FIRST HALF In the first six months of the year, we saw more and more targets set: Douglas published its global ESG goals, China’s Yatsen published its first ESG report and Christian Dior unveiled its eco strategy, while existing sustainability agendas were expanded or extended – Procter & Gamble added water restoration goals to its remit and Unilever stretched its Transform initiative until 2025, for example, and the Estee Lauder Companies committed to using electric vehicles.
If we hadn’t also have seen more and more extreme weather, we could have been forgiven for feeling quite encouraged for a moment there.
But while the intentions were undoubtedly good, is the reality as lofty as the ideal? Greenwashing concerns have escalated of late, with 79 percent of shoppers suspicious of brands’ sustainability claims – rightly so in some cases. Eco warrior-in-chief, Greta Thunberg, even branded COP27 as a mass greenwashing event. In that context, what hope is there for capitalism to gain trust?
It’s true that manufacturers are working on a solution which would help shoppers sift through the multiple promises out there. An eco-beauty score designed to help consumers navigate sustainability pledges is in the works and the prototype is targeted for the year-end.
SECOND HALF But with backlash building – and let’s remember that this year is one that saw soup thrown at a Van Gogh painting and NGOs attack the P&G board chair’s reelection– it looks like beauty is on a new deadline, and it won’t be one that it gets to set.
At least, not if the European Union has anything to do with it; it’s proposing to charge ‘polluting’ personal care manufacturers for the waste water treatment necessary after their ‘toxic’ products wash down the drain. It may only be a matter of time before the regulators step in on all counts – production, ingredients, packaging – you name it, our industry’s habits need to change and fast. The focus shift to the consumer won’t wash much longer.
Of course, the big story in the second half of the year was the ever-escalating energy crisis, prompting a scramble for clean energy. Chanel even missed its sustainable bond interim renewables target quoting difficult ‘conditions in certain markets’. Meanwhile, fellow luxury brand Louis Vuitton announced that it’ll turn the lights off when they’re not needed. With such cutting-edge eco-initiatives on the table, those polar bears must be feeling pretty relieved.
WHAT’S NEXT? Whileit can be easy to despair, the good news is thatsome companies are taking their responsibility to the environment so seriously, they’ve given the planet a seat at the decision-making table. Yes, Faith in Nature became the world’s first company to appoint Nature to its Board of Directors and, what’s more, it open-sourced the legal process to help others follow its lead. Now we just need the money to follow – with L Catterton launching an impact investment fund, could 2023 bring the real change we need?