Interview with Isabelle Martin and Birgit Huber, President and Vice-President, Cosmetics Europe

Interview with Isabelle Martin and Birgit Huber, President and Vice-President
Cosmetics Europe

Congratulations Isabelle Martin, Vice President Public Affairs – EMEA at The Estée Lauder Companies and Birgit Huber, Deputy Director General at IKW for your election as president and vice president of Cosmetics Europe, the European Association of the Cosmetics industry. 

For the first time, 2 women have been elected to the top management of Cosmetics Europe. Will this result in changes and what are your goals?

Isabelle Martin: Thank you. We are truly honored to take on this role in Cosmetics Europe. As the European trade association, our members include cosmetics and personal care manufacturers as well as associations representing our industry at national level across EuropeIt is our ambition for this presidency to ensure that Cosmetics Europe further evolves as a proactive, trusted and effective partner and stakeholder in the current discussions, beyond the upcoming review of the Cosmetic Products Regulation. 

Today in Europe, we are witnessing a profound political and societal transformation, which leaves no industry untouched. For the cosmetics and personal care sector, the rapidly evolving regulatory landscape driven by the green transition puts change firmly on our agenda. It is for us now to rise to the challenge of our times, demonstrate our readiness and efforts to contribute to the goals of the European Green Deal so that our industry continues to meet the expectations of our consumers and  prosper in Europe.

Birgit Huber: Our pan-European network of associations which form part of Cosmetics Europe, is a resource that we would like us to tap into even more in the coming years. They are our sector’s best ambassadors at the national level. Cooperation is key to developing proactive approaches on issues such as transparency and sustainability - priorities for our ever more diverse consumer base.

You have already made a lot of efforts to increase the safety of cosmetics through trainings in the last years. You have also just mentioned the European Green Deal. What impact does it have on cosmetic products?

Isabelle Martin: The European Green Deal (EGD) is one of the most important strategic initiatives ever undertaken in the European Union and as such it has had an impact on each and every industry. For our sector, the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, set out as part of the EU’s overall push for sustainability in the EGD, is of key significance since it triggered the revision of three key pieces of legislation affecting cosmetic ingredients and products: the Regulation on the Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemical Substances and Mixtures (CLP Regulation), the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation and last but not least the Cosmetic Products Regulation (CPR). 

Birgit Huber: In June, Cosmetics Europe submitted its contribution to the CPR public consultation where it laid down its recommendations to the targeted revision of cosmetics legislation. We called for a strong CPR for the green and digital transition. One that:

  • fosters a sustainable (globally) competitive cosmetics sector, entrepreneurship and innovation capacity;
  • strengthens its science-based, proportionate, effective and efficient approach, addressing human and environmental safety in the interest of consumers, industry and authorities;
  • acknowledge the long history of a high level of safety of European cosmetic products and keep, at its core, the principle of scientific safety-based risk assessment;
  • remains the “Gold Standard” and international reference worldwide;
  • maintains a level of regulatory burden achievable and manageable particularly by SMEs; and
  • is future-proofed by considering how digital labelling can be a meaningful way to protect and inform consumers and contribute to packaging waste reduction at the same time 

In our response,  we urged the European Commission to take a holistic approach to the revision process and see it in the overall context of the wider policy objectives of the EGD so that coherence and consistency across legislation can be ensured to effectively support the green transition.

After 2 years of pandemic, we now have a war in Ukraine. What challenges does the European cosmetics industry face? 

Isabelle Martin: First of all, we would like to express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Many of our member companies are actively involved in providing various forms of support and assistance to Ukraine. 

As for the challenges the cosmetics industry faces in relation to the war, we would like to mention two main ones. Firstly, a significant number of cosmetics companies had business in Ukraine and Russia, which have been majorly (?) affected now. Secondly, availability of certain raw materials and their prices have also been impacted, example being sunflower oil. 

Transparency in a digital world is becoming more and more important. How do manufacturers inform consumers about cosmetic products and their ingredients?

Isabelle Martin: The cosmetics and personal care industry is an extremely consumer driven-sector and good communication with our consumers is a must. Transparency regarding our products, ingredients and practices is a key element of it. We want to enable and empower consumers to make their own choices, which are best for them. As an example, all ingredients used in a cosmetic product need to be listed on a product label. how to use them safely, and how to obtain the best result.  Today consumers look for more information than what legislation requires.  They want to know why ingredients are used for in the products. Industry is working on tools that will enable consumers to find that information and to better understand the technology 

Birgit Huber: The digital era has come. Many consumers all over Europe have a mobile phone and access to internet. Our companies are already responding to this reality by providing a lot of information digitally. Today, the CPR’s provisions related to mandatory consumer information are limited to on-pack labelling. We believe there is a clear need to introduce provisions related to digital labelling, to take account of the evolution of consumers’ way of accessing information and of digital technologies. 

Some of our national associations have already started with databases and apps delivering a huge amount of information to the consumer.  

Lastly, during your annual conference in June, Cosmetics Europe revealed the results of the latest European Consumer Perception Study. What, in your view, are the key insights from the study?

Isabelle Martin: Cosmetics industry is extremely consumer-driven. It’s the insights from our consumers that help drive our industry forward. The economic contribution of our industry is well-established and recognised, but our products also play a major role in people’s personal health and well-being.  We asked Ifop, the international research firm, to conduct the study on our behalf, as we wanted to understand better what cosmetic products really mean to those who use them, and why.  

Birgit Huber: The results clearly showed that cosmetics and personal care products are essential in all stages of life and they matter to people. 72% of European consumers see cosmetics and personal and cosmetic care products as important or very important in their daily lives. Moreover, cosmetics contribute to improving quality of life - 71% of consumers attested to that. For 70% of consumers cosmetics and personal care products are also important or very important in building up self-esteem. These societal benefits cosmetics bring should not be underestimated. For more details on the study findings, I would invite you to check out our infographics here.

Thank you very much for this interview. We wish you all the best for your new tasks.

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