What is responsible sourcing and why is it important to us?
This trend in the beauty has been going on for years: consumers want to use cosmetics products that are environmentally friendly and minimize the impact of our planet and its people, locally and on the other side of the globe. As the beauty industry touches the lives of millions of people every day, it faces a real challenged to become more sustainable and environmentally responsible, to answer consumers’ concerns about the impact of their choices.
Responsible sourcing is certainly one of the best ways to respond this challenge for an ethical and sustainable product. But what does it exactly mean? This article will tell you all about the specific approach to sourcing, and how Alban Muller and Crodarom strive to build meaningful ethical partnerships and to implement local and responsible sourcing to produce their high-quality botanical extracts.
We will also tell you about upcycling, another trend that gained a major momentum in the sustainability scene of the cosmetic industry. We will tell you everything about how you can manufacture high-quality products from discarded materials from other industries, and why upcycling does not always guarantee full traceability and transparency.
What is responsible sourcing?
An eco-responsible supply chain is one that considers the social and environmental impact of every step in the production process, from the sourcing of raw materials to the manufacturing and distribution of finished products.
Responsible sourcing is more than sustainable sourcing, it’s about also having a positive social impact. Such sourcing engages the company to an ethical and sustainable approach, to become aware of where they are sourcing and how they avoid making negative impacts on the society and nature. This voluntary commitment represents a great shift from the traditional way compagnies sources their raw materials and process them.
Why is responsible sourcing so important?
We believe a sustainable and ethical approach to sourcing can only be beneficial, and this for four main aspects.
A reduced environmental impact
As we rely on a variety of plants to produce our extracts, we know that the production of natural derived raw materials can have a significant impact on the environment and biodiversity, including deforestation, habitat destruction, pollution… Responsible sourcing ensures that our raw materials are obtained in a way that minimizes harm to Mother Nature.
A low social impact
Many of our materials are sourced from developing countries, where labor standards and human rights may not be as well protected as in developed countries. Responsible sourcing ensures that workers involved in the production of these ingredients are treated fairly and that their rights are respected.
Answering consumer demands
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of the products they purchase. We believe that responsible sourcing is the best way for our customers to meet this demand by providing ingredients that are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
We won’t lie to you. The cosmetic industry is highly competitive, and a company's reputation can be damaged by negative publicity regarding the environmental or social impact of its products. Responsible sourcing has always been for us a great way to build and maintain a positive image, by demonstrating our strong commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. We did not wait for it to be trendy to engage in this way, we always made it a key asset of our offer.
It’s also an important lever for continuous improvements for Crodarom and Alban Muller. Underneath are some examples where we were able to build responsible supply chains from the start of the product development project, but we also strive for ways to improve existing sourcing to achieve more responsibility, hence increasing the number of sustainably and ethically sourced product in our catalogue every year.
Responsible sourcing is the centrepiece of our product development and management strategy. To us, it is very important to establish long term trust with our partners, and to:
- Work in partnership with suppliers involved in sustainable development processes.
- Carry out impact studies (diagnostics, mitigation measures and monitoring) related to our activities.
- Ensure that our purchases and products create value for the Croda Group, partners, and customers.
- Be a company recognized and credible for its values, its specificities, and its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitments.
- Contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals set by the United Nations.
How to build eco-responsible supply chains?
There are multiple approaches, with possible combinations. Here are some ways that Crodarom and Alban Muller are stepping up and creating responsible sourcing for our cosmetic ingredients.
These are all part of our CSR program, Be ACTIVEly Committed, which shows the many actions that Crodarom, Alban Muller and Sederma undertook to meet Croda’s engagement to be Climate, Land and People positive by 2030.
Sustainable sourcing of raw materials
This is the foundation of our product development and management. There is a culture at Croda of “doing the basics brilliantly” and sustainable sourcing is one basic principle that we cannot bypass.
We always paid great attention to where we source our raw materials, ensuring that this is done sustainably and responsibly. Since botanical extracts inherently rely on natural and biodegradable raw materials, we just had to get more involved into local and/or organic sourcing, as well as supporting ethical practices and avoiding the use of practices that are harmful to nature. This has always been clear to us that since we get our inspiration from nature and traditional practices, we must do our best to protect and value them.
