Greenhouse gloss: Is the beauty industry’s commitment to tackling climate change more than skin deep?

A report on the credibility of Net Zero commitments of the top ten highest revenue global beauty and personal care companies, using the Carbon Trust’s Net Zero Reality Check.

Greenhouse gloss report cover


The Net Zero Intelligence Unit assessed the urgency and credibility of the Net Zero commitments of the ten highest revenue global beauty and personal care companies: L’Oréal, Unilever, P&G, Estée Lauder, Shiseido, Beiersdorf, LVMH, Kao, Coty and Johnson & Johnson. The Net Zero Reality Check tool was developed by the Carbon Trust to assess climate action in different sectors by reviewing the most recent annual, sustainability and emissions reports of a sample of companies. 

Publication date: Jan 2023

The key findings of the report are: 

  1. None of the world's 10 largest beauty companies have set an independently validated Net Zero target. Three of these companies have failed to commit publicly to a Net Zero target at all. All beauty and personal care companies should follow international best practice by making a public pledge to reach Net Zero by 2050 or earlier, and then seeking validation of their Net Zero target from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
  2. Reports from some beauty and personal care companies show their emissions are increasing. This suggests that some of the largest companies within the sector are not reducing emissions with the urgency required to deliver Net Zero.
  3. The beauty and personal care sector should take, and share evidence of, more action to address emissions from sourcing raw materials. This accounts for around 30-50% of the sector’s emissions. Companies should set specific targets focussed on reducing emissions from sourcing of raw materials, and report on progress to meet them.
  4. Just three companies of the ten analysed have clear targets for eliminating deforestation from their supply chains, without relying on responsible sourcing credits. Deforestation releases harmful CO2 and contributes to biodiversity loss, it must be eliminated as a priority. Amidst growing consumer demand for ‘natural’ ingredients, companies should commit to operating their business models within planetary boundaries.
  5. Consumer use of beauty and personal care products often generates more emissions than the products or their packaging, yet commitment to tackling these emissions is limited. These ‘use-phase’ emissions reflect a significant proportion of the sector’s emissions, yet only two companies evidenced clear plans to tackle them. More action is needed from the sector to educate consumers on the environmental impact of their beauty and personal care routines and to innovate products that minimise the need for hot water. 

‘Clean beauty’ is an opportunity for the sector

The report concludes that growing consumer demand for ‘clean’ and ‘sustainable’ beauty products is an opportunity for the sector to galvanise action on Net Zero and ensure sustainability claims reflect a high standard of progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This makes climate and business sense for the beauty industry. Without taking credible action, there is a risk of ‘greenhouse gloss’ in the sector, with words failing to translate into meaningful action.

The report is the first in a series from the Net Zero Intelligence Unit looking at the credibility of climate action at a sector level. 


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