Ethical and Sustainable Sourcing In Beauty Industry
Beauty and personal care are a US$465 billion
industry globally and global skin care alone is a US$111 billion market, of BPC
sales. The global organic personal care market is growing at an annual rate of
almost 10 percent. According to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of
packaging are produced every year by the cosmetics industry, contributing to a
loss of 18 million acres of forest annually.
The high adoption of herbal products has led to growth of the segment at 15%
annually, on the back of the fact that people are becoming more aware of
possible side effects on skin by constant use of chemical formulations-based
As the industry has grown, it has also struggled with a variety of ethical
So, why is the Beauty Industry not Sustainable, Ethical or Responsible?
The beauty industry has been criticized for practices surrounding: false claims and misleading
advertisements, the unethical sourcing of ingredients, child labor, the use of harmful ingredients,
animal testing, and excessive packaging. Some of these issues are more publicized than others,
leading to unequal awareness of all problems.
Rising ethical consumerism is compelling global cosmetic brands to work towards sustainable
development. They are expected to ensure that raw materials they are sourcing for cosmetic products
are sourced in responsible ways and workers involved in the process are paid well.
The issues that crop up in this industry:
• The controversial sourcing of Mica – Child Labor, the problem with mica
a. 90% of mica mines are in Jharkhand and Bihar. Children as young as 5 are still toiling away in
these mines, breathing in toxins daily. They allegedly employ 20,000 children and even now, supply
most of the mica used in our beauty product.
• Toxic Chemicals used as Ingredients in Cosmetics
a. There are thousands of ingredients used in personal care products, many of them have negative
environmental impacts and health effects ranging from skin irritation to carcinogenicity.
b. Parabens, phthalates and triclosan have been selected by Ethical Consumer as important indicators
for their own toxics rating.
• Animal Testing in cosmetics
a. Almost all the ingredients that go into cosmetics have been tested on animals at some point, even
water! For decades, animals have been used to test the toxicity of products for humans and the
impact that chemicals will have on the environment.
b. 80% of the world allows cosmetics to be tested on animals. These tests oftentimes result in
harmful allergic reactions that cause considerable pain and suffering for the animals.
• Palm oil and cosmetics
a. There are currently over 200 versions of palm oil derivatives living in shampoos, soaps,
lipsticks, and lotions. In order to meet this demand, the palm oil industry regularly cuts down
rainforests to expand their plantations.
Example: In Malaysian Borneo, palm oil production has accounted for 57–69% of deforestation from
1972 to 2015, destroying the species-rich rainforests in the process. This has not only led to 99%
less tree diversity compared to natural forests but has also devastated the wildlife within the
• Microplastics in
a. Poorly biodegradable liquid polymers such as acrylates copolymer or carbomer are also prevalent
and found everywhere, from sun protection to nail polishes and all kinds of hairstyling products,
and yet, they go unnoticed by the public and largely ignored by the media or regulatory bodies. In
contrast to solid microplastic or microbead particles, they come in different forms: liquid, wax, or
Can the Beauty Industry be Sustainable?
Despite its massive presence on the global stage and rapid growth, the beauty industry can be more
sustainable so long as brands take the necessary steps.
Labels/Certifications are huge in the clean beauty industry: they come in the form of claims,
badges, and seals. We want to know how good it is for our health, for the environment, and for
animals. In other words, prioritizing cruelty-free, sustainable, and toxin free options is our
number one priority. Beauty companies are using certifications to be more ethical and responsible
like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Vegan, USDA Certified Organic, NSF
Certified Organic, Biodynamic® / Demet er®, COSMOS/Ecocert, Rainforest Alliance.
A more local production can contribute to more sustainable and potentially shorter supply chains, as
well as to a more personal, authentic image of the brand. Through ethical sourcing collaborations,
these brands support the social and economic development of such communities while ensuring that the
sourcing upon natural resources from certain plants and flowers is done in an ethical and
By using bio-beauty products, you’ll avoid the damages and protect the ecosystem. The ingredients of
organic products have been grown without the use of pesticides or harmful fertilizers. So, you’ll
protect biodiversity and promote organic farming. Beauty brands are more focusing on cruelty-free,
vegan and sustainable products which will be safe for people and the planet.
There is a huge need for transparency in the beauty industry, a demand for information about
ingredients, their origins, manufacturing processes. The beauty industry is suffering from a supply
chain problem. The inclusion of numerous middlemen when procuring ingredients makes it hard to trace
the exact origins of our beauty ingredients. Fortunately, supply chain management is one of the most
viable and promising applications of blockchain technology.