The challenge

Demand for sustainable beauty and personal care products is growing. Consumers and NGOs are increasingly calling for products they believe to be safe for their families, sustainably produced, and with easy-to-understand and transparent ingredient lists.

But although many of the key players within the sector want to create wide-reaching change, the needs and interests of different groups do not always line up. Retailers’ and consumers’ interest in transparency, for example, can be at odds with confidentiality concerns of upstream suppliers. Suppliers invest valuable resources to comply with retailers’ requests for product information, while retailers need more information to ensure the products they’re selling are safe and sustainable.

Industry stakeholders are reaching the limits of what they can do alone. To accelerate sustainability in the beauty and personal care industry, all players must come together to understand one another’s perspectives, identify shared goals, and collaboratively tackle the barriers that are getting in the way of better products.

We believe there is an opportunity for harmonization within the sector; a view which has been bolstered by the unprecedented willingness of the industry – first Target and Walmart, and now the 16 other members of our leadership group - to show how working together can unlock new opportunities.

 

Introducing the BPC Sustainability Project

The BPC (Beauty and Personal Care) Sustainability Project is an ambitious, pre-competitive collaboration of stakeholders across the industry value chain with the aim to increase the number of sustainable beauty and personal care products on retailers’ shelves.

At the core of this project is the BPC Leadership Group. It is made up of 18 members from across the value chain including retailers, product manufacturers, chemical and fragrance suppliers, and NGOs.

Today the leadership group is working to develop a set of common criteria that retailers will use to evaluate the sustainability characteristics of beauty and personal care products. Participating retailers will voluntarily and independently implement the common criteria, using them as a tool to create clear market signals calling for better products. Forum for the Future is the facilitator and convenor of the group, and The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) acts as the technical lead on this work, and will maintain the criteria when they are ready for implementation.

Our early work with this group and other stakeholders identified four key barriers to accelerating sustainability in the industry, and our common criteria initiative aims to address two of them:

  • Lack of a shared vision for sustainable products
  • Lack of clear market signals

The criteria will provide a clear and aspirational vision for product sustainability; a north star for manufacturers and retailers to work toward. A common, aligned approach across retailers will reduce the patchwork of surveys and data collection requirements that exists in the industry today. Finally, retailers will be enabled to independently apply the criteria to meet their own sustainability goals, and put in place market incentives that drive more sustainable products.

 

How we got here

The Summit

On 4 September 2014, Target and Walmart co-hosted the Beauty and Personal Care Product Sustainability Summit in Chicago, USA. The day-long event, convened by Forum for the Future, brought together key players from across the beauty and personal care industries for the first time to accelerate a conversation about product sustainability.

The aim was to map the landscape in which companies and organizations are operating, explore common concerns and identify where stakeholders can bring better options to consumers. Click here to see what was on the agenda and to view the full list of delegates and facilitators.

We put this report  together following the summit to summarize the process and share the results of the landmark event.

Extensive diagnosis

Building on our discussions at the BPC Summit, we continued to engage closely with industry stakeholders and leaders from across the beauty and personal care value chain.

We developed and shared recommendations to explore feasibility and create a more detailed plan for short- and long-term implementation. We also began to work closely with other initiatives and organizations that are in the beauty and personal care sustainability space, to ensure that our recommendations would build on, complement, and accelerate already existing efforts.

We continued to develop the action plan and proposition to the point that, through our participatory system diagnosis, we were confident that our proposed path forward will most effectively leverage existing work, fills gaps, and press key levers that will spark broad, lasting change toward sustainability in the beauty and personal care industry.

As a result of our diagnosis work, we published a think piece report, Driving the Big Shift to Sustainability, to share our insights from the process of bringing diverse stakeholders together to achieve widespread change.

To download the think piece, please click here, and to find out more about the project, get in touch with Georgia Rubenstein g.rubenstein@forumforthefuture.org .

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