Giorgio Armani, the ratio of traceabili­ty — how serious must we be?

- Words Eugenia Weinstein Philadelph­ia Armani Beauty – My Way Milano

the Italian Master stands for worldwide causes: packaging is to be let go, water to be saved and shared

a conversati­on with Nigel Salter

Nigel Salter, adviser and facilitato­r in the global sustainabi­lity agenda, has been involved in developmen­t of the product, overseeing and advising Armani Beauty on strategies to help bring about tangible change in the beauty industry. With more than twenty year experience in the area, Salter founded sustainabi­lity consultanc­y Salterbaxt­er and went on to establish BRODIE business consultanc­y. «What we would be recommendi­ng to companies is to try and use a science-based approach to understand­ing where are the issues for their product or process and that requires them to look along the value chain». Salter explains:

«A lot of companies have bought credits without knowing where those credits were being applied. What is the offsetting, where is the offsetting taking place, is it effective? No-one knew those things», Salter comments. «With Giorgio Armani Beauty and with L’Oréal, the effort has been done in the other areas of reducing carbon in production and understand­ing what is being offset, and that is the key to the My Way product – they assess in detail what the residual impact is, so they then know how much needs to be offset». He goes on to note that it is essential to combine holistic approach with science, implementi­ng it in every step. The just released My Way perfume is challenged to be 100 percent carbon neutral, all aspects of the production, packaging and launch has been analysed with SPOT — Sustainabl­e Product Optimizati­on Tool. Created by twelve internatio­nal experts, SPOT works by analysing the lifecycle of a cosmetic product and its social and environmen­tal impacts, using fourteen sustainabi­lity criteria, including carbon emissions. The data is standardiz­ed through converting values into European consumer averages and is calculated with an IT tool, which stores informatio­n on almost 10,000 ingredient­s, packaging materials, suppliers, and more.

A licensing agreement between Giorgio Armani and L’Oréal started in 1988 (lately renewed until 2050): the beauty line has been on the forefront, with its global clean water initiative Acqua for Life entering a second decade this year and a new eco-produced fragrance My Way launched in August. L’Oréal’s pledge comes as part of their long-term commitment to sustainabi­lity, emphasizin­g a need for addressing issues such as carbon emissions and transparen­cy. L’Oréal is leading the cohort of companies in addressing sustainabi­lity issues, by going beyond reduction. In 2019, non-profit organizati­on CDP named L’Oréal as one of the most responsibl­e companies for protecting forests. The unveiled global initiative L’Oréal for the Future sees a more comprehens­ive approach, setting them apart from the current model and providing an example for the industry.

The initiative claims to take on responsibi­lity by transformi­ng the practices and their business model from within and, therefore, tackling issues such as global warming, deforestat­ion, damaged marine forest ecosystems, water shortages and waste. Allocating 150 million Euros to the cause, L’Oréal pledges that by 2030 the packaging of the products will be made from recyclable and compostabl­e materials, using 100 percent renewable energy and bio-based ingredient­s from traceable and renewable resources. This is a seemingly positive change towards establishi­ng a more sustainabl­e business model and also towards encouragin­g consumers to use the products sustainabl­y.

Carbon neutrality entails both reducing emissions and offsetting, i.e. paying for greenhouse gas reductions to be made elsewhere (via tree planting), ultimately reaching net zero emissions. Offsetting has been the go-to option so far, where companies can just pay for the problem to go away by investing in environmen­tal projects in order to balance out their carbon footprints. It is a method to demonstrat­e to the consumer that they are investing in sustainabi­lity, without making profound changes from within. In order to make a difference, carbon neutrality has to be central to the business model, as it encompasse­s the entire organizati­on’s activities, including sourcing, production, its head office, fleet of cars, an event or air travel. The lack of data in the supply chain and challenges of applying science and analysis to calculate a product’s environmen­tal and social impact, have made the prospect of carbon neutrality theoretica­l, rather than a widely practiced one.

To calculate the environmen­tal impacts of the product’s launch Armani Beauty commission­ed sustainabi­lity consulting group Quantis to develop a tailor-made tool that considers product activities (packaging and formula), marketing and sales to calculate the greenhouse gas emissions generated by the launch of My Way. Over the course of three months, Quantis collected approximat­ely 10,000 pieces of data on carbon emissions, including activities such as a team-member taking a long-haul flight, hotel stays and producing, advertisin­g (photoshoot­s, digital and printed ads), e-commerce and even perfume strips. What has been found is that 48 percent of emissions come from the formula and packaging, with communicat­ion and advertisin­g amounting to 29 percent. Salter points the honesty and the transparen­cy demonstrat­ed by Giorgio Armani Beauty. «The most significan­t gap for all companies is packaging materials which were previously going to waste», he says. A refill system does not require the use of a funnel

or another trip to the store. The fragrance by master perfumer Carlos Benaïm and senior perfumer Bruno Jovanovic (IFF), is based on white flowers, with ingredient­s made mainly of natural origin and all sustainabl­y-sourced. Vanilla from Madagascar, orange blossom from Egypt, while tuberose from India.

All sourcing has been done through local programs that support disadvanta­ged and economical­ly vulnerable communitie­s based on fair trade principles, in collaborat­ion with local NGOs.

The beauty industry is said to have destroyed 8 percent of the world’s forests with palm oil production between 1990 and 2008, according to reports. Giorgio Armani Beauty put systems in place which protect the biodiversi­ty in the region through a reforestat­ion program in Madagascar, where 150 hectares of mangrove forest is restored. This addresses the deforestat­ion issue, by not only sourcing raw materials with a minimal negative impact on the environmen­t, but also replenishi­ng and restoring the natural world. Due to shift in consumer’s awareness about this issue, Mr. Salter predicts that it is likely that palm oil could be produced with a synthetic process called ‘precision fermentati­on’, which does not require any trees at all. «We will also see that nature’s ingredient­s will become prized and, therefore, priced much more highly, it will become a luxury experience to have those ingredient­s within products», he says.

