcing their ingredients.
The world of “green” cosmetics
Why do we need to create more sustainable cosmetics? That’s because two percent of the world’s carbon footprint finds its source in cosmetics – mostly from obtaining the raw materials needed and the hot water used during the product’s consumption.
With the various “green” cosmetics on the market, it can be hard to tell how natural and sustainable these products truly are. Therefore, the following three standards have been set: Clean Beauty, Green Beauty and Certified Beauty.
In Clean Beauty, product research and development focus on maintaining high performance and perfect product properties, while respecting the consumer’s skin. With Green Beauty products, there is a greater focus on using nature-based ingredients and natural extracts as part of the formula and emphasizing the caring properties of each extract. The last category, Certified Beauty, uses a very high percentage of ingredients of natural origin and has been certified by international standards such as COSMOS or ECOCERT.
According to Dr. Andrea Sättler, Head of Research and Development for Body Care, Skin Care and Oral Care in Henkel’s business unit Beauty Care, “Our strategy is to establish a connection between nature-based, natural and renewable raw materials on the one hand and effective cosmetic products on the other.”
The transformation at large
Beyond the creation of new product lines, sustainability at Henkel involves upgrading some familiar products and brands. One of Beauty Care’s most ambitious goals over the next few years is to make its complete portfolio of beauty products more sustainable. For example, the family value brand Schauma has recently relaunched the vegan line, as well as an entirely new product line with EU Ecolabel certification and packaging made from 100 percent recycled plastic.
Whether the ingredients are synthetic, nature-based or of natural origin, Henkel’s Research and Development team ensures that they are safe in the respective product formulas. The experts evaluate all ingredients according to the latest scientific research. All products are launched on the market only after they complete safety assessments.
“Consumers want sustainable products that are ethically-sourced, good for the environment and made by brands that have shared core beliefs. By transforming our extensive product portfolio – ranging from hair care, styling and colorants to body, skin care and toothpaste – we are addressing those needs. We aim to be a frontrunner with our sustainable innovations,” says Saskia Schmaus, Corporate Director International Marketing at Henkel Beauty Care.
More than skin deep
Henkel uses a holistic approach to sustainability that covers the entire value chain: from sourcing of ingredients and packaging materials, to production, logistics, consumers’ usage of the product, and disposal.
From the very beginning of the value chain, Henkel sources ingredients responsibly and invests in small-holder farmers. For example, the company has supported trainings for small-holder palm oil farmers in South America, Africa and Asia in seeding, culturing and harvesting crops under sustainable and fair working conditions.
When it comes to packaging, Henkel’s Beauty Care products have been using recycled plastic. Now, it incorporates even more sustainable packaging methods by utilizing the Plastic Bank’s Social Plastic into new product packaging. The Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that Henkel has been partnering with since 2017. The joint goal is to keep plastic waste from entering the oceans, while improving the lives of people in poverty. Henkel has supported the Plastic Bank in opening several plastic collection centers in Haiti, where the local population can return collected plastic waste and exchange it for money, goods, or services to improve their lives. This material, called Social Plastic, is then integrated back into the plastic value chain.
Henkel sources its raw materials ethically and supports sustainable farming practices. For Green Beauty and Certified Beauty products, Henkel uses as many nature-based and natural ingredients as possible.
During the production process, Henkel aims to use less energy and water to manufacture its products, such as when using cold-pressed oils, therefore reducing the amount of emissions produced.
To improve the sustainability of logistics, Henkel ensures that the packaging is light for easier transportation and reduces the amount of emissions by optimizing transportation.
One of the ways to improve sustainability in retailing is by reducing the amount of secondary packaging needed in stores and through eCommerce certification.
One of the biggest steps to decreasing the CO₂ emissions is to encourage responsible use of products through targeted communication and create products that require less energy to use them.
The packaging that Henkel develops is designed to be easily sorted and recycled and the company is continuously working toward using more recycled material in their product packaging.
The importance of responsible consumption
While Henkel, as a manufacturer, is responsible for producing products sustainably, it is also the responsibility of end users to engage in sustainable consumption behaviours. Life cycle analysis has shown that the consumer phase contributes to more than 80 percent of the total carbon footprint of consumer products, most of which stems from heating water for showering. By adopting more environmentally friendly behaviours, consumers too can play their part to reduce emissions and use fewer resources.