Our privileged locations in the heart of a remarkable natural area in Southern France for Crodarom, and in the breadbasket of France for Alban Muller, has greatly facilitated the task. We only had to knock at our neighbour’s doors respectively in the Massif Central and in the Beauce to build our ethical partnerships. We for instance use cornflower flower that is produced in fields at the door of Alban Muller’s factory to manufacture Cosmephytami™ Cornflower. For Phytofleur™ French Rose EC, the rose flowers are mainly produced in the Cévennes, right next to Crodarom’s factory.
Of course, some of the exceptional plants we use to produce our high-quality extracts do not grow in France. We rely on our challenging Supplier Code of Conduct for responsible relationships and purchasing to make sure that, even if they are on the other side of the world, our suppliers respect our strong ethical and environmental expectations.Check out this video about some of the greatest examples of Crodarom’s responsible supply chains. You will discover how we ensure that our sourcing meets our sustainability and ethics requirements both when our partners are next door, here for Crodarom® Beech, and when they are on the other side of the world, like for Crodarom® Green Caviar and Crodarom® Banana Flower EC!
Crodarom's Ethical Partnerships
Full traceability and transparency with committed partners
Reduced waste and energy consumption
Just like many cosmetic companies, we are looking for ways to reduce waste and energy consumption throughout our supply chains. This involves using renewable energy sources, minimizing waste (of resources and packaging), and using eco-friendly production processes.
Some of our key aspects of our efforts in this regard are:
- The choice for local suppliers whenever it’s possible with the plants’ geographical growth zone and our quality requirements, to make sure our raw materials are doing as few kilometres as possible before arriving in our warehouse.
- Our optimised eco-friendly processes for the extraction and the manufacture of our botanical ingredients: The ultra-sound assisted extraction and the new generation of microwave assisted extraction methods at Crodarom. These extractions have been evaluated as low impact by the ERI360° label. One of Alban Muller's greatest innovation is the zeodration drying process, much more efficient than spray-drying or lyophilisation. We save a lot in storage room and packaging thanks to this process, as reduced the volume of the extract by great extents once it’s dried.
- The use of only green electricity on both factory sites.
- Many permanent efforts and reflexion to reduce our energy consumption, such as the heat recovery for the refrigeration and zeodration units at Alban Muller, combined with the low temperatures set for our extraction processes.
- The valorisation of 100% of our waste at Crodarom, mainly through recycling and composting (Alban Muller is soon to reach the same level).
- The recovery of all the used water from our Alban Muller plant in the 10 000 m² of our water gardens, a place rich in biodiversity.
Check out our 2023 CSR brochure to learn more about all these commitments!
Transparent supply chains
Another key aspect of eco-responsible supply chains is transparency.
We always made a point to provide as much information as possible about the origin of our raw materials and the production processes used to create our cosmetics. Being transparent is a requirement, not an option for us. This allows our customers to make informed choices about the products they buy and helps cosmetic companies to improve their environmental practices.
Building engaged partnerships with producers near us allows us to provide full transparency for our products. The closer we are, in both meaning of the words, geographically and in relationship, the better we get to know each other and work together to obtain excellent quality and traceability. Thanks to such close partnerships, we can fully show the sustainability and social credentials of our suppliers.
We reserve the right to organize an audit or diagnosis at our partner's farm if necessary to verify compliance with our commitments.
In Provence, Crodarom works with a unique family-owned kumquats farm with sustainable and responsible practices. Here again, fair and transparent exchanges through a win-win partnership allow Crodarom to have excellent traceability and quality assurance for the selected fruits to produce Fruitliquid™ Kumquat. We participate in the economic development of this family business, with a new and secured market opportunity and fair prices.
We do not only build such outstanding partnerships with our neighbours in France, we also do it with producers on the other side of the world, where these topics of ethics and sustainability may not always be at the centre of commercial considerations. To produce Crodarom® Banana Flower EC, we built an engaged partnership with a banana producer located on Mayotte. Banana is one of the main food crops in this Indian Ocean islands. When growing bananas, male flowers have to be taken off the bunch to allow fruits to mature and are hence considered a waste product of farming. We chose a partner engaged in agroforestry and organic farming to build a direct collaboration, one that is a guarantee for quality, transparency and traceability; one that is a great opportunity for act in favour of local communities and their development, supporting organic practices.
The partnership to produce Crodarom® Green Caviar is a similar example of a combination of ethical and environmental commitments for excellent transparency and great quality. A direct and close contact with our producer, as well as the establishment of 5-years contracts for secured commercial outlets with fair prices, allow Crodarom to purchase algae materials of high quality and traceability, while making sure its production involves eco-friendly practices preserving the farm environment and its biodiversity, human rights respects (including no child or forced labour) and a healthy & safe work environment.
Circular economy & upcycling
In addition to the previous strategies for ethics and sustainability, we are always exploring ways to create a circular economy around our ingredients. This involves designing innovative ingredients that reduce the need for virgin materials and minimise waste.
This is where upcycling comes into play. This approach is all about taking waste materials from other industries and turning them into new, useful, and more valuable products. Upcycling is for us a promising approach to promoting sustainability and innovation in the beauty industry, as it allows to conserve precious natural resources, reduce waste and creative unique and innovative ingredients that appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.
We have some very great examples of upcycling in our ranges. The first one combines engaged partnership with upcycling: Cytokalmine™ EC is a natural hyperactive concentrate for sensitive skin, produced from pomegranate pericarps, the by-product of the juice production activity of our partner, a family-size farm in Southern France. On top of the transparency and ethical credentials, Alban Muller offers a great opportunity to diversify the commercial activities of this food-specialised business.Crodarom also has a very similar example of such approach, with a waste from the jewellery industry. The industrial extraction of precious stones can have an important social and environmental impact when not done responsibly (deforestation, excessive use of water, poor working conditions, …).
Crodarom took up the challenge to find stone materials extracted with responsible practices. Crodarom® Amethyst GL is hence produced with stones supplied by a family business in Auvergne (France), committed in eco-friendly management and production: no deforestation, no explosives, manual extraction without chemical products, ... The upcycling part is the valorisation of stones that are not suitable for jewels due to quality flaws like brittle stones.
Make sure to browse our Upcycling presentation, gathering all the products extracted with such responsible sourcing!
Is upcycling always associated with transparency?
The two previous upcycling examples show that, since responsible sourcing is at the core of our values, it’s hard for us to do upcycling without building strong relationships with our suppliers and providing traceability.
But it does not mean it’s always the case. Other upcycled materials unfortunately may not allow full traceability and transparency. For example, it is not the case with the Scrubami™ range or the Cosme-Phytami™ Red Grape, for which we rely on partners who recover co-products from various food or wine companies. A single company would not be able to supply enough raw materials for our production needs. And it leaves room for continuous improvement, a thing that we love at Croda!
All approaches are commendable, eco-responsible sourcing is indeed great when one of these four examples is achieved, and even better when it combines the two, three or four aspects we just overviewed! One thing is certain: at Crodarom and Alban Muller, we are doing all we can to make sure that we meet all three or four of these aspects. It’s a daily commitment.
How can we prove responsible sourcing?
Speeches are great. Proofs and labels are better.
Within the frame of our CSR strategy, we rely on eco-responsible certifications with reputable third-party organisations to assess and provide strong support to our environmental and ethical claims, as well as great opportunities for continuous improvements.
Two of such organisations can be highlighted here:
- The ERI360° label is a tool designed by 13 French companies together with the Innov’Alliance innovation centre, to assess the ethical, social and environmental performance of cosmetic ingredients. With a life cycle approach, the 100 indicators of its analytic grid review the whole process from raw material to manufacture, from the producer to the factory. Make sure to read our press release to know more about all Crodarom’s ERI360° labelled ingredients, including Crodarom® Horse Chestnut EC and Crodarom® White Truffle (the document is available on download at the top right of this article).
- The UEBT (Union for Ethical Bio Trade), which offers an assessment of supply chains with their recognised UEBT standards, covering important social, environmental and economic issues. In 2022, Crodarom® Beech and Cosme-Phytami™ Cucumber EC have reached the level of compliance “Responsibly sourced”.
Of course, we are also involved in other actions like The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
In conclusion, eco-responsible supply chains for cosmetics are becoming increasingly important as consumers demand more environmentally friendly products. By sourcing materials sustainably, reducing waste and energy consumption, and creating circular economies for their products, we aim at helping beauty companies to create a more sustainable and responsible industry that benefits both consumers and the environment.
Our 2022 CSR brochure presents this and our other projects for more sustainability, consult it now!
We have plenty more products with eco-responsible and upcycling claims in our ranges, with bring great performances to formulas, as well as outstanding emotive aspects, on top of their sustainability and ethics credentials. Make sure to contact your sales representatives to find out what they can bring to your brands!
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