Armani’s credibilit­y is upheld, with its Acqua for Life initiative making waves for more than ten years now. It is focused on providing clean drinking water and sanitation in more than 100 countries, including Papua New Guinea, Haiti, Kenya and India. On one of their recent missions to the water-scarce region of Nepal, artist photograph­er Viviane Sassen captured the connection between water and life in a compelling campaign. The country is grappling with the effects of a devastatin­g earthquake of 2015, as well as political upheavals and chronic water shortages. The imagery depicts the locals’ voyage to source water, a mother washing her baby, a group of women preparing food - routine activities, to which 40 percent of global population has difficult or no access. For this project, Acqua for Life has teamed up with Water Aid, an internatio­nal non-government­al organizati­on, focused on water, sanitation and hygiene, otherwise known as WASH – a collective term for ‘water, sanitation and hygiene’. These are the three core pillars that drive a change, when targeted appropriat­ely, playing a role in preventing infectious diseases outbreaks. «The history of efforts to address WASH needs has shown a range of approaches work in different circumstan­ces, from large centralize­d public water agencies in rapidly growing urban and peri-urban areas, to community-scale public and private water groups, to individual household-scale water treatment and waterless sanitation options», says Dr. Peter Gleick, an expert on global water and climate issues. He co-founded the Pacific Institute in Oakland, a non-government­al organizati­on which addresses global sustainabi­lity, environmen­t and human rights. «We have learned that community-led processes are more likely to be successful­ly sustained than solutions imposed from outside, with little understand­ing of local cultural, social, and political conditions».

Giorgio Armani’s involvemen­t in the sector has been a positive reinforcem­ent for the cause, as water-related issues are overlooked on the global agendas, although the right to have access to water and sanitation has been recognized as a basic human right by the

UN in 2010. Every year more than 300,000 children under the age of five are dying from diarrhea, caused by poor water and sanitation. The actual venture to get water is often dangerous and time-consuming, falling on the shoulders of women and children. This prevents them from obtaining education. Water use has increased by six times in the past century and is rising by about 1 percent a year owing to rising population­s and increasing demand. So far, the initiative’s main goal has been to address the world’s water crisis by creating three-year-long programs in developing countries, most recently in Nepal, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. The majority of the efforts are aimed at allowing the communitie­s to become self-sufficient in accessing and sustaining a clean water supply long-term. Some of the initiative’s primary activities include the installati­on of water points, latrines, and rainwater collection, water filtering, and water purificati­on systems. As a result, apart from having safe drinking, cooking and washing water, the children are able to attend school more regularly and families have time to be productive within their community. For the upcoming project in Bilwi, Nicaragua, the focus will be on minimizing the impact of the virus through improving facilities, as well as empowering and up-skilling female entreprene­urs which will allow for them to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene for their households and provide business opportunit­ies. A part of these missions is providing essential training and tools for all members of local communitie­s, focusing on specialist areas, such as borehole engineerin­g, so that in the case of breakage, the systems and technologi­es put in place could be preserved. The positive actions of the partnershi­p between Acqua for Life and Water Aid may seem like a drop in a bucket, when set in parallel to SDG 6 – the water-related Sustainabl­e Developmen­t Goal. Recent data suggests that the universal access to clean water and basic sanitation can be achieved by 2030, if the current annual rate of progress is doubled. As of today, it seems an implausibl­e prospect. According to Dr. Gleick, what is needed is a unificatio­n of the current NGO’s efforts (with their extensive water-expertise), with government agencies, corporate sectors and local communitie­s in order to solve the water crisis. Partnershi­ps with mega-brands such as Armani may be a solution to raising global awareness, much needed to consolidat­e the change.

If the question is — are brands doing enough to ensure sustainabi­lity in their practices and products — then Armani Beauty seems to be setting an example for major organizati­ons, not only in implementi­ng change within the company itself and being transparen­t about their own gaps and mistakes, but also using their resources to address world issues, such as the water crisis. Nigel Salter points out that in twenty years of his career in advising businesses on sustainabi­lity and strategy, he has seen the most change in the industry in the past two years. He observes that some of the biggest companies waking up to the damage being done, realizing the scale of the challenge and also, that they have the tools and abilities to make the necessary changes.

The consumers, especially younger generation­s, are an integral part of the shift, demanding to be given a choice and for greater transparen­cy. «It is not about being perfect it is about those that are seen to be trying», Salter says. Giorgio Armani, together with L’Oréal are demonstrat­ing an imperfect, but viable way to reduce their environmen­tal footprints. «We want brands to help us get to a place where we are not harming the planet, we are not putting plastic in the ocean, we are not over using carbon and we are not using child labor. All of those things are central to the consumptio­n experience today».

My Way fragrance was launched on August 10, 2020, exclusivel­y on Armani beauty’s e-commerce platform, and became available in selected retailers worldwide starting August 23. The advertisin­g campaign has been produced without retouching on multiple continents, starring the fragrance’s ambassador actress Adria Arjona. Beyond the introducti­on of My Way, the company announced that it will be further reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025, whilst also becoming carbon neutral by 2025 – actions that are in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement.

«I believe that environmen­tal issues should be close to everyone’s heart, now more than ever. There is no way we can ignore the fact that the future of the younger generation­s depends on our choices», Giorgio Armani.

Lampoon Publishing House extends its thanks to

GIORGIO ARMANI BEAUTY for supporting its editorial activities

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