09 Jun 2021 --- As an ever-growing number of consumers seek out environmentally-friendly products and eco-conscious brands, plastic packaging in the beauty and personal care (BPC) industry is a vital priority the sector needs to tackle. We spoke to Ray Hopkinson, Creative Partner at environmental organization, Hubbub, to get the lowdown on perceptions of the plastic packaging problem and consumer calls to solve it in the BPC space.
As consumers increasingly demand for actions and solutions that protect our planet, BPC brands—of all shapes and sizes around the world— are rethinking their packaging choices.
Plastic pollution perspectives
Click to EnlargeBPC brands across the world are rethinking their packaging choices.Plastic pollution is a significant issue among consumers. In a poll of 3,006 representative UK adults carried out by Censuswide between 3rd-6th July 2020, 43% of respondents reported they are more concerned about plastic pollution than before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 19% a lot more concerned and 24% slightly more concerned.
Worries about the incidence and impact of plastic packaging is also highly prevalent in the beauty industry, specifically. When asked what were the biggest environmental issues related to cosmetics, respondents of the British Beauty Council’s polling in July 2020 listed the following as their top three concerns:
1. Cruelty to animals in testing or when used for ingredients: 27%
2. Too much plastic packaging/packaging not being recycled: 25%
3. Plastic from cosmetics and packaging ending up in the ocean: 24%
More sustainability in beauty
“There is a lot of demand for refillable products, less packaging and clearer information on how to recycle product packaging,” Ray Hopkinson, creative partner, Hubbub says on what consumers are expecting from BPC product packaging.
In response to the heightened awareness and loudening calls to tackle the globe’s sustainability crisis in a genuine and effective way—and as we move closer to the United Nations’ 2030 target of realizing its sustainable development goals—consumers are becoming more interested and dedicated to positively contributing to sustainability. Consumers are urging brands to do the same; to listen and to proactively respond.
Are we willing to pay more for sustainability?
Click to EnlargeTeaming up with Hubbub to research sustainability in the industry, the British Beauty Council uncovers key analysis and recommendations in its Courage to Change report, released in October 2020. In the sustainability report, with Hubbub’s findings, the British Beauty Council sets out “a vision of how we can move forward together to create an industry that nurtures the planet that we love and all that live on it”.
From its polling with the British Beauty Council in July 2020, Hubbub reveals that 1 in 7 (14%) respondents have switched beauty products as they wanted to use a more environmentally friendly product.
The top three changes, respondents would like to see beauty and grooming product brands make in order to reduce their impact on the environment, and emphasizes they would be willing to pay more for are:
1. Use of Fairtrade ingredients: 34%.
2. Use of sustainable palm oil/palm oil substitutes: 33%.
3. Offering refillable containers and/or recycling in store: 30%.
Also, there are a number of top changes that respondents would like to see beauty and grooming product brands make in order to reduce their impact on the environment, but that they would not be willing to pay more for, Hopkinson relays. These are:
1. Use less packaging: 65%.
2. Display clearer information on how to recycle products when finished: 65%.
3. Display information on how to use products in a more environmentally friendly way: 62%.
4. Display more information about ingredient supply chains: 62%.
Along with what changes consumers want to see from the BPC industry, the British Beauty Council’s poll also sought to understand the shifts that BPC consumers are willing to make themselves to be more considerate of the environment in their use of beauty and grooming products.
The top three changes people are willing to make are:
1. Refill their beauty and grooming products: 59%.
2. Use reusable cotton pads or a flannel instead of single-use cotton pads/wipes: 40%.
3. Reduce the number of products they buy: 31%.
How can brands become more sustainable?
Sharing advice for manufacturers and brands who want to become more sustainable and mindful of their packaging choices, Hopkinson says: “Design products and product lines that can be refilled! The demand is there and many brands are doing this brilliantly.”
Single-use plastics is one area of sustainability that seems to resonate strongly with consumers, who want to avoid it where possible. Consumers may therefore favor those BPC products and solutions that manage to replace single-use plastics with an alternative. Knowing how best to navigate the plastic usage can be daunting and confusing, raising numerous questions.
“If you need to use single-use packaging, carefully consider if moving away from plastic is actually your best bet,” highlights Hopkinson.
“Plastic is often no more harmful than aluminum, paper or glass,” Hopkinson notes. However, explaining why single-use plastics are an unsustainable option, Hopkinson expresses: “The issue often isn’t the material but how it’s used and disposed of.”
For brands using plastic, there is some good advice that can help them to be as sustainable as possible. “If using plastic, always opt for post-consumer recycled content but you don’t want 100% recycled content as then the recyclability of that product will diminish,” says Hopkinson. “Virgin plastic can only be recycled two to three times before the quality is affected,” Hopkinson adds.
So how can brands create their strategies and actionable plans with sustainability as a leading priority? “The main aim for brands should be to manufacture a product that can be easily and accessibly recycled by consumers and local authorities,” says Hopkinson. “Don’t manufacture products or packaging with a variety of materials as these are much harder to separate both by consumers and recycling plants (the same goes for textiles),” Hopkinson comments.
Transparency on how brands are striving to reduce their impact on the environment is also important. Two thirds of people (66%) get confused about which cosmetics products can and can’t be recycled. “Therefore, communicating with your customers on how to recycle products with on-pack advice and social media communications on how to separate and rinse recycling is crucial,” says Hopkinson.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist