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Part.4_Ep. 01 <Beauty Activism>Cosmetic companies taking a stance

>> Continued from Part.3

MD Kim: The term ‘Carbon neutral beauty’ has also started to be used in the market. Carbon neutral beauty Cosmetics mean products that do not emit carbon dioxide throughout the life of the product, but even if they emit carbon dioxide, it is said that the term includes products that offset carbon dioxide emissions by purchasing 'carbon credits' by paying money for tree planting and clean energy projects. As the industrial structure changed, global companies such as Unilever and L'Oreal introduced carbon footprints that indicate the total amount of greenhouse gases generated in the entire process of product production, transportation, consumer use, and disposal.

In Korea, as the Framework Act on Carbon Neutrality took effect in March this year, starting with the cosmetic packaging material grading system, we are aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. However, currently, most low-carbon cosmetics are limited to low-carbon containers or packaging, and there are almost no cosmetics using low-carbon ingredients. In order to respond to this, ingredient companies will have to provide information on greenhouse gas emissions from raw material purchase to production process and just before shipment, and so-called 'low-carbon ingredients' will have to be developed. We ingredient developers will now have to study related systems and think about ways to reduce carbon emissions.

NH Kim: Oh my gosh... We have so much to worry about. How is the R&D center trying to respond to this?

MD Kim: I don't think we should think of it as something too grand. For example, making raw materials using agricultural products that are thrown away because they are ugly, or making new raw materials by recycling waste generated in certain industries. I think these can be environmentally friendly raw materials. It is not grandiose to reduce carbon emissions, and if the yield is higher than the existing process when making an extract, it means that the energy required to make the same extract is reduced to that extent, so it can be called carbon reduction, and when making something with a fermentation process if the productivity of the strain we used increased compared to the strain used previously, it means that energy was saved that much, so I think it can be called carbon reduction. I think we need to start with small things like this.

ACTIVON R&D Center is already doing this. When making Activonol-3, waste glycerol, a by-product of biodiesel, is used and produced through lactic acid bacteria fermentation.

‘Productivity is 00% higher when using the strain we developed compared to the strain used a lot in the past, so energy such as electricity and steam used for fermentation can be saved’ We are moving to quantify and materialize these things. I think we are preparing quite quickly.

NH Kim: Uh, then, was there any products that was actually released as cosmetics with ugly agricultural products? I've seen a lot of news like that, but I don't think I've ever used the product.

JH Jeon: Yes, there are. First of all, Innisfree has been carrying out the ‘Upcycling Beauty Project’ since 2018. In cooperation with Jeju Beer, they made body wash with beer scraps and released hand cream by processing ugly carrots from Jeju with no commercial value.

Among the raw material manufacturers, Daebong LS released citron seed oil. Citron is popular in Korea because they are mainly used for citron extract or citron tea, but they say that citron seeds are the only part that is thrown away. Citron seeds that come out after making citron-related foods have been treated as industrial waste, but they were upcycled at Daebong LS.

In addition, Biospectrum used sea lettuce, a type of green algae, which was originally considered a nuisance on the coast of Jeju. As a result of the research, it was identified as a substance that promotes the proliferation and differentiation of adipose-derived stem cells, and it is being developed and sold as a patented raw material.

JH Park: I did a search and found a lot of coffee grounds upcycled. First of all, LG H&H signed an MOU with ‘Urban Miner’ to make high-quality activated carbon from coffee grounds that are produced and used as raw materials for household goods and cosmetics. A Taiwanese hair care brand O’right already launched a hair product using coffee grounds in 2006, and is also producing upcycling products using goji berry roots or grains.

Givaudan of Switzerland developed a product called Koffee’up with Danish company Kaffe Bueno, which can be used instead of argan oil as coffee grounds can exfoliate, treat acne, and adjust pH balance.

O'right Instagram

Jh Jeon: A British startup called UpCircle has also launched a scrub using coffee waste. They receive coffee waste from cafes in downtown London, extract it as a raw material, and process it into various products.

JH Park: Citron' seeds’ case was also mentioned earlier, but there are already many cases of making cosmetics out of food waste.

NH Kim: When I say food waste, it sounds a bit awkward.... This reminds me of household food waste. Of course it's not like that, it's a single waste material straight from the food factory, isn't it?

JH Park: Yes, they are extracted from seeds or peels that are not used in the food industry, and are used as vegetable oils and butters, or as exfoliating scrubs in the case of coffee.

JH Jeon: There are also cosmetics made from by-products of the wine industry. It is said that by-products (pumice) that are discarded after extracting wine reach 10 million tons per year worldwide. When they are landfilled, they acidify the soil, and when incinerated, carbon dioxide is released. In addition, wineries have been paying around 200,000 won per 1 ton to dispose of it. Decant, a start-up company in Korea, collects this by-product free of charge from wineries in France and Korea and uses it as a cosmetic ingredient to develop antioxidant and anti-aging products. Orange or lemon peels are also often used.

NH Kim: Wow, it's literally a win-win. When we look at the press releases for these products, it seems like they are partnering with the farm and doing it one-to-one, but this would also be a company that handles raw materials in the middle, right? We should also look for partners such as food factories and farms.

JH Park: We also handle a lot of extracts, so I think it would be okay to proceed with an agreement.

MD Kim: However, the question is whether the amount of waste will be enough to produce in tons. Since crops are also affected by the climate, I think a constant supply will be an important factor.

JH Park: Now I have to check the quality of agricultural products…haha. I'm getting more and more work. As I researched upcycling, I found a lot of packaging materials.

JH Jeon: In the case of Amorepacific, a campaign to collect empty cosmetics bottles was started in 2009. I was aware of it, but I don't think I've ever returned or refilled an empty cosmetic bottle.

NH Kim: I think it would be nice to divide the fields like food and cosmetics and operate as an integrated point for container recycling... There are so many ideas, but the key is how practical and sustainable these are. Companies like L'Oreal are demanding higher standards for raw material suppliers, so we have to deal with them in advance so that we can pass the audit and continue our business. If we only look at the number in front of our noses, we will be weeded out.

JH Jeon: Since trends are changing so rapidly, it seems that raw material developers focus on finding ingredients with excellent efficacy.

MD Kim: However, from the standpoint of developing preservative substitutes, movements such as reducing carbon emissions, simply using packaging materials made of paper to think about the environment, and making cosmetics without preservatives can have a good effect on the environment, but have a short shelf life. I think it has no choice but to have an adverse effect on the quality of cosmetics itself. In the case of cosmetics that are used for a relatively long time compared to food, there is no choice but to use durable materials that can protect the contents from the external environment, and use preservatives to prevent contamination. Therefore, I think it is important to strike an appropriate balance between protecting the quality of cosmetics and protecting the environment.

We mainly talked about the environment corresponding to E in ESG today, but fair trade is becoming an issue for Social corresponding to S. Fair trade, which was previously applicable to coffee and chocolate, has been expanded to cosmetics, so fair trade is required especially for raw materials produced only in certain regions, such as palm oil and shea butter.

NH Kim: Yes, natural is the basis, sourcing is fair trade, and the process is carbon neutral...

MD Kim: In the case of shea butter, it is being implemented by signing an agreement with a women's association in Ghana and obtaining supply through fair trade, or using only shea butter provided by a cooperative that provides stable jobs. As many of you know about palm oil, it is implemented through RSPO certification, which means the Roundtable on sustainable palm oil. ACTIVON also manages RSPO grade ingredients separately for cosmetics ingredients derived from palm oil, such as A-3, glycerin, and GMCY, and many customers require the RSPO grade.

NH Kim: Yes, I am also checking all the requests coming in from all over the world through the homepage, and there are many RSPO grade product quotation requests.

JH Park: So certification is important. And, if eco-friendly materials become more mainstream, I think we need to conduct a more stringent safety evaluation for the warranty period and expiration date. For future products, the R&D center and production team must collaborate to improve the process to see how carbon emissions can be reduced. In addition to the products we manufacture and ship, we also check the carbon emissions of our partners in the case of raw materials received and refined…I think we need to improve gradually. There are already many companies that recycle waste from production. Things like purified water or organic solvents... Reselling them and applying them to production.

NH Kim: Wow, there is so much to do. I think we should report this not only for the purpose of contributing to The K Beauty Science, but also to the CEO and executives, saying, ‘We need to promote this for company management.’ Like a ‘five-year plan’.

We utilize waste from other industries and by-products from our production processes are utilized elsewhere. Really nothing left.. with zero waste. to be circulating. I think it will be the foundation for the company to grow into a more comprehensive bio-materials company as well as cosmetic raw materials in the future.

I think a lot of good things came out today.

And the more you go back, the more free-spirited the atmosphere becomes, so it's a bit disappointing to end it. I'm already thinking about the next topic. I bought a book while preparing this session, and there is a restaurant called Noma in Northern Europe. It's a restaurant specializing in fermented food, but the concept of fermentation is the same whether you use it as a cosmetic or food ingredient. The principle of fermentation, which maximizes the taste while minimizing the harm, is explained. As far as I know, even in cosmetics, it neutralizes the toxicity of natural substances and enhances their efficacy.

These days, I use fermented soy sauce and salt as condiments. This helps with the low-salt diet and adds umami. In both the food and cosmetics markets, especially K-fermentation is attracting worldwide attention. Why don't we talk about it as well? Now, the 2nd members should be recruited as fermentation experts. You worked hard for a month!

<The end of Episode.01>

*This manuscript was also published on The K Beauty Science website.

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