At the end of 2019, the EU committed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Climate neutrality is an increasingly important aspect for conscious consumers that look for products with a low or zero carbon footprint. In order to make a product as climate neutral as possible, companies can choose different options: from using renewable energies for the production of their products to financing projects to ensure the reduction of energy poverty and to facilitate the access to resources in different regions of the world.
What is “climate neutrality”?
Climate neutrality is defined by the balance between the emission and absorption of carbon from the atmosphere. The absorption process takes place through carbon sequestration, which is the removal of carbon oxide and storage in natural reservoirs, forests or oceans that absorb more carbon than they release. Such areas are known as “carbon sinks”, and they help reducing the effect of global warming. While a percentage of carbon sequestration happens naturally, scientists are currently exploring ways to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere using innovative technologies.
Steps towards climate neutrality: carbon offset
Carbon emissions are not exclusively associated to the production process (formulation of the product, packaging development, etc.), but to the whole manufacturing process, production and supply chain of a product. From the electricity that powers a company’s production site, the vehicles that transport their products to the stores to the resources used for production: all produce gas emissions. In their pursue for carbon neutrality, many brands in the natural and organic cosmetic sector offset their carbon emissions through energy efficiency, renewable energies and projects in developing countries.
Weleda, one of the biggest producers of natural and organic cosmetics in Europe and worldwide, has since long used renewable energy to power their production facilities. Currently 100% of Weleda’s own production is done with electricity from renewable sources in their production sites in Switzerland, Germany and France. Through the development of environmental indicators, Weleda’s goal is to reduce the energy, water and waste intensity of the manufacturing processes of their products by 2.5% each year, therefore contributing to the reduction of their carbon footprint.
The German brand lavera Naturkosmetik has supported for several years different sustainability projects in partnership with Climate Partner, an environmental offset project organization. In order to achieve the offset production of the cardboard boxes of several lavera’s products, this brand has collaborated in different projects of water purification in Kenya and reforestation in Brazil.
More recycled materials, less carbon emissions
The use of recycled materials is another key aspect that many natural and organic brands have since long taken into account for the development of their products. For instance, LOGOCOS uses 100% recycled PET for their shampoo bottles and recycled, FSC-certified paper for their secondary packaging and advertising materials. This paper and cardboard packaging is produced in a climate-neutral way as part of the participation of LOGOCOS in the program “Planting trees in Germany”, carried out by Climate Partner. Through its participation in this project, LOGOCOS could compensate the emission of 5.016 kg CO2. LOGOCOS is also currently working on a Sustainability Road Map to implement a more sustainable approach across all areas of the company. dm’s home brand alverde Naturkosmetik also supports different reforestation projects in Ethiopia and Colombia since 2013 to offset the emissions of the printing of their packaging boxes.
While recycled materials can easily be incorporated to produce secondary packaging (cardboard, paper), primary packaging (the one directly containing the product) poses more limitations and challenges because it must protect the product from oxygen, light and impurities. When looking particularly at natural and organic cosmetics, since many of these do not contain synthetic preservatives, maintaining their shelf life and freshness often requires the use of certain materials such as aluminium, glass and plastic. “The biggest challenge at present is to strike a balance between adequate product protection and ecology”, says Dr Bernhard Irrgang, Weleda’s Head of Research and Development for Natural and Organic Cosmetics and NATRUE’s President. Weleda has pledged to have 65 per cent of their primary packaging coming from recycled sources by 2022.
Reusing before recycling
While recycling remains a key part of the circular economy cycle, boosting the reuse of packaging before it gets to the recycling phase is also essential to reduce gas emissions and waste. Options such as bulk and refilling are being taken into account in the long-term sustainable strategies of many natural and organic cosmetic brands. For instance, refilling options for liquid hand soaps are already offered by brands such as alverde and lavera, whose products are certified with the NATRUE Label. Other brands such as Weleda are also testing whether it is possible to offer certain products of their range without any packaging but also without any loss of the product quality in so-called “zero-waste shops”. “By 2030, we aim to achieve closed cycles for packaging, either through take-back systems or orderly recycling cycles”, says Dr Bernhard Irrgang.
Tips to reduce your beauty carbon footprint💚
📄 Check the ingredients list: We often pay more attention to product claims than to their composition, but the way that ingredients are sourced and manufactured can have a significant impact on the environment. Natural and organic cosmetics carrying the NATRUE Label guarantee consumers that the ingredients present in the product have been extracted and processed according to rigorous criteria in line with green chemistry principles, promoting sustainability and environmental protection.
💧 Save water!: It is a simple gesture, but a very important one. When going through your beauty routine, make sure to turn off your tap and to use as less water as possible. By using less hot water, you are not only saving water, but also electricity.
🗑️Avoid product waste: Conscious purchase decisions are defined by buying products out of necessity rather than on a whim. Going for quality instead of quantity can help us reduce our product waste by finishing up the products we buy, therefore ensuring that none of the ingredients and energy invested to produce the product go to waste. Multifunctional products are also a good option to prevent product waste since they can be used for different purposes.
♻️ Reuse and recycle: If the packaging of your cosmetic is reusable, why not giving it a second life? You can reuse glass containers multiple times before recycling them. Upcycling is also a good option to extend the life of packaging. For instance, empty cream pots can be reused as plant holders. If the container cannot be easily reused (for instance, tubes), make sure to properly recycle it so it can go back into the system.
 Annual and Sustainability Report 2019, The Weleda Group and Weleda AG, page 13: https://weledaint-prod.global.ssl.fastly.net/binaries/content/assets/pdf/corporate/weleda_annual_and_sustainability_report_2019.pdf
Article by Ana Ledesma, Communications Officer at NATRUE