Innovations in Sustainable Packaging

Lisa Powers
EVP, Public Affairs & Communications, Personal Care Products Council

As public and regulatory concerns about single-use packaging waste increase, consumer goods companies are proactively taking steps and making commitments to improve the sustainability of their packaging while also rethinking packaging systems. Focused for decades primarily on convenience, consumers are increasingly aware of packaging waste that ends up in oceans and landfills. Companies are working together, pre-competitively, on systems-level approaches with a common understanding of the challenges and need for collaboration along the entire packaging value chain.

The beauty and personal care industry is taking numerous actions to reduce its use of plastic packaging, use more recycled plastic and increase the recyclability of plastic packaging. Last year, PCPC joined the Sustainable Packaging Initiative for Cosmetics (SPICE) as an associate member. SPICE, co-founded by Quantis and L’Oréal, brings together organizations in the cosmetics sector to work towards a common goal of shaping the future of sustainable packaging. SPICE develops and publishes business-oriented methodologies and data to support decision-making to improve the environmental performance of product packaging.

For some beauty and personal care products, packaging drives the most significant impact within their value chain, especially if it’s complex, multi-material, heavy or uses special finishing processes. SPICE aims to establish a harmonized packaging footprint platform and common methodology for evaluating environmental performance.

As part of our continued efforts to advance the capabilities, know-how and understanding of sustainability best practices, PCPC recently hosted a webinar on sustainable packaging, focusing on trends and business drivers; an introduction to SPICE; and a demonstration of its new open source sustainable packaging tool.

Webinar guest speaker Dimitri Caudrelier, CEO of Quantis, a global sustainability consulting firm, demonstrated a new eco-design webtool to help companies assess the environmental performance of packaging based on an industry-aligned methodology. The tool features an easy-to-use interface developed specifically for cosmetics packaging designers and engineers and can:

  • Calculate the footprint of any cosmetics package, create an aggregate score for that package and detail for its environmental performance by stage in the lifecycle
  • Simulate multiple materials and design scenarios to assess ways to reduce a package’s impacts and help evaluate different packaging approaches (single-use, recharge/refill systems)
  • Inform a company’s sustainable packaging policy, goals and progress

Webinar attendees also had the opportunity to hear from Nicol Sobczyk, director of Sustainable Packaging at L’Oréal USA. Sobczyk spoke about an innovative life cycle assessment tool that L’Oréal developed, called Sustainable Packaging Optimization Tool (SPOT), which helps product development teams within the company assess the social and environmental performance of new and renovated products. Sobczyk indicated that SPOT is used not only to motivate teams to set ambitious goals but also to enable them to measure results, which can be shared with external stakeholders.

As part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability, the beauty and personal care products industry is working in pre-competitive coalitions like SPICE to address the challenges associated with packaging design, materials and waste. Several companies, including Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, The Estée Lauder Companies and Unilever, have set ambitious, time-bound goals for all plastic packaging to be recyclable, reusable, compostable or refillable. Many companies are also making recycling easier for consumers, incentivizing them to bring empty packaging back to point of sale, or return by mail, thereby increasing the use of recycled content and testing innovative approaches to refillable packaging.

While we recognize there is more to be done, the industry’s common progress can be accelerated through best practices and by working together with harmonized standards and science-based tools. More information about industry initiatives on sustainable packaging can be found in our 2019 sustainability report, Creating a More Beautiful World.