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Green is the new black – sustainability overview & directives for the beauty industry

By Alex Fox | 21 April 2021 | Expert Advice, Feature, Sustainability & the environment

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Sustainability Matters

The global climate strike, stark and scary documentaries, electric cars, reusable coffee cups… over the past few years, sustainability has become more and more ingrained into our daily lives and the choices that we make.

So, if we’re trying our best as consumers, are the brands and businesses that provide our products also doing their bit? After all, ensuring that future generations can also enjoy this beautiful planet without compromise is a challenge that can only be solved by combining the forces of governments, businesses, consumers, scientists and many others.

The good news is that the cosmetics industry, from the biggest to the smallest companies, has been taking proactive steps to improve the sustainability of cosmetic products for many years – some even since the 1970s. These efforts are more than just greenwashing, there are real achievements, which reduce the industry’s use of resources, improve the lives of people involved in the cosmetic product supply chain, and allow us to use the products we love guilt-free. That’s not to say the journey has ended – we are still far from it. Although the cosmetics industry is working hard on some great initiatives, we are very much aware that there’s a long way to go!

How do cosmetics & sustainability fit together?

What does sustainability mean for cosmetic products and our industry? In fact, there are a huge number of opportunities to improve the way that we do things and reduce the impact of our products on the planet. A good place to start is to understand the impact of a product across its entire lifespan. Taking a salon nail polish as an example, this means starting at the very first product design stage and thinking about which ingredients are used – where are they from and how are they made? Then, moving on to how the product itself is made; can this be done using less energy or water? How is the product packaged and transported? After the product has been used up, can the nail professional easily recycle the container or have it refilled?

This way of thinking is called ‘environmental life cycle assessment’ and many cosmetics companies are taking this approach and using it to set themselves targets and issue public reports on how they are doing in terms of making improvements.

The CTPA’s Sustainability Strategy

At the CTPA, the team believes that this rounded approach to evaluating and improving sustainability is helpful. Therefore, its Sustainability Strategy, which was launched in 2019, helps cosmetics and personal care companies improve their practices throughout the entire supply chain.

The goal of this strategy is to drive the UK cosmetics industry towards becoming ‘net positive’, which means giving more back to society, the environment and the global economy than it takes out. This is a big aim, but the CTPA is working towards this by bringing its members together to share best practice and collaborating with other organisations to use their expertise. For example, it is working with the sustainability charity WRAP to improve recyclability of product packaging and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil to raise awareness of using sustainably sourced palm oil.

CTPA’s Sustainability Hub

As part of its Sustainability Strategy, the CTPA has recently launched a Sustainability Hub, which can be found on its website at

The Hub helps both large and smaller companies navigate sustainability challenges by breaking down key topics and offering helpful tools and advice.