CosmeticsDesign spoke with Ludovic Wassermann, cosmetics and personal care business consultant at Centric Software, about the role software plays in the current push for sustainability and in the future of a sustainable personal care market.
How do you see technology fitting in meeting sustainability requirements?
If you have sustainability goals, where do you define them? If you don’t have any tools, define them somewhere in an Excel spreadsheet or whatever. This is something that you have to define, you have to monitor, you have to implement solutions to make sure you reach your goals, and then you have to report on it.
Of course, there are many things that are made for ingredient production, logistics and transportation that have a direct impact on the environment. The tools are very important.
A simple example of something we tackle with our solution is simply collecting the data. It is very important to collect supplier data for our customers. They need to know when they get ingredients what the ecological footprint of those ingredients is and what the impact on the environment is.
They need to collect this information, store it somewhere, then they need a tool to process it. In that sense, software is important to define, monitor and achieve goals, and then report them.
What innovations in this technology have you seen in recent years?
In my opinion, this is in the early stages of similar innovation.
The challenge we now have is that our customers actually get the data. We can set up a lot of great solutions, but if you don’t really have the data to work with, it’s a problem.
We have seen new databases emerge. For example, there are some companies that have pooled their resources, L’Oréal, Chanel, Hermès and others, to create a solution they call SPICE. It is a database for packaging.
You have some other inefficiencies in different markets that create databases because data is the foundation we need. This is an innovation in itself.
On our part, we’re essentially trying to provide the tools to use that data when you develop products and make sure the products have the best possible profile.
Can you tell me a bit more about the challenges around data collection?
The challenge is that when our customers try to rely on their packaging suppliers, ingredient suppliers or suppliers, the suppliers often do not have the data themselves. Fortunately, if you ask them what the weight of the packaging material is, it’s pretty simple.
But if you then ask for information, such as the exact carbon footprint of that material and the amount of water used to produce that material, they don’t know. It is very complicated to get this data.
What else can be improved to make this technology more effective?
Firstly, how different markets view sustainability. At present, ultimate sustainability goals are determined by the consumer market. If you look at Europe and the US, people now know the problem very well and want more suitable products. But if you go to other countries, that’s not necessarily the case.
Countries may have different regulations and different industry practices. Markets with a global supply chain may need to make something work for the US that depends on other markets that don’t share the same vision.
The hope is also that the entire digital ecosystem of solutions will be seamlessly integrated. This is something that is still new and emerging, so it will be some time before we actually have an ecosystem that is stabilized and mature and that can be interconnected.
What do you see as the next step in the broader landscape of sustainability software?
The next step is that companies like us can actually get that data to talk to users. When you do the life cycle assessments for products, it’s a complex equation because it’s not just about the weight of the packaging and the printing of that particular label and bottle.
It’s basically all the water used to produce it, the carbon footprint during transportation, the water used by the consumer, and the effort to recycle that bottle. Can it actually be recycled? What is the impact of that product if it disappears down the drain? There is also the impact on the consumer himself, the person who actually applies the product to the skin.
This is a very complex equation and for companies like us who are the solution used to develop the products, our challenge and future is to provide a tool that helps our customers consider this whole life cycle .
Right now there are honestly a lot of things that don’t necessarily go into the entire life cycle of a product. This is something I see as very important going forward, to consider the whole life cycle and have real statistics, because we don’t necessarily have them yet.