George Calvert, chief supply chain officer, Amway.

The Personal Care Products Council has moved into 2020 with fresh eyes — and fresh takes on everything from clean beauty to sustainability.

The lobbying group has not been known for budging on hot button beauty issues, but this year, things were different. The Environmental Working Group — which one PCPC attendee half-jokingly referred to as “the enemy” — was even there.

PCPC chairman George Calvert touted an Amway soap on stage that was vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free and housed in recycled packaging as “just the kind of product that companies are going to make,” and so many beauty executives crowded into a side room at The Breakers to hear from EWG president and cofounder Ken Cook that the organization had to bring in more chairs.

The agenda included a hefty focus on consumer trust, something that keynote speaker Richard Edelman told executives in the room they needed to improve. Personal care, according to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, ranked right above the financial sector in terms of consumer trust. “You’re second from the bottom above banks, good Lord,” Edelman said.

Michael Maslansky, chief executive officer of communications consulting firm Maslansky & Partners, echoed Edelman’s sentiments. To be trustworthy, the key is to speak to consumers in regular words, not industry jargon, he added.

While Gen Z feels connected to influencers, “they don’t trust them,” said Andrea Campbell, head of marketing strategy and research at Condé Nast, who added that 95 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase from an organization they trust.

Some of the hot topics of 2020 — namely sunscreen — were carried over from 2019, when PCPC attendees were buzzing about possible changes in Food & Drug Administration regulation. In the halls, what executives were really worried about was the coronavirus. Hand shaking was sparse, and the normally affectionate crew of beauty executives, for the most part, kept their distance.

Calvert acknowledged in an interview that COVID-19 was likely to have significant impacts on the beauty landscape. “It’s a massive hit. When you look at the number of U.S. companies that are impacted by this, it’s staggering. It’s almost all supply chain,” he said. “Many of our suppliers for ingredients come from China, and in many of those markets the government is not allowing those factories to open up, or if they do, they may have very restrictive schedules.” 

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