Why we should care about sustainable cosmetics!

By Anne Himeno | September 07, 2016

Producers of cosmetics and personal care products are under growing pressure. Less raw material availability, unsustainable production, dependence on oil, rising costs, increasing health concerns and investor scrutiny are just some of the issues facing the cosmetics and personal care industry. Ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products are coming under growing scrutiny.

Natural vs. synthetic ingredients

Cosmetics and personal care products use both natural and synthetic ingredients. Synthetic ingredients are often oil based, which is considered undesirable by an increasing number of stakeholders and consumers. Therefore more and more synthetic ingredients are replaced by natural ones, but this poses a number of new challenges. Consumers want to know more about how the products they buy are made and how natural ingredients are sourced. Did the ingredients contribute to deforestation or loss of biodiversity? Did they cause environmental damage? Are they related to social and ethical issues in the supply chain?


Shea nut supply chain

One example is shea nuts. Below is an extract from Wikipedia showing the extensive process of collecting shea nuts and turning them into shea butter.

"Shea butter is an oil extract from the kernel of the shea nut produce of the shea tree. It grows profusely in the wild without any special nourishment and attention. Its distribution is exclusive to sub-Saharan West Africa in the savannas, particularly in Burkina Faso where it provides economic sustenance to rural women. The shea fruit matures into the shea nut which has the shea kernel within it. The kernel is the source of the shea butter that is extracted through an arduous several hours of processing, over 22 steps, to produce 1 kg of the butter. In Burkina Faso, an impoverished country, it is the exclusive prerogative of rural women who number from 300,000 to 400,000." Source: Wikipedia

Rural women in West Africa make very little profit from collecting shea nuts, although the market price of shea nuts has risen over the last few years. By engaging directly with rural women, a better distribution of the proceeds can be achieved while at the same time improving the quality of the shea butter produced locally.

Shea butter and shea nuts

Mica, a mineral with a dark glow

Another example is the use of mica, a natural mineral used in blusher, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, and foundation. The main source of Mica is India, where child labour is endemic and more than 75% of India’s mica mining is unregulated. This poses significant threats to producers of cosmetics who do not want to be linked with child labour in their supply chains. In order to tackle the issues in cosmetic supply chains, companies must take steps to introduce visibility and transparency. Only then can companies be in full control of their brand reputation and inform their customers on the sustainability of their products.

How ChainPoint can help create sustainable sourcing of natural ingredients

ChainPoint helps cosmetics companies to connect their supply chains and make them more visible and transparent. Using advanced web-based software, we connect all stakeholders and data sources in a supply chain and bring them into a secure online platform, enabling full visibility and traceability. Supply chain data is often available on paper, in ERP-systems or in Excel. Integrating this data requires multiple data entry solutions, including mobile apps and interfaces with existing systems. Using a supply chain information system, cosmetics brand owners and producers know exactly the impact they have in a supply chain and can act accordingly. Corrective measures and improvement programmes can be managed using the information gathered across the supply chain to fully mitigate risks, improve sustainability and seize new opportunities.

Contact us for more information, or download our cosmetics solution paper for more information on this topic. 

Download our cosmetics solution paper



Posted in sustainability impact, cosmetics, responsible sourcing

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