November 14, 2022

Wholesale Cosmetic Packaging: Does It Have A Sustainable Future?

Our knowledge about the impact of consumerism on global environmental health is rapidly evolving, and the wholesale packaging industry is looking to disrupt the status quo. The beauty industry infamously tends towards more luxurious packaging, often prioritizing aesthetics over sustainable materials. However, planet-forward packaging marketplaces are seeing to it that the two are no longer mutually exclusive. 

Consumer behavior is rapidly transforming to adapt to new perspectives on how their buying habits impact the earth's future. In the past, connections between consumerism and significant sustainability issues were driven by green agendas. Today, stakeholders from all parts of the value chain acknowledge the measurable impacts of the choices manufacturers make in product design. 

Making a conscious shift to sourcing sustainable wholesale packaging means that cosmetics companies are making more use of reusable, biodegradable, or compostable materials to wrap, pack, and distribute items. In addition, manufacturing practices are being transformed to meet company ESG goals down the production chain. 

To understand what is driving the sustainable transformation in packaging strategy for cosmetics companies, we must have a full understanding of the stakeholders involved, what constitutes “green” packaging, and how to streamline a transition to packaging materials that don’t cost the earth and will help you remain competitive in the cosmetic retail space. 

Sustainable Packaging in A Transform Or Be Transformed Market

Using sustainable packaging is no longer an optional flex for competitive cosmetic brands. A transformation occurs among consumers, governmental sustainability goals, and corporate stakeholders who want measurable ESG goals met. 

Consumer Demands

We are seeing a measurable change in consumer behavior and value systems. As younger consumers become increasingly conscious of their purchasing power, and align with more eco-friendly brands that display a concerted effort to be more sustainable, they will seek out products that have smaller environmental footprints. 

For example, between 2020 and 2022, an intensive study revealed that consumer behavior toward supporting brands that showed environmentally sustainable practices and value rose by 8%. Additionally, 34% stopped purchasing from brands that they had ethical or sustainable concerns about. 

When asked what made a product “sustainable,” consumers ranked biodegradability and recyclability first, followed by being responsibly sourced and containing minimal packaging. 

According to the research done by Deloitte, consumer’s top five most important environmentally sustainable or ethical practices ranked by response were: 

  1. Producing sustainable packaging and products
  2. Reducing waste in the manufacturing process
  3. Committing to ethical working practices
  4. Reducing carbon footprint
  5. Respect for human rights

Each of these plays a role in the value chain of wholesale packaging. Knowing where you source your packaging, including traceability of raw materials and ethical production practices, are core components to answering consumers' concerns. 

Governmental Mandates

Although reducing a cosmetic company’s total carbon footprint necessitates an end-to-end evaluation, 70% of the beauty industry's waste is found in packaging. 

Governmental environmental goals won’t wait for the goodwill of manufacturers to make an actionable change toward reducing the impact of packaging. Regulatory mandates have become increasingly ambitious, and understanding what lies ahead will be crucial to leaders' success in the cosmetics industry. 

Successful cosmetics companies won’t just be keeping up with regulatory requirements; they will need to anticipate them. As a result, the earliest adaptors toward sustainability measures will have a clear advantage. 

According to global consulting firm McKinsey, these are the end-to-end elements that will face the most regulatory scrutiny via government mandates: 

  • packaging specifications (such as composition, size, and weight)
  • attributes of packaging (for example, recyclability and biodegradability)
  • expected primary use of packaging (for example, labeling and traceability to promote customer empowerment)
  • packaging chain, from raw materials sourcing to disposal, including collection and sorting schemes and reuse or recycling target setting

Corporate Stakeholders 

Integrating ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) criteria into strategy has moved to the forefront of packaging decision-making. Self-published ESG reports are a key indicator that a cosmetics company is making actionable efforts to become stewards of the earth. They answer the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. In addition, these reports that include sustainability strategies provide key evaluations for investment. 

While ESG reporting is not required, when a cosmetic company is proactive about publishing progress impact metrics,  it signals a progressive approach, transparency, and core values outside of profit. 

The Bigger Picture of Ecological Packaging

Beyond meeting consumer expectations, governmental regulations, and corporate ESG goals, companies see several other boosts when integrating ecological wholesale packaging. 

