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Caring for future generations

Environmental sustainability 

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When we think about sustainability, we often think about activities such as reducing water, energy, waste and the amount of materials used.

Obtaining the ingredients and packaging

Ingredients may be made from oil, either petroleum or vegetable oils, from minerals mined from the earth, from animal products, or from plants. Whatever the source, cosmetic companies are keen to ensure that their ingredients are made in an efficient way, minimising energy use and transport, and that their manufacture does not damage the environment, including the land where plants are grown.

Waste, energy, water and solvent use must all be minimised. Increasingly, the principles of “green chemistry” are used when researching and designing chemical processes. Transport, storage and distribution must be carefully planned for maximum efficiency.

Packaging also has its own chain of suppliers who take raw materials and convert them into bottles, caps, jars and cartons. For example, trees are grown and harvested, the paper mill turns the trees into carton board (perhaps using recycled paper), and carton makers take the rolls of board, print them, cut them and turn them into cartons which they have designed for the cosmetics company.

Making the cosmetic product

Companies that manufacture cosmetic products will have several hundred ingredients obtained from dozens of suppliers. Similarly, packaging will be bought from many different companies. So, these companies have to work hard to ensure that environmental effects are taken into account wherever possible.

In their own factories where these ingredients are formulated into cosmetic products, companies will look to design their processes to be as efficient as possible. They will want to minimise energy use, whether from electricity, gas or oil, consider sustainable sources of energy, minimise water used for cleaning equipment and minimise any production waste.

When a new cosmetic product is developed, the research and development chemists will be looking to use ingredients which, whilst performing well in the product, also have a good environmental profile. Packaging Development will also look to design packs which minimise the amount of packaging whilst being strong enough to withstand production and transport.