When it comes to waste generated by the beauty industry, most eyes have been on packaging, but what about the other culprits? According to Arnaud Plas, CEO and co-founder of Prose, 20-40% of beauty products become waste, with culprits ranging from expired products to product testers. A recent report by Avery Dennison shows that $4.8 billion worth of beauty products go to waste in a brand’s supply chain. “The beauty industry's waste problem goes far beyond just packaging and is largely unknown to anyone outside the beauty industry. When there is no transparency about the hidden waste generated by the industry, it allows brands to deal with it in whichever way they choose—whether that's unsold inventory ending in landfills or product returns being destroyed and trashed,” Krave Beauty founder and CEO Liah Yoo, tells BeautyMatter.
In an act of transparency, Krave Beauty let its consumers behind the scenes on its sustainability efforts. The company posted a YouTube video which follows Yoo as she discovers that due to a manufacturing mishap with a more hydrating and biodegradable reformulation of its bestselling Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, the enterprise ended up with $1.5 million worth of unusable product. “For existing products, this is extremely rare as we have stringent manufacturing and production guidelines and standards,” she explains. “However, during the product development process of new launches and reformulations, there are a lot of different variables involved when scaling a lab sample into a large batch size. It's hard to pinpoint a specific percentage of ‘botched batches’ as it varies wildly for different product formulas. Some formulas will scale the first time around, while other products will require multiple iterations to perfect.”
In the case of the Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser batch, it was less hydrating than the approved lab sample. Rather than discarding the mass amounts of product, Krave Beauty has reformulated it into a body wash, selling it for $8, removing any margin, and instead having the customer only pay for goods production, packaging, freight forwarding cost, transportation, pick & pack, as well as fulfillment fees. The company is also currently looking to repurpose hundreds of units of its Great Barrier Relief serum, which was part of a pilot production of 100% glass packaging with a silicone insert that was trialed but never implemented, due to the company deciding to go with less manufacturing-intensive 100% PCR PET instead.
Another company that isn’t afraid to open up the doors to its manufacturing process is Protéger, a company set up by JoLynn Henke and Peter Clarkson. Protéger’s debut product, Dermal Sérum, is a whole-body treatment with 20% micro-encapsulated vitamin C, organic arabica coffee seed extract, fractionated hyaluronic acid, and organic aloe leaf juice. The product was inspired by Clarkson’s own pursuits of bettering skin health and quality, but took on further meaning when he began to develop a green standard formula for Henke’s mother, who had been diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Sustainability has been a core theme since day one, with the company procuring its packaging component of 100% recyclable FSC-certified paperboard from 300-year-old Swedish company Iggesund Mill. Here is where being selective about the supply chain one is building provides greater benefit than a retroactive overhaul. “The fact that a lot of our development process took place during COVID really forced us to slow down and go through things with a fine-tooth comb. There were certain pieces of our supply chain that we knew we had to wait on for nine months anyway, so rather than rushing to find all these different suppliers, we were able to be so methodical and do our due diligence and research,” Clarkson remarks.
The serum itself is packaged in biophotonic violet glass to preserve shelf life and potency, but unfortunately, during a recent shipment, an entire order of the bottles was scratched up when making their way to Protéger’s headquarters in Montreal. In addition to selling the product at 30% off the retail price, Protéger is doubling up on doing good. 20% of all proceeds from the sales of its “Rescue Bottles” will benefit the Save a Friend Puerto Rico animal rescue organization. “We have perfect products in imperfect bottles, and we can't stand the idea of wasting them from an environmental perspective and our bottom-line perspective. Whether it’s a rescue dog or these bottles, the road home isn't always a straight line, sometimes there are bumps in the road,” he explains. For Clarkson, the holiday timing of the initiative’s release also echoes the sentiment of doing good for others and the environment. "With another hurricane recently hitting Puerto Rico, this rescue needs as much help as they can get. I think people like the idea of spending money at Christmas time that might actually do good.”
Yoo agrees that it’s also the most pertinent period to address CPG waste. “We honestly couldn't think of a better time than this season of heightened holiday consumption. While brands have become more environmentally conscious, the hard truth is it doesn’t matter how reusable and recyclable the packaging is when a company is pumping out a million different products and generating a ton of hidden waste,” she states. “Let’s not forget, ‘reduce’ comes first before reuse and recycle in the waste hierarchy. We wanted to normalize talking about it from an industry perspective while also sharing our personal experiences with it, and ultimately encouraging consumers to shop intentionally.”
Both Krave Beauty and Protéger hope to normalize the conversation about industry waste, and through their transparency, encourage other brands to do so as well. As sustainability missions continue to evolve and unfold, CPG manufacturing waste could provide the next frontier of monumental change.
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