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Manu-FACT-uring - Out of sight, out of mind?
Our third Susty Summit shed light on a particularly mysterious part of beauty; manufacturing. Think big factories that operate globally, fuelled by brown energy, pumping out Co2 24/7. There’s no doubt about it, the enormous scale and volume that industrial manufacturing operates within is vast and feels like an unstoppable force.
Manufacturing is something that as consumers we never get to see. It’s hidden, far away and almost invisible to us vs the gross plastic packaging we’ve all grown to resent when we actually see it. Well that’s exactly why we wanted to discuss it.
Let’s start from the top: what actually is sustainability?
“Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.”
Source: Oxford dictionary
So, whatever we make, we can continue to make because we aren’t consuming and throwing away it forever. We are respectful and act responsibly with precious natural resources, so that we can continue living on an abundant Earth, whilst also consuming products we like over and over again.
HERE ARE THE MANU-FACTS
1. Manufacturing is only one part of the supply chain puzzle.
Every beauty product is made up of many, many parts which each have their own supply chain. Think ingredients like Shea which is harvested, and the many ingredients are then brought together and formulated to make a finished product. Then there’s lids, tubes, bottles etc which can each start their journey in different factories before the meet and are put together.
2. 95% of beauty products are made using 3rd party manufacturers, and there’s extremely poor visibility around sustainability.
This means the brands often don’t own the manufacturing. This is the status quo for brands (especially smaller ones) as it’s MUCH more cost-effective and easier to scale. When brands get a little bigger they can invest and own their manufacturing because they know they’ll really utilise all of the equipment. Beauty mixers can cost upwards of 200k each, and factories need to be running five days a week to justify such large costs and equipment...
We contacted seven of the biggest beauty UK product and packaging manufacturers asking about sustainability…. None came back to us.
3. The biggest problem with ALL manufacturing globally is ENERGY
Brown energy (coal and oil is used) at enormous scale. Brown fuel emits CO2 into our atmosphere which created a literal blanket around our atmosphere - trapping heat and causing our climate to heat up, AKA climate change.
Manufacturing is such a hidden topic, finding reliable stats is incredibly difficult, here’s one we did find;
Co2 emitted through global manufacturing and construction in 2014 accounted for 20% of the total global fuel emissions.
That equates to 1,971,000,000 metric tons of Co2
1 tree offsets 1 ton of Co2 over 40 years. We need to plant A LOT of trees.
Source: Worldbank, EESS-dive, Carbonify
The worst part? Swapping brown energy for green is easy but it’s not happening. We need to push brands to do better, and be transparent about their operations and impact on the planet. C02 from burning coal accounts for 44% of the world’s total.
Green energy is energy provided by hydro, solar, wind and bioenergy. It’s clean, non-toxic and emits ZERO Co2.
If we’re totally honest. Burning oil is just plain dumb. It comes from ancient forests and is irreplaceable. Oil will never exist again. It was created under extraordinary circumstances which involved the earth being at a specific temperature, pressure and dead natural organisms that sunk to the bottom of the earth millions of years ago. We need to conserve products made from oil in a closed loop. They are extremely valuable and precious.
4. The second biggest problem in beauty manufacturing is WASTE
With every run of product run there is a MINIMUM of 5% wastage on every fill. This is to make sure that the run can all be filled, and in case there is a spillage, but often will go straight in the bin. So just like the fashion industry burning clothes to avoid devaluation, beauty brands are throwing away good product when it could have been used or given to beauty banks.
5. TRUE SUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING =
6. The big debate for BYBI: 3rd party vs in-house manufacturing
At the moment we aren’t in a place size-wise, where we can fully commit to manufacturing all of our products In-house, and so we do have to rely on, and put pressure on our third party manufacturers.
When we work with third-party manufacturers on implementing sustainable ethical practices, information really is king. We rely on audits and accreditations they share, but this information can always be skewed. This means we need to be present to do spot checks every now and again, to really see practice as it takes place.
Our in-house progress at BYBI; we’re starting to small to get the basic right
We are making Boosters in-house at our lab, so that we can literally measure how much energy is being used and how much more sustainable it is. Some of our machinery requires no energy at all, which is pretty good susty news. We have also started to employ locally - creating new jobs.
MANUFACTURING IN THE FUTURE
What needs to happen to keep it all susty?!
We’ve just launched our own circular recycling scheme for glass bottles and jars to give BYBI’s packaging a second life.
THE ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE TO KEEP IT ALL SUSTY
Here are some great green providers:
“If you recycle but don’t have green energy, you’re an environmental tokenist.” Gary Parker, Global Head of Sustainability, Intertek
Being green isn’t easy, but we’re trying to make it easier. Climate-care is self-care.