Brand Image

Sustainable packaging is rapidly becoming a key criterion for purchase among consumers. Amongst American consumers,  61% rating sustainability in the packaging of a purchase as a key criterion, while 50% rate sustainability as a top five value driver.

Cosmetic brands no longer have the luxury of remaining silent and in the shadows on the topic of sustainability. Instead, utilizing sustainable sourcing and providing transparency to consumers must be a key component of the company’s mission and, moreso, a recognizable component of the brand. 

When messaging is clear, and consumers understand that a company is using sustainable resources, they naturally perceive that the company is considerate about its environmental impact.  As a result, cosmetic companies can position themselves to become leaders in trailblazers using in the industry (for example by sourcing wholesale perfume bottles) rather than merely playing catch up to adhere to mandated compliance. 

Long-Term Economic Benefits

One of the biggest concerns about adopting sustainable packaging is the perceived higher cost. While it’s true that supply and demand will eventually level the playing ground between cheaper plastic packaging and biodegradable and recyclable alternatives, the answer is more complex than that. 

Sustainable packaging has the potential to save a company money in the long run: 

  1. Intelligent design reduces waste.

When designed efficiently, sustainable packaging can be infinitely reusable, minimize the steps in manufacturing and potentially save space. All proven money savers in their own right. 

  1. There is flexibility in customization. 

Working with a knowledgeable supplier that will collaborate with you on options can make sustainable packaging options cheaper and more economical than traditional packaging.

  1. You can avoid the Plastic tax.

A national reckoning is about to unfold on the commercial production of plastic. Congress is currently eyeing a National Plastic Tax of $0.20 per pound of new plastic created in an attempt to encourage the use and production of post-consumer plastics or other sustainable materials. 

  1. Retailers are favoring sustainably packaged goods. 

Not only do cosmetics companies themselves need to meet ESG goals, but so do the retailers that carry them. Big box stores and luxury outlets alike have set their own CSR goals and will favor companies that are in line with helping them achieve their milestones.

What Makes Cosmetic Packaging Eco Friendly

So what exactly constitutes the mega green wave of sustainable materials in cosmetics packaging? Various materials are now available on the wholesale market to help cosmetic companies transition to more environmentally kind packaging strategies. 

Paper Packaging

Bio-based and made from renewable resources, paper-based packaging is a lightweight alternative that is becoming a growing favorite for brands seeking to step up their sustainability game.

PCR Packaging

Utilizing post-consumer recycled content (PCR) in your packaging gives plastics a second life, reducing carbon footprint and landfill pile-ups while still offering comparable functional properties of virgin plastics.

Refillable Bottles

With many mainstream brands launching refillables, consumer education around reusable packaging is at an all-time high. Refillable jars and components can help lower your brand’s carbon footprint, reduce consumer waste, and drive repurchases.

Refillable Jars

Refillable jars are growing increasingly popular, with many brands offering products ranging from shower gel to eye cream to moisturizers in made-to-refill containers.

Streamlining The Transition To Sustainable Packaging 

Transforming a packaging strategy doesn’t happen overnight and requires a well-planned approach. 

Choose Your Supplier Wisely 

Partner with a packing supplier that understands your end goal and will work with you on customizations. Choose a packaging company that will help you evaluate your desired end use, style, minimum order, and sustainability profile. 

Concurrent Development

Once a cosmetics brand has decided to switch to sustainable primary packaging, the intricate design period will require concurrent development among key players. 

Concurrent development means collaboration between package design, formulation, artwork, and supplier to ensure a seamless transition. Collaboration amongst key players also ensures that quality, regulatory compliance, and package performance standards are not compromised.

Use Virtual Product Design

Virtual product design and simulation give cosmetic manufacturers insight into whether packaging will meet the demands of its customers. In addition, this pre-launch design process and simulation can help evaluate if packaging can withstand the rigors of shipping, consumer use, and end-of-life management. 

How To Source Eco-Friendly Packaging 

Sustainability in product design is no longer an option but a burgeoning demand amongst consumers, stakeholders, and governmental regulations.  Making the transition to sustainable packaging allows the beauty industry to simultaneously reduce environmental impact while also catering to the desire of consumers to provide products that align with sustainable values.

Utilizing a packaging expert who commands knowledge of sustainable materials will be key to a successful transformation. 

You can start here, with the largest primary packaging marketplace on the planet, built for the planet.