Cutting the crap – How to Increase Resource Efficiency in the European Personal Care Retail Sector

August 2016 Report
Cutting the crap – image of shopping basket with plastic bottles

Executive summary

This report investigates the reported actions of personal care retailers to reduce resource impact of their products and implement the principles of circular economy. The report looks at ten large personal retailers in Europe, examining their publicly available policies, strategies and measures to become more resource efficient. A recent study by the Wuppertal institute showed that fast-moving consumer goods – products such as food and cosmetics, mostly sold by supermarkets and personal care retailers – can cut their resource footprint by 20 per cent across the whole product range. This report concludes that, in order to achieve this, personal care retailers need to step up their game and it gives practical recommendations to this end. The responsible use of resources is one of the big challenges of our times. The amount of plastic packaging continues to grow across the EU and already today we use 1.5-times the resources that the Earth can regenerate in one year. When it comes to increasing resource efficiency and implementing a circular economy in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) sector, personal care retailers play an important role as intermediary between suppliers and consumers of daily products.

The 10 researched retailers in this report are Boots, Budnikowsky, DM, Douglas, Etos, Kruidvat, Müller, Rossmann, Sephora, and Superdrug. These companies all sell personal care products, including store brand products.

In depth research by Rank a Brand has shown that, the investigated personal care retailers do not take their responsibility to increase resource efficiency across their product assortments seriously enough. Rank a Brand executed a detailed study of companies’ communicated resource efficiency objectives, measures and progress for this paper, in addition to its standard ranking. In the results, Kruidvat scored best on resource efficiency questions, followed closely by Etos and Boots. Douglas took last place, scoring zero points on resource efficiency questions.

Key findings

  • High-level targets and data on the resource impact of product assortments are missing: none of the retailers reported targeting a reduction in the overall resource impact of their product assortment and none of them reported measuring the resource impact of their product assortment.
  • Additionally, retailers scored relatively low on specific resource questions covering topics ranging from paper packaging to carrier bags.
  • None of the retailers reported an objective to move towards 100% recycled or certified paper packaging for store brand primary and secondary products by a defined deadline. However, Kruidvat, Boots, Rossmann and Superdrug reported having implemented some concrete measures.
  • None of the retailers reported a time-bound objective to move towards 100% recycled paper in store brand hygiene products. Five retailers (Kruidvat, Etos, Boots, Rossmann and Superdrug) reported having implemented measures for the sustainable use of paper in store brand hygiene products.
  • None of the retailers reported an objective with a specific deadline to reduce carrier bag waste, but eight retailers (DM, Budnikowsky, Kruidvat, Etos, Boots, Müller, Rossmann and Superdrug) reported measures to reduce carrier bag waste. None of the companies reported on the environmental impact of implementing such measures.
  • None of the retailers reported a time-bound objective to minimise the environmental impact of store brand product packaging. All retailers except Douglas reported having implemented one or more measures to minimise the environmental impact of such packaging, but only Sephora reported an annual change in the size of its packaging material footprint.
  • Only three retailers (Kruidvat, Etos and Boots) reported objectives to minimise own waste by reducing, reusing and recycling. Etos2 and Sephora reported generated own waste compared to the previous year, and only Sephora reports a reduction.Besides investigating publicly available information from personal care retailers on resource efficiency, this report highlights a number of product groups sold by personal care retailers for which more sustainable alternatives already exist, such as concentrated detergent, compressed deodorant and recycled hygiene paper. The report ends with concrete recommendations for personal care retailers in order to reach improved resource efficiency of their product assortment: to drop least efficient products in favour of alternatives, to adopt concrete targets with deadlines for reducing resource impact of product assortments and to start measuring and communicating to consumers about the resource impact of products.

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