Monday, December 11, 2023

Estée Lauder, Tom Ford Beauty Take On the Beauty Industry’s Ugly Side: Packaging Waste


Estée Lauder and Tom Ford Beauty have teamed up with Lonely Whale to foster sustainable packaging solutions.

In an effort to redefine beauty packaging, Tom Ford Beauty, a subsidiary of The Estée Lauder Companies (ELC), is partnering with the nonprofit Lonely Whale, they announced today at the Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego.

This collaboration supports the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Accelerator, a pivotal extension of Lonely Whale’s multi-year, three-phase initiative, Unwrap the Future. Aimed at reducing the monumental waste generated by plastic packaging in the beauty and personal care industries, the Accelerator seeks to fast-track innovative solutions.

“Over the course of our sustainability journey at The Estée Lauder Companies, we’ve learned that
strategic partnerships and collaborations are essential to helping us reach our goals,” Nancy
Mahon, Chief Sustainability Officer, The Estée Lauder Companies, said in a statement. “We are honored to continue our partnership with Lonely Whale to help advance the integration of innovative, seaweed-based packaging materials across the fashion and beauty industries and beyond.”

zerocircle film
Courtesy Zerocircle

Sustainable packaging is in high demand according to recent research. Some 60 percent of consumers are willing to shell out more for environmentally friendly options. However, most brands find it difficult to implement sustainable solutions. Particularly troublesome are the personal care and beauty sectors, which generate more than 120 billion units of packaging waste annually.

The Prize that fuels the change

The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Accelerator forms the second phase of Lonely Whale’s Unwrap the Future program, which launched in 2020. This initiative aims to scrutinize and scale marine-safe alternatives to traditional thin-film plastics. Such plastics make up a significant portion — almost half — of all plastic waste that pollutes oceans each year.

The Innovation Accelerator will facilitate the necessary funding, business insights, and brand collaborations to expedite the integration of seaweed-based thin-film plastic alternatives. These alternative materials were developed by Sway, Zerocircle, and Notpla, who were honored as the recipients of the $1.2 million Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize. “The goal of the Accelerator is to bridge the gap between corporate interest in plastic packaging alternatives and brands’ ability to adopt them,” Tom Ford announced at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in March.

tom ford
Tom Ford announced the Plastic Innovation Prize winners during the Green Carpet Fashion Awards | Courtesy Tom Ford

“I am thoroughly inspired by the ingenuity, dedication, and passion shown by the Prize winners, Sway,
Zerocircle and Notpla, and the ongoing investment in innovation from our partners at Tom Ford Beauty, The Estée Lauder Companies, and Phillip Sarofim’s Trousdale Ventures,” said Lucy
Sumner, co-founder of Lonely Whale. “Alongside the Early Adopter Coalition, recently joined by
packaging systems leader Atlantic Packaging, these brands are actively demonstrating the type of
radical collaboration needed to develop concrete and dynamic solutions that ensure the long-term
health and prosperity of our ocean.”

The accelerator program enjoys the backing of Lonely Whale’s Early Adopter Coalition, comprised of 20 international brands, including J. Crew, Burton, and Dell. These brands have made a commitment to testing the prize-winning sustainable packaging solutions within their supply chains.

“Unveiling the winners of the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize was merely the first step. It’s now
essential to expedite capital access for these companies as they expand, replacing detrimental plastics
with solutions rooted in nature,” said Philip Sarofim, the founder of Trousdale Ventures. “Innovation
remains at the core of our investment ethos, and we’re excited to witness the transformative impact
these enterprises will usher in, paving the way for a more promising tomorrow by safeguarding the
health of our planet.”

ELC’s multifaceted approach

For its part, ELC is leveraging multiple strategies to redefine what sustainable luxury packaging in the prestige beauty sector looks like. In 2023, 63 percent of ELC’s packaging by weight adhered to its Packaging Sustainability Guidelines. The company aims to reach a minimum of 75 percent compliance with these guidelines by 2025. The company is not only focusing on alternative materials but also on process improvements, supplier partnerships, and ways to more effectively communicate with and engage consumers.

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