Traceability is mandatory

Traceability is becoming mandatory


The beauty sector has always been very close to the food sector, benefitting one from each other. Obviously, food sector’s influence has been more and more noticeable. Because of multiple public controversies, like contaminations or product adulterations, some good practices of the food  industry have been developed and then introduced into beauty industry. For instance, traceability became mandatory in the food supply chain decades ago. It makes it more reliable and transparent, especially when a health issue points out. In the cosmetic sector, it is also progressively enforced. Though it is not part of regulatory and quality requirements, it is increasingly considered by purchasing department.


The beauty industry is looking for partners enabling better transparency of informations along the whole supply chain. It starts with the plant producers and ends with the consumer. Technologies and digital innovations may thus be combined to biotechnologies to improve quality control and traceability. Among few initiatives, DNA Gensee, founded by Nicole Giraud, offers biotechnological analysis that detects DNA in vegetal biomass samples such as plants or micro-organisms. After a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) made with a high-standard appliance, the DNA sequence is identified. « We have been working for almost a decade with botanical gardens and experts in order to build a unique vegetal DNA database » says Nicole Giraud.The genetic plant traceability may thus be guaranteed in cosmetic domain. It may used in the plant, the raw material, or even in the finished product. For example, it has been used to trace honey or specific plants extracts. With an increasing offer of plant extracts from all over the world, the use of this kind of markers is very useful to trace raw materials (plant, species, sub-species, plant organ, geographical regions…)


Besides, the Bee Respect digital platform has been recently developed by Guerlain in partnership with Product DNA. Product DNA was founded by Robin Cornelius, the leader of sustainable textile. It allows a better communication on suppliers, in relation with the whole life cycle assessment of the brand’s products. The Bee Respect website describes the various locations of suppliers, from raw materials, to packaging, production, transport, retail and recycling.

In the cosmetic industry, as in many other sectors traceability is key. It may ensure the quality of raw materials, as well as the product origin. It also implies to transfer the right information to the client, unit the final user. It is thus essential to build strong and reliable supply chains.


A consumer’s expectation : social and environmental traceability


Besides initiatives such as he Bee Respect digital platform, various ways of building supply chains with more transparency are being developed. Two trends may be observed. First, brands and ingredient suppliers are looking for more traceability of the raw material. Secondly, the consumer expects better transparency on the products. Altogether, it is a strong trend that rally all stakeholders of the cosmetic industry. The future of beauty will be more transparent. Maybe some actors of the sector won’t be able to join the movement…


One of the reason comes also from the Access and Benefit Sharing laws, wether they are national or stemming from the Nagoya Protocol. For instance, the blockchain technologies enable the different actors to collect data and transfer them safely all along the supply chain until the last manufacturer, the retailer and even the consumer. The Turmeric Co. has cofounded the first crypto money associated to a blockchain to ensure a complete traceability of turmeric. Seqens, an ingredient supplier combines blockchain and DNA identification in partnership with DNA Gensee.


These data may concern the ecological, botanical and environmental aspects. Beyond that, brands are craving for social impact informations too. With this purpose, the Responsible Mica Initiatives is a do-tank which aims at eradicating child labour and unacceptable working conditions in the Indian mic supply chain by joining forces across industries. Some brands have already been supporting causes like fighting child labour, such as l’Oréal, Estée Lauder, Yves Rocher, Lush or Merck. Now, more and more manufacturer are « cleaning » their supply chains in order to improve their corporate social responsibility.


Digital tools at the service of beauty


Wether they will increase audit performance, supplier compliance or safety and quality management, data driven digital tools such as softwares or applications will help companies in the next years to build smart data systems and analysis. With real time data analysis and user-friendly dashboards, reports will be easily realized and shared with stake holders. Besides, program automation may organise workflows and task alerts to ensure everyday program compliance. This may also identify and anticipate eventual issues easier and be ready 24/7 for audits or inquiries. The global idea is to continuously improve local operations along the supply chain, with the different stakeholders (partners, clients, suppliers, organisations, etc).


In accordance with consumers expectations


Growth in consumer consciousness concerning ethical and sustainable issues in the beauty industry is driving a socially responsible response. The “clean” eating and wellness trend has been growing for the last decade, and influencers have given green choices a “cool” legitimacy. “It’s not just the mindset that’s resonating, food trends are also making the crossover into beauty,” says Jessica Smith, visual researcher at The Future Laboratory.


From saying “I am what I eat” we now claim “I am what I apply”. With social media sharing of beauty products, customer’s choices define identity and increasingly influence purchasing decisions of others. The influence of web apps such as MyBeautyCommunity, founded by Marine Chevalier,


Clean features are increasingly salient in purchasing deliberations and notably, green preferences rise among the consumers of the future. Awareness has increased exponentially thanks to the internet and transparency is now the norm. With the mass of information shared, it’s difficult not to feel the responsibility for a product that you’re buying ! The whole supply chain of the cosmetic industry, from producers to consumers, agrees that there is shared responsibility of the social and environmental impact. Consumers claim that they want to engage with brands and their stories on a deeper level. It is no longer enough to just support a cause or include organic ingredients to be perceived as ethical. Brands that blend efficacy, desirability, transparency and social conscience resonate with today’s ethically minded consumer.


For more information on the future of traceability in the cosmetic industry, visit the Cosmetic 360 exhibition, 16-17 October 2019 in Paris.


Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The Cosmetic 360 Team.