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Giorgio Armani, Milano. At the forefront of the shift towards traceability

Giorgio Armani launches the new fragrance My Way, appealing to the increasing consumer awareness on environmental issues. In conversation with Nigel Salter, sustainability adviser

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 My Way. Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials for both the spray and the refill bottles: glass, plastic and metal

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 WaterAid 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.