Sustainable beauty: And if cosmetics could also be sustainable and ethics?

In 2016, the beauty market represented more than 200 billion euros (according to « les Echos de la Franchise »). For example, in France, the cosmetics turnover has been around 9 billion euros with an average growth rate of 3,4% per year since 2010. This market is huge and continues to grow. This is why; it’s becoming urgent to reduce CO2 emissions and the environmental footprint of product !


In 2016, the beauty market represented more than 200 billion euros (according to « les Echos de la Franchise »). For example, in France, the cosmetics turnover has been around 9 billion euros with an average growth rate of 3,4% per year since 2010. This market is huge and continues to grow. This is why; it’s becoming urgent to reduce CO2 emissions and the environmental footprint of product !

Some big companies, such as L’Oréal, are trying to improve the sustainable characteristics of their products: by choosing renewable raw materials, biodegradability of formulas or ecological packaging… Cosmetics companies can be sustainable in several ways.

Animal cause

Several cosmetic companies are still using animals to test their products before selling it on the market. Thus, companies torture these poor animals in order to affirm whether the product was dangerous for humans or not! According to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 27,000 animals were used for these tests each year.

Is it normal to have to torture another human being for the good of Man? This is the question that several countries have asked themselves. That was why in 2013; the European Union has banned all kind of tests on animals. In the following years, many countries did the same: India, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Argentina, Turkey, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Taiwan…

This decision has a big impact on the cosmetics world. Indeed, people feel more comfortable to use products that are “ethics”. According to a Nielsen study, the mention “not tested on animals” is the first one argument for beauty consumers. Moreover, 43% participants of the study, said they were willing to spend more money on products that are not tested on animals.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet banned tests on animals such as China. During a long time, in China, cosmetics products were obligatorily tested on animals otherwise they couldn’t be sell. Fortunately, in 2017, the CFDA (China Food and Drug Administration) announced that some alternative methods to animal testing are now allowed in China. China is slowly moving towards more ethical practices and methods in the cosmetics industry even though the country is not yet truly sensitive to the animal cause.

Health impact & Human welfare: Can cosmetics be dangerous for humans?

Cosmetics can also impact human well-being in several ways.

First, the notion of sustainable development is not only about the health of the planet. The human welfare is a key focus of CSR policy. It concerns all people who work in the process of creating, developing, and manufacturing a cosmetic product: from raw material producers to marketing teams. For example, an ethic company will guarantee a decent and sustainable income to the raw material producer. For example, Lancôme made a partnership with a French supplier in order to buy lemon balm extracts for its products.

Moreover, today, companies are increasingly attentive to the CSR values of their suppliers. Indeed, they select and choose them according to the values they promote. Internally, companies develop programs to improve their employees’ working environment.

Finally, cosmetics also have a huge impact on the health. Indeed, most of the time, beauty products are made of chemical substances or, vegetal/animal origin substances… which are bad for humans! It’s been more than 10 years that several organizations have been fighting against the toxicity of the products. They often mention endocrine disruptors in beauty products. You must know the famous ones: parabens, phthalates and formaldehydes. That’s why; some cosmetic brands try to develop natural products which explain the new trend : the use of superfoods in cosmetics!!!

And what about the environment?

Unfortunately, like lots of industry, cosmetics has a bad impact on the environment with pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, over packing, …

First, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions related to this industry have 4 main origins:

  • The chemistry used to manufacture agricultural or industrial raw materials.
  • Waste: a large part of it is not recyclable.
  • Energy consumed in the manufacture of cosmetics and packaging.
  • Transport.

Moreover, everyone pollutes the planet by using cosmetics. For example, when you take your shower, the products, you are using (Shampoo, shower gel …), go directly into the bathroom pipes and end up in the sea. These products are often harmful to the marine environment (marine flora and fauna). Some particles are filtered by wastewater treatment plants, but not all of them such as plastic microbeads present in our scrubs. There are also sun creams that pollute the seas and oceans enormously. This is why some companies have developed biodegradable products that are not harmful to the environment.

Finally, packaging can represent a threat for the planet. In cosmetics, the packaging is really important because it can trigger the purchase. Cosmetics are often packaged in a pot, tube or vial, then in a carton packaging, before being put into a bag given to the customer. This process is named the “overpackaging” and all these packaging are going to turn into waste. Even if these companies, like all others, are subject to the European directive on waste recycling, the best solution is to reduce them at source.  


Each cosmetic company can contribute to sustainable development and respect for ethics. For example, the CEO of Guerlain founded Cha Ling. According to Elodie Sebag, the Executive director, this cosmetic brand “was born from an ecological dream: preserving part of the tea tree forests of Yunnan, in China. Even if we are small, even if not everything is perfect, sustainable development has been our guiding principle”. Cha Ling creates products with formulas reduced in components and eco-designed packaging. The brand also planned long-term partnership with tee producer and founded the “tea garden” project.

Moreover, Clarins is one of the precursors of ethical beauty. Indeed, the brand anticipated the environmental and ethical movement in the mid-1980s. Its goal was to preserve the biodiversity. The first commitments were the training in non-destructive agriculture for Brazilian farmers and purchase of land in the Alps to protect the biodiversity…

Clarins and Cha Ling have reduced the weight of the glass pots. Indeed, this reduces transport and therefore the carbon footprint. Every little effort is taken into account when it comes to the environment. In addition, plants are increasingly optimized with water and waste recycling, specific lighting and the use of green chemistry.

Finally, it exists also solution for less packaging or recycled one. The brands are changing their habits. Today, they want vegetal inks, paper and cardboard form responsibly managed forests, no more over-packaging. Dior offers refillable pots for its Capture Totale and Dior Prestige ranges. This solution has a positive impact on the planet. In fact, when the customer buys the first refill, it reduces the environmental footprint by 30%.

So, if you want to consume sustainable and ethical cosmetic products, you have to pay attention to the label and also the CSR policy of the brand.

And you, do you use ethical and sustainable beauty products?




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