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The beauty industry would be less polluting if it started with agriculture

«Traceable ingredients supporting biodiversity and regenerative agriculture; plastic-free approach to packaging; meticulous scientific approach to clean», Davide Bollati, the founder of The Davines Group

The Earth’s environment is continuously being devastated by human impact, and the booming $500 billion per year beauty industry contributes to the pollution and depletion of natural resources. The terms –‘organic’, ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ – make it hard to distinguish greenwash from sustainable products. A number of companies rely on the lack of consumer’s awareness.The meaning of sustainability today: 67 percent globally agreed on the  importance of the brand they choose to make a positive contribution to society, besides providing a good service or product. 

Founded in Parma, Italy in 1983 by the Bollati family, the Davines group has been devoted to comprehensive sustainability for over twenty years. «It means to have a look beyond your specific industry – the beauty industry», says founder and president Dr. Davide Bollati. The recent launch of the brand’s first bio-regenerative certified organic line Sacred Nature amid the pandemic can seem risqué, but Bollati believes that it is vital to continue to innovate during the crisis, especially as the environmental issues are being brought to the forefront, there is a need for innovations. Considering that the company specializes in the professional haircare market, with the worldwide closures of salons, the damage has been minimal – only a 2 percent drop compared to last year. Bollati notes that the approach in transitioning to digital sales was not opportunistic as they were conscious of the disruptive effects that the digital platforms may have for the community. 

The new line checks the ‘green’ boxes – traceable ingredients supporting biodiversity and regenerative agriculture; plastic-free approach to packaging; meticulous scientific approach to clean, bio-regenerative formulas; CO2 negative production, and providing support for a reforestation project in Ethiopia. The range was produced in The Davines Village in Parma with the Scientific Garden, an open-air research lab. Opened two years ago, the 77,000 square meter area encompasses offices, a production plant, a warehouse, a research laboratory, and restaurants. Bollati says: «We built this Village after 35 years of the company’s history. For many years we have been planning and defining the biophilic architecture that had all the technology to be carbon neutral with the right energy supply, environmental round, regenerative scope in the principal of this architecture». 

TILLMANS
Wolfgang Tillmans, Still life, Pumpkin, Tomato & Pomme Granate, 1995

The Village is where preserving the biodiversity of Davines happens by cultivating and utilizing the raw materials, with an emphasis on preserving endangered species. The Single Shampoo – a best-selling product containing an active ingredient that supports biodiversity: Oliva Quercetano. An olive native to the municipality of Seravezza, has almost become extinct due to rapid urbanization. Together with Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, Davines established the Quercetano Olive Presidium in 2017, preventing the disappearance of species and supporting the local economy, sustaining the farmers and businesses. Bollati says that «There is enough knowledge about how to preserve biodiversity in Italy for us to leverage on it. We just purchased 100k square meters of farmland, but at the moment, we still depend on farmers to produce, and that will be the case for the next year». Currently, Davines is working with fifteen different small farms that specialize in specific ingredients, gradually adding raw materials from a controlled supply chain of farmers they know and trust. 

The three main ingredients of the new Sacred Nature line are elderberry, myrtle and pomegranate, all cultivated with regenerative organic agriculture in mind. «Behind its principle is a thinking process based on the regenerative economy that has a means to achieve sustainability. How do you achieve sustainability? Through regenerative practices – cycle assessment of formula, starting from the ingredients. We grow the plants in our lab, we have our test phase when we test it and an extractor that comes from Naples University, called Naviglio Extractor. It extracts the cold actives of the plant, it is a cold extract so it preserves the organic principles of the system, it goes beyond the molecule and considers the photosystems. That is the way we want to grow in the future».

In a recently published sustainability report, the Davines Group outlines the steps to achieving the results and the goals set for future. The report is an outline of the company’s achievements, namely reaching the score of 117.4 on the B Corp re-assessment making an improvement since the last assessment obtained in 2016 (99.3). With the B Corporation movement growing amidst a lack of trust in social and environmental guidelines, more than 3500 companies are certified today, across 150 industries. Being a B Corp means implementing changes across five areas: governance, workers, environment, customers, and community. This non-profit certification is forcing companies and brands to embrace internal and lasting change. Nancy Hyne, a sustainability consultant and founder of True Horizon Sustainability Strategies, works closely with B Corp and says that «people’s mindsets are shifting and they are making that commitment. They want to be recognized and have an external verification which would say ‘I’m doing this’. When you do get the certificate and you get to use the logo it is not a tick box exercise – you have to work hard to achieve».

One has to reach a score of 80 to become certified, which makes Davines’ scorey commendable. The majority of their points are scored in the environmental section, but there is scope for improvement. «The sustainability strategy in Davines is changing every year, now we are redefining, we have ten points on the new strategy and it is a strategy that considers the raw material, the packaging and society ahead the beauty industry», says Bollati, adding that packaging remains an issue, having to consider health, safety and durability of the product for three years after production. This challenge requires systemic changes at the societal level. «We have been advocating for systemic societal change along with the BCorp community that is becoming more of an activist, at the corporate and social levels. We are part of the movement in terms of systemic change, creating a beauty coalition». 

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Davines provides training in beekeeping, incense collection and extraction, from which it’s possibile to derive related craft products

Educating the consumer to increase global awareness which allows initiatives such as B Corp to be successful – is a driving force for change. The pandemic has emphasized our need for a community, trust, and sustainability. The beauty industry is not showing signs of slowing down and as we become dependent on digital communication and online shopping, we face new ‘trends’ that might distract us from the overall picture and current issues. «Our best selling products are not the most sustainable ones and that is something we need to work on», says Bollati. The topic of customizable and personalized skincare, causes skepticism in pharmacist’s  professional opinion. «I cannot grasp the scientific evidence of customization. What I can grasp is the value of professional advice and the professional consultation». He goes on to elaborate that our skin’s condition may change a number of times throughout the day, depending on external factors (such as air, dryness, temperature) and internal (nutrition, health conditions), only through self-awareness and knowledge can one know which products to invest in. 

Bollati is not optimistic about the state of affairs today but sees a path for the Davines Group, as well as the rest of the beauty industry, «There is more collective awareness and consciousness about the situation and this should induce an environment which is open to companies that want to experiment, drive this movement of systemic change. It is a matter of perception, the new generations are redefining the standards for beauty products but it is a long journey, it will still take generations for that change to happen. We want to lead this change but it does take time».

IMAGE GALLERY

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