TR Sustainability Week: Sustainable fashion and beauty embrace innovation

By Kristiane Sherry |

The TR Sustainability Week panel talk Sustainable Fashion and Beauty across the GTR landscape

Consumer expectations have risen when it comes to sustainable fashion and beauty. How are retailers and brands responding? A TR Sustainability Week panel explains how refills, beauty tech and good communication are driving the categories.

Innovation is at the heart of the GTR sustainable fashion and beauty categories, with green solutions increasingly meeting consumer needs, a TR Sustainability Week panel has said.

In a live discussion available to stream now, four category leaders shared how they were embracing new solutions to engage consumers and become more sustainable. 

The panel comprised Kim Rowney, Sustainability Director at L’Oréal Travel Retail; Saskia Möller, Director Compliance & Corporate Responsibility and Gebr. Heinemann; Sherrie Day, Global Head of Merchandising at Starboard Cruise Services; and Zoe Farmer, Global Director Retail Management at Gate Retail.

Möller opened by affirming that consumer expectations have risen “for sure”. “It’s in fashion, it’s in accessories, It’s in liquor, in confectionery, fine foods. And therefore we have a variety of offers from different suppliers.”

She confirmed that when purchasing, Heinemann has a focus on the brand itself, not just the products. There’s a “holistic” assessment of sustainability credentials “before we even look at the product”. She also confirmed that while the team uses an external tool now, work is underway on an internal system. “We have criteria like what kind of environmental practices the supplier has in place, what ethics when it comes to human rights, due diligence and things like that.”

Möller explained that there’s a focus on consumer communication at point of sale. “When you’re travelling, you don’t have that much time. There’s  just short notices to give them the background about our programme, Future Friendly.” To tackle this, the team is building on QR code usage. There is also a doubling down on education in the cruise space, where there is more time to engage. 

Sustainable fashion and beauty consumers

L’Oréal Travel Retail’s Rowney then outlined the mindset of some shoppers in the channel. “We have a high number of consumers that want to purchase products that are more sustainable, that do have a purpose, and that align with their values,” she outlines. 

This is especially strong among younger customers, she said. “We see around 80% of people that actively look to purchase more sustainable or more socially responsible products.” 

There is however a caveat. “The gap between those who would like to do it and those who actually do it is quite large,” she detailed. Barriers include price, education and convenience. 

Perspectives differ across locations, too. The Nordics are “advanced”, and so too are many Western Europeans. “They will actively avoid products they don’t believe are sustainable,” she detailed. Interest in sustainability across Asia is “definitely picking up”. Within the US and across the Americas, attitudes are “very different” by country and region. Regulations and general education are behind the gaps. 

Consumer education

Getting messages over consumers remains a challenge. Gate Retail’s Farmer utilises inflight magazines. “One of the most important parts is to ensure that we’re communicating as much as we possibly can but really clear and distinctly.”

Starboard Cruise Services’ Day agrees, acknowledging that the “captive” cruise market gives a real opportunity. “It really gives us the ability to truly educate the guest.” She harnesses screens and video opportunities in the retail spaces. 

Packaging seems to be an area where consumer education is strongest. “Everything which has less or no packaging at all is of course popular,” Möller states. Farmer agrees, adding that some of the suppliers she works with have removed cellophane altogether. 

Day also sees sustainable fashion, including vintage, as a real growth opportunity. Starboard recently became the first to launch the Stella McCartney brand at sea.  

An example of L’Oreal beauty tech

She added that inclusion was now part of sustainability and increasingly resonant with consumers. “It’s about inclusivity. It’s about diversity and supporting different ethnicities. Age, it’s about going further and further and further.”

Rowney agreed, adding that L’Oréal was trialling products for the disabled community, including make-up applicators for customers with mobility issues. 

Beauty tech is increasingly important, for both inclusion and waste reduction. “Samples testers, things like that I think we see will be phasing out because the intensity of packaging,” Rowney detailed.  “Being able to provide beauty options to be able to try different mascaras, to try different shades, is really important.”

Day and Farmer both agreed, but acknowledged that connectivity both on board and inflight can be challenging. 

Refillable futures

Focus then turned to refills. “We do see the future being a refillable future,” Rowney stated. Challenges will prevail in the travel retail space though, the panel agreed. From LAGs size restrictions to the simple fact that people don’t travel with empty fragrance bottles may prove to be barriers. This could be overcome by cost savings, Rowney suggested. Möller said establishing a network and infrastructure will be critical. 

“I think working together as a beauty industry can show that actually sustainability is bigger than one company,” Rowney concluded. “It’s a decision we’re all taking together. And I think that providing transparency will definitely change the consumer’s journey.”

For more TR Sustainability Week coverage, see the dedicated microsite.

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