Supply amid disaster: How can the cosmetics industry prepare for the worst?

In addition to the global pandemic, 2020 witnessed several headline-making natural disasters, which have impacted the supply of certain cosmetic raw materials. That said, natural and man-made impediments are nothing new. So how are suppliers working to ensure you get your ingredient order come rain or shine?

Australia – which is home to a wide range of indigenous plant species used in cosmetics – suffered an especially destructive wildfire season in 2020

Let’s be honest, if we were to give 2020 a Latin moniker it would be ‘annus horribilis’.

Beyond the global Covid-19 pandemic, which, at time of writing, has killed 1.56 million worldwide and is responsible for a contraction in the global economy of 4.3%, this year also witnessed devastating wildfires in Australia, North America and Brazil, as well as monsoon flooding across many Asian countries.

While natural disasters have occurred since time immemorial and are something which, to a greater or lesser extent, many people have learned to live with, the climate crisis means extreme weather events, especially heat waves and heavy rainfall, will only increase in frequency and severity.

With this in mind, how can an industry like beauty, which so frequently relies on farmed or wild harvested natural feedstock, learn to work seamlessly around disaster when it strikes?

Nature: A cruel mistress

“When we look at natural raw materials for cosmetics, there are various factors that can cause scarcity of ingredients,” says Amarjit Sahota, President and founder of ethical research firm Ecovia Intelligence.

“Natural factors, such as erratic weather conditions, floods, droughts, disease and pestilence, can all affect crop production: agricultural and wild harvested.

“The decline in crop harvest affects the supply of natural ingredients. For example, prices of jojoba oil have traditionally been affected by adverse weather conditions in producer countries.”

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