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Building Sustainable Beauty through Refillable Packaging Initiatives

Packaging that exudes elegance and sophistication undeniably attracts consumers to buy beauty products. The sad truth is that the beauty world heavily relies on extravagant consumption of its target audience. Thankfully, times are changing. Even the world’s biggest beauty brand, L’Oreal, have been creating breakthrough packaging solutions that showcase luxury and care for the environment.  


From L’Oreal, Olay, to L’Occitane, learn about the beauty brands that are significantly reducing their carbon footprint through refillable and sustainable packaging solutions. 


Is Refillable Packaging the Future of Beauty?


The beauty world has finally recognised the problem of packaging waste. L’Oreal started its initiative of reducing waste more than ten years ago by slowly switching to recycled plastics, aluminium bottles, and recyclable wrappers for packaging of their products. 


According to the company’s Global Head of Sustainable Packaging and Development, Philippe Bonnigue and USA Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, Danielle Azoulay, L’Oreal faced the challenges of packaging waste through collaboration with packaging suppliers to create environmentally responsible packaging solutions to reduce landfill waste as well as empower consumers to make more eco-friendly consumption choices. Through experience, the company took a step further by joining the rapidly growing trend of using refillable packaging for beauty products. 


What drives the movement towards sustainable packaging in the beauty industry?


Majority of consumers are now aware about the impact of pollution to the environment. We now carry eco-friendly bags when grocery shopping and support initiatives that promote mindful consumption of goods and services. Consumers are now empowered to make sensible choices that contribute to the preservation of the environment. 


The next step for beauty brands is to create solutions that allow consumers to refill their own bottles when they’ve run out of beauty supplies such as shampoo, conditioner, and even perfume. Single-use packaging is starting to be frowned upon these days. Beauty brands are forced to tackle this problem by creating refillable packaging solutions that can be used by consumers not only during the lifespan of a product, but packaging that can last for many years to come. 


L’Oreal established goals for their Sharing Beauty With All program - an initiative that hopes to improve the social and environmental impact of 100% of products under their brand by 2020. The 3R approach of Sharing Beauty With All is “Respect, Reduce, and Replace”


  • Respect consumer values, the environment, and bio-diversity of products and packaging. L’Oreal thoughtfully chooses packaging materials such as forest-certified paper and cardboard. 
  • Reduce the carbon footprint of their products which also includes reduction in packaging size and weight. 
  • Replace which translates to prioritising the utilisation of post-consumer recycled plastic or PCR and bio-sourced plastics to further reduce carbon footprint.


What are the challenges faced by beauty companies in switching to sustainable and refillable packaging?


Procter & Gamble is yet another company that has joined in the efforts of reducing environmental footprint through smart, sensible, and sustainable packaging. It will be a challenge for a company with an extensive line of beauty products to switch to sustainable packaging over a short period of time. Procter & Gamble for instance has kicked off its eco-friendly packaging initiatives through the introduction of new refillables for Olay. They hope to expand the use of eco-friendly packaging solutions in the next few years. 


Successful adoption to refillable beauty products requires a shift in consumer behaviour. The element of effort on the part of consumers is critical to make the efforts of beauty brands effective altogether. Without a positive change in consumer perception towards sustainable beauty, environmentally-friendly efforts by beauty brands like L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble would all go to waste. 


Another challenge that beauty companies face is to create packaging solutions that are not only eco-conscious but are intuitive and fun, too. The shopping experience of consumers will always be top priority for beauty brands. The profitability of their products still heavily relies on product presentation and savvy marketing. The best path towards sustainable beauty will be a combination of meeting customer demands and promoting awareness about the benefits of using sustainable or refillable packaging in the beauty industry. 


Marketing schemes that have been successful so far in encouraging consumers to shop sustainably are reward programs and savings whenever consumers purchase refills from beauty stores, salons, and professional beauty service providers. With such schemes in place, customers not only contribute to preserving Mother Earth but enjoy savings at the same time. 


Is there a growing demand for use of recyclable packaging materials?


Single-use plastic packaging is slowly becoming unpopular to consumers and beauty brands alike. The beauty company, Aveda has successfully switched to using PCR plastics and polyethylene tetephthalate (PTE) bottles in more than 85% of their skincare and haircare products. The company has successfully eliminated the use of virgin plastic bottles for packaging and is now even exploring other eco-friendly materials such as bioplastic made from sugarcane. Other viable materials that are being considered by Aveda’s packaging development department in combination with PCR are seaweed and cow waste. 


The full utilisation of recyclable materials has become one of the major values that sets Aveda apart from rival beauty and cosmetics brands. 


What is the future of packaging in the beauty industry?


The use of PCR, PTE, and petro-based plastics is one way towards a more sustainable future for consumers and the rest of the world.  Beauty brands are setting up their own packaging research and development department to launch innovative solutions that can make the switch to non-plastic packaging inexpensive, efficient, and appealing to consumers. 


The common goal among beauty brands is to come up with sustainable packaging that will benefit both society and Mother Earth. Sustainable beauty also gives beauty companies the opportunity to connect with their consumers by creating compelling narratives that express the importance of making eco-friendly choices when shopping for beauty products and beyond. 


The beauty industry still has a long way to go when it comes to full adaptation and utilisation of sustainable and refillable packaging solutions. The reality is that there is a long list of factors that make a full switch to sustainable packaging challenging altogether. Beauty industry giants such as L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble are taking the right steps to find solutions to these problems, so consumers are still able to shop quality products responsibly. 


Shopping sustainable packaging is easy! You can shop the salon professional L’Oreal range here.