Davines Group: Key principles for sustainable packaging

As part of our #SpaWasteNotChallenge highlighting the concepts and benefits of A Circular Economy, our partner Stephanie Hodgson of MeetthefiveR’s has carried out a series of case studies with our trusted Brand and Spa Partners to find out more about the great efforts they go to to keep waste to a minimum, use responsible materials and keep waste from polluting our oceans and environment.

The First in this series of case studies is with Tracy Brasenell [ comfort zone ]

Davines Group consists of the brands: Davines, [comfort zone] and /skin regimen/. The key principles of this article comprise the ethos and actions for all three brands as they relate to their packaging research and development strategy. What follows is reproduced directly from the group’s Sustainable Packaging Dossier with the exception of the sixth and final principle which is informed by other Davines literature as well as by communications with [comfort zone] UK County Manager, Tracy Brasenell (see references).

  1. Use less material
  2. Simplify product design
  3. Prefer recyclable or renewable source materials
  4. Facilitate product recyclability
  5. Optimise product logistics
  6. Design considering the reuse of packaging

  1. Use less material

We design lighter packaging while still guaranteeing its safety and functionality. More lightweight packaging means a minor quantity of material used, thus fewer resources of our planet consumed. The weight reduction also allows to consume less fuel for transportation and consequently decrease CO2eq emissions.

Examples of successful practical application: 

  • From 2014 to the end of 2019, thanks to the packaging re-design of several lines into a new packaging with a lower weight, we saved 171.8 tons of packaging materials, of which 76.6 tons of plastic (considering primary, secondary and tertiary packaging);
  • Of the packaging materials saved from 2014 to the end of 2019 (see preceding point), 72.7% refers to weight reduction of primary packaging;
  • Davines primary packaging is 12.3% to 43.7% lighter than similar products from other brands, respectively for products from 300ml to 1.5L and products up to 300ml.
  1. Simplify product design

Less is more. When designing our packaging, we aim for simplification, reducing the packaging components as much as possible, eliminating unnecessary elements. Simplification could be, for example, eliminating plastic or paper boxes by merely replacing them with multi-page labels or where possible, eliminate the package leaflets by printing the text on the inside of the box.

Examples of successful practical application:

  • From 2018 to the end of 2019, the elimination of several tertiary packaging elements (box inserts) produced a saving of 10.9 tons of paper. 
  1. Prefer recycled or renewable sourced materials

To reduce the environmental impact of our products, it is essential to abandon the use of virgin and fossil fuel-based materials, and therefore prefer recycled or renewable sourced materials. Materials from renewable sources are materials that come from natural resources that are renewed more rapidly than they are consumed. As you can see in the chart at the right, up to today, we still use a variety of packaging materials that are both sourced from renewable and non-renewable sources. The packaging materials we use from renewable sources are paper, wood and bio-based plastic (non-biodegradable but 100% recyclable).

  1. Facilitate product recyclability

The recyclability of the packaging starts with its design. Recyclability is not something which you should think about when the product is already in the market: it is too late. Therefore, we carry out constant research to improve and update our packaging design choices, always looking for new solutions and technologies that can allow us to: 

  • Let our customers enjoy their products until the last drop, allowing them to send to recycling a cleaner container; 
  • Have labels/sleeves made with the same material of the body of the product;
  • Be single-material packaging;
  • Have components that can be entirely and easily separable from each other.

However, a good design does not make everything, and it is necessary to train and inform the consumers, our customers, on the correct recycling practices to implement. Indeed, the designer’s contribution is essential in clarifying to the customer that the packaging is recoverable and that it must be placed in a sorted waste collection (which depends on regions and countries). To make it happen we:

  • Indicate the materials of the packaging body;
  • Invite the user to empty the packaging entirely and, if possible, to reduce its volume before placing it in the waste collector.
  1. Optimize product logistics

To optimize our logistics and avoid unnecessary CO2eq emissions, we design the primary, secondary, and tertiary packaging keeping in mind the optimization of their dimensions to prevent excessive empty spaces and increasing the number of pieces per pallet.

Examples of successful practical applications:

  • Pallet stacking optimisation: To rationalize the pallet stacking operation, the “outer” has been modified to allow the following ameliorations: number of boxes per pallet increased from 6 to 8, the weight of each box has been reduced from 526g to 476g (-9.5%), and the total number of products on one pallet increases from 2160 to 2560.
  1. Design considering the reuse of packaging

According to Tracy, a ‘refill strategy’ is one of the big moves forward for the brand. She lets me in on an upcoming Refill campaign launch for September 2021. It has apparently been a long time in the making since it can be incredibly complicated to get these sorts of things off the ground, from concept to implementation, especially within skincare. 

Final words

Using sachets. “Although we’re working hard, we are aware that the packaging redesign process will take time and resources. In some cases, we have not yet been able to find a solution that satisfies us. For example, sachets represent a big challenge in terms of sustainability. Single doses are a fundamental tool for product awareness: they help us to let the end customer enjoy the quality of our products, before economically committing to the purchase. But in terms of sustainability, sachets really represent a challenge, because they are single-use and made of poly-coupled material. We admit that we haven’t found a satisfying solution yet, but we continue the research to take a step forward in terms of sachet recyclability.”

Using plastic. “When choosing plastic, we always select typologies that can be recycled. Among those, we prioritize: Recycled plastic, 100% post consumption (not from industrial waste). The advantage of using recycled plastic lies in the possibility of reducing the use of non-renewable resources, in a circular economy perspective. By recycling plastic, we maximize the value of this material, even at the end of its life cycle and minimize its environmental impact by becoming waste. Waste that potentially will end burnt, discharged into waters or in landfills.”

Using bio-based plastic. “Bio-based plastic, coming from renewable sources (sugar cane), food-grade and recyclable. The bio-based plastic we use is Bonsucro certified, which ensures the origin of the material from responsibly managed sources. Bio-based polyethylene allows reducing the emissions of CO2eq in the environment by: not using raw materials from nonrenewable sources; sequestration of CO2, linked to sugar cane cultivation. Sugar cane crops can absorb significant concentrations of CO2 and are, therefore, able to offset a substantial portion of the CO2 emitted in the subsequent packaging production steps, making the overall process more sustainable.”

Using virgin plastic. “Virgin plastic, coming from nonrenewable sources, is only chosen when there is no other viable solution available in terms of safety and functionality.”

References and further reading

Interview by Stephanie Hodgson with Tracy Brasenell, [comfort zone] UK County Manager, 31.03.21

Davines Group (2021) Sustainable Packaging Dossier.  Available to download here: PDF

Davines Group, Sustainable packaging (in Italian)

Davines Group, Sustainability Report 2019/2020. Available to download here: PDF.

I Sustain Beauty website.

Vae Hair’s article, Clever ways to recycle your packaging and save on plastic

Note: content from the Sustainable Packaging Dossier has been published here with explicit permission from Davines Group. It has been edited for formatting and grammar and, in the interest of space and relevance, some elements have been omitted. All figures above were generated by Davines group, not MeetthefiveRs, and were copied and pasted from the original document.

Feature image: Vae Hair https://www.vaehair.com/post/2019/12/05/untitled

Case study uploaded: May, 2021