The Future of Beauty: How is Regulation Changing to Protect Shoppers?

We’ve been hearing the words ‘responsible’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ thrown around the beauty industry for some time. And now beauty’s finally on the brink of significant changes. We got the low-down from the team at Root to find out what the new rules mean for you.

The Big Picture: Key Changes in Beauty Packaging

Plastic Taxes

Remember that disruptive roll-out of the 10p plastic bag charge in supermarkets? Since then we’ve had bans on plastic cotton buds and microbeads too – all part of a bigger push to reduce plastic waste. In many countries, brands now need to pay taxes on plastic packaging that doesn’t contain recycled content and certain types of single use packaging.

Single Use Bans

Regulation is underway to ban companies from placing certain types of single use and hard to recycle packaging on the market. Small hotel miniatures and sample sachets might be banned in the future as governments look to incentivise companies to use easy-to-recycle and refillable packaging. A huge win for reducing waste in the first place (if it gets through)!

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

EPR is a policy being rolled out in countries on every continent over the next 3-5 years. Shoppers won’t really notice this, but it’s an important new behind-the-scenes development. It is designed to make ‘polluters’ (in other words, brands) cover the cost of collecting and recycling packaging to incentivise brands to use easy to recycle packaging. These new rules are shifting the cost toward brands requiring them to pay the ‘full net cost’ of what they produce. This is a groundbreaking move environmentally as it’ll place financial pressure on brands to be more sustainable.

But there could be some bad news – some brands may simply pass this cost onto customers by inflating their prices, while other low-cost products may actually need to increase prices to justify brands continuing to produce them!

Supply Chain and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

The good news is the beauty industry is growing increasingly more transparent – hooray! There are countless regulations around the world that put brands are under the spotlight to ensure they’re operating their businesses in a responsible way. From where they get their ingredients to how workers are treated and their impact on the environment. On the horizon, many large companies will be forced to report their impacts publicly, which means you can gain more information about a business, it’s ingredients and packaging to make more informed choices.

Ingredient Sourcing and Green Claims

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be familiar with the murky waters known as ‘green claims’. There’s currently no robust regulation policing how brands make these claims, but regulators want to make sure that customers know what is in the products they are buying, the sustainability credentials of packaging, production and ingredients, and how to responsibly dispose of empty packaging. We can expect new rules to stop brands from stretching the truth – which means more power to you to make greener choices. Responsible sourcing is also hotting up and a landmark piece of legislation is coming through to ensure products sold in the EU haven’t contributed to deforestation.

What’s Not Regulated (Yet)

Biodiversity, carbon and water are key impacts of products and packaging that are only regulated indirectly currently. It is likely that in the future that businesses will have to report on, reduce and pay for their impacts in these areas. But in the meantime, brands aren’t truly held accountable in these areas.

What Does This All Mean For Me?

The good news? You’ll be able to make more informed choices and also be able to hold brands accountable for making false claims about their sustainability credenatials. A new set of responsible brands are beginning to lead the way, set high standards and reduce negative impacts. We can expect to see stricter rules forcing brands to use less packaging and reduce their environmental impact.

But there’s no need to wait. Start today by choosing brands that are doing better: using refills, labelling their packaging so you know how to recycle it, independently certified by recognised bodies (like Cruelty-Free International, Vegan Society or COSMOS) and sourcing responsibly and transparently.

Founder of new beauty platform Boop Yasmine Amr says, “As consumer knowledge around sustainability and greenwashing increases, it’s more important than ever for brands to consider how they manage their excess inventory and think about what they view as ’waste’.” Boop offers brands a way to clear their excess stock in a sustainable manner rather than destroying items, whilst also giving consumers the opportunity to try premium brands for less.

By Tracy Sutton and Hannah Worthington from Root.

Root is a sustainable packaging consultancy for brands which advises on packaging and sustainability strategies, provides regulatory services, impact analysis and more.