Elisa Simonpietri & Julien Prince
How do you go about improving the biodegradability and packaging of a cosmetic industry bestseller? Vichy successfully used L’Oréal’s sustainable product optimisation tool (SPOT) to enhance the social and environmental impact of Aqualia Thermal, a hydration cream. Elisa Simonpietri and Julien Prince, Vichy’s International Scientific Director and Technical Development Director respectively, tell us more.
Closely tracking product improvements with SPOT
Simulating the environmental and social impact
Back in 2017, Vichy decided to renew Aqualia Thermal, a bestselling moisturiser. SPOT provided valuable aid as the company worked to improve both the formula and the packaging. “We put in the changes that we wanted to include, and SPOT let us instantly simulate their environmental and social impacts. Straight away, we could see whether we were heading in the right direction”, Elisa explains.
An effective and biodegradable formula
SPOT enabled R&I to boost Aqualia Thermal’s biodegradability ratio from 71% to 97%. “We had two requirements: we wanted to incorporate a high proportion of naturally sourced ingredients while maintaining elevated performance levels to ensure that customers were totally satisfied”, says Elisa. With SPOT, the team was able to replace certain raw materials and get rid of some non-essential ingredients. “We have always tried to be as minimalist as possible in our approach, using only the raw materials that are required and sufficient.” SPOT also made it possible to improve Aqualia Thermal’s social impact by changing the product formula to include shea butter from L’Oréal’s solidarity sourcing system. “Overall, and thanks to SPOT, we know that we were able to raise the proportion of renewable ingredients obtained through green chemistry and sustainable sourcing from 55% to 95%.”
A lighter, sturdier cap
The packaging was also improved, explains Julien with satisfaction: “Thanks to SPOT, we were able to assess the impact of our material choices and the weight and design of the packaging. We shaved 10g off the weight of the cap by using 44% less plastic compared with the old version. We also stopped laminating the box and incorporated 10%–recycled glass in the jar, which made the packaging more recyclable.”
Picking the right battles
“You have to remember that with Aqualia Thermal, we were starting with a product that was already on the market”, says Julien. “The packaging had already been enhanced before the revamp, so there wasn’t much room for improvement. We had to explore all the avenues”, he says. Judging by the big improvement in the renewed product’s overall SPOT score, it looks like they met the challenge in full.
Building SPOT into daily routines
A reassuring new practice
As with any new tool, incorporating SPOT was not necessarily straightforward. “Of course it meant extra work at first, particularly on the data input side”, says Elisa. “But the challenge has been welcomed within the organisation because it reflects our shared resolve. Best of all, SPOT gives us reassurance by supporting or ruling out decisions”, she says. “We have built SPOT into our daily routines”, adds Julien.
A bridge between marketing and research
As the brand’s international scientific director, Elisa acts as a bridge between research and marketing. “One of my roles is to make sure that the CSR requirements identified by SPOT are taken on by marketing.” Both sides need to work together to strike a balance between market expectations and environmental needs. “Sometimes that means briefs have to be adjusted”, she concedes. “Our teams deliberate together. With SPOT, before beginning any design work, we can have an overall vision of the products that remain to be upgraded, which allows us to draw up precise roadmaps”, explains Julien.
Where does the consumer fit in?
“Transparency is a matter of human and environmental security”
“Vichy is determined to communicate with consumers”, explains Elisa. Although communication cannot go directly through SPOT, which is too complex for use with consumers, the tool will help to talk more effectively about the brand’s CSR commitments and the progress already made. “We want to highlight these changes and show the headway made on the brand’s website, even though we realise of course that we’re not perfect and that we can always do better”, she continues. Both Julien and Elisa are sure that while CSR and naturalness do not dictate every purchase, these aspects are becoming a central concern for consumers. “A positive CSR impact is a criterion for brand loyalty and helps us build long-term relations with our customers”, Elisa stresses, citing the example of the recent “bad buzz” around polyethylene microbeads. “Today, transparency, like sustainability, is a critical issue for consumers. Knowing what our products are made of and how they are designed is a matter of human and environmental security.”
Anchoring the brand’s commitment
“The power of SPOT lies in its overall score, which holds us to a 360° commitment on all criteria. Every Vichy brand stakeholder is involved”, says Julien. A year on from its initial introduction, SPOT is now a key tool for the brand, providing a structural framework for its entire product engagement approach. “SPOT allows us to mobilise our people and give them real pride. You just can’t put a price on that!” says Elisa in conclusion.