Interview with Virginie d’Enfert Director of Economic, Environmental and International Affairs of the FEBEA

Interview with Virginie d’Enfert Director of Economic, Environmental and International Affairs of the FEBEA

1- Can you tell us about your job and the activities of the FEBEA in a few words?

I manage the activities and services that the French Federation of Beauty Enterprises (FEBEA, Fédération des Entreprises de la Beauté) develops for the benefit of its members, relating to sustainable development, business development and international issues.

The FEBEA is the only professional union of companies manufacturing cosmetic products and operating in France. It has more than 300 members (82% from very small businesses-SMEs and 18% from intermediate-sized enterprises or large groups) representing more than 95% of the sector’s turnover.

Cosmetic products include perfumes, hygiene and toiletries (soaps, shower gels, deodorants, toothpastes, etc.), beauty and care products (make-up, creams, baby and sun protection products, etc.) and hair products (shampoos, hairsprays, gels, styling mousses, colourings, etc.).

The FEBEA helps companies of all sizes to develop their activities. Our team answers their questions in many fields concerning social, export, regulatory, legal, communication, scientific, environmental, economic issues, etc.

It also contributes to the training of employees and offers webinars, conferences and thematic meetings to help develop skills. It also issues the necessary documents for the export of cosmetic products (Certificates of Free Sale, for example).

The FEBEA is also the voice of the sector. It is therefore the privileged interlocutor of the press, public authorities and scientific communities on all subjects concerning cosmetics companies.

2- In March 2018, you published the white paper “circular economy and the cosmetics sector” What are your ambitions?

 This first White Paper on circular economy in the cosmetics sector identifies 120 good practices, which have been developed by companies of all sizes to minimise the environmental impact of the manufacture of cosmetic products.

It was conceived as a tool for sharing good practices. It deals with the progress made to ensure a rational and sustainable use of biodiversity, promote the eco-design of formulas and packaging, optimize manufacturing processes and promote responsible consumption.

It really proves the commitment of cosmetic brands to the environment. We remain humble. Not everything is perfect, but we have come a long way and we keep improving individually and collectively.

 3- In this white paper, packaging has a place of its own. Beyond environmental issues, can you explain to us the importance of packaging for the customer experience again?

 Packaging holds a fundamental place in the world of cosmetics.

They are essential to transport products, protecting formulas and maintaining them in compliance with the most demanding health standards for as long as possible, while keeping them efficient.

You can also find the obligatory legal mentions (within the meaning of the European Cosmetic Regulation 1223/2009) on the packaging:

  • name and address of the “responsible person”,
  • country of origin if the product is imported,
  • capacity by weight or volume,
  • according to the durability of the product: the indication “best used before the end of…” or the period after opening,
  • precautions for use,
  • batch number,
  • function of the product,
  • list of ingredients expressed using the international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients, known as the INCI list.

The manufacturer can also give other information which will help the consumer to make a choice adapted to their desires, needs or convictions, such as advice of use, material of packaging, ecolabel, certification, sorting instructions…

The packaging materials, and primarily the plastic that is most used, allow a wide variety of formats that meet the different needs of the consumer: for example, family size or nomadic packages, packaging suitable for children.

It also makes it possible to provide services for consumption: a cap that delivers the right dose, a sterile packaging for certain categories of products.

Finally, packaging contributes to the sensory experience of cosmetic products: many women keep their perfume bottle empty because the bottle is a beautiful object. Some luxury brands develop refillable products, which beyond the environmental interest allows to keep an elegant accessory in their bathroom or their bag.

4- In your white paper, the CNE is cited as a “toolbox” reference. In your opinion, have your members appropriated the CNE documents (in particular its eco-design guide for the packaging-product pair, its editorial guide to environmental claims, its report: Packaging and circular economy)?

The FEBEA participated in the working groups on the drafting of these various guides. It communicates them to all its members so that they appropriate the recommendations and good practices detailed in the document. My team also very often relies on documents published by the CNE to answer their questions.

 5- Among the good practices identified by your members, could you mention the major themes that your members appropriate in terms of circular economy strategy?

 To make an eco-friendly packaging, we have identified several levers:

  • Choosing materials with the smallest environmental footprint possible:
    • using recyclable and recycled materials,
    • incorporating recycling raw materials,
    • using paper and cardboard from sustainably managed forests,
    • deleting the instructions and print them inside the packaging,
    • printing packaging with vegetable oil-based inks.
  • Reducing packaging size and weight,
  • Proposing refills,
  • Improving the recyclability of packaging,
  • Making the advertising at the point of sale eco-design as well.

6- In your opinion, what are the societal challenges that cosmetic packaging will have to meet in the coming years, given the European and French regulations to come?

Cosmetic packaging accounts for 2% of the 5 million tonnes of packaging placed on the market each year in France. Many cosmetic companies are committed to the circular economy approach, which for many is part of their overall strategy. This is reflected in our white paper. It is undeniable that the entire sector is driven by this dynamic and is moving in this direction.

There is a need to adapt to changing patterns of sustainable consumption and production. It is also necessary to prepare for regulatory developments, which could take place within the framework of the French Roadmap for the Circular Economy and the Europe-wide Circular Economy Package. In this perspective, companies take their responsibilities and commit themselves to eco-designing their formulas and packaging to promote the sustainable use of resources, as well as to manufacturing sustainably.

The integration of plastic into a closed production and consumption loop is the most urgent issue and is the subject of reflection and action plans in companies, particularly large international groups.

Consumers are also increasingly sensitive to packaging reduction. This is clearly the main challenge for marketing teams and it comes with several difficulties: the regulations impose numerous mentions on packaging. Therefore, space is needed.

Moreover, cosmetic brands are often global (France is the world’s leading exporter of perfumes and cosmetics!). Middle-Eastern or Asian consumers do not have the same concerns.

Finally, promoting sustainable consumption is a major challenge for brands and our organization. The circular economy also engages consumers to adopt an eco-friendly behaviour: making good use of water, using the right dose, improving sorting gestures, because the vast majority of bathroom packaging can be sorted and recycled!

This is the message that the FEBEA disseminated on the occasion of the Keskistri and Kistri campaigns in collaboration with CITEO. Improving sorting to increase household packaging collection is another major challenge for the coming years.

7- The CNE is listening to your members, what subjects would they need to document within the framework of its working groups?

 Mainly issues related to the recyclability of packaging.
With regard to plastic packaging in particular, how can the loop be closed for the sector?

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