Published: 21 December 2023  (Updated: 01 February 2024)

Progress with Purpose: My Stand-out Moments From 2023

By Emma Meredith, Director-General, CTPA.


As the end of another year draws closer, and one that has been as tumultuous as the last in the UK and around the world, I have been taking a moment to reflect on some of the CTPA highlights of 2023 that have kept the team focused and feeling positive this year.

With the support of our incredible members, over the last three hundred and fifty something days we have been able to shape sustainable company practices, contribute to a truly circular economy, advance cutting-edge non-animal science and progress a robust regulatory framework for the UK. In short, we’ve made progress with real purpose.

Here then is my round-up of the projects that really stand out for me: not simply because they’ll make a positive difference to those working in our own industry, but because they have the potential to make a meaningful impact far beyond its boundaries.

1. Making sustainable attainable

I have to start with CTPA’s Sustainability Summit in May. Not only because it was a moment for our industry to come together to discuss the critical challenge of our time - but because, through its line-up of inspiring speakers, including the ever-brilliant Jonathon Porritt, the event’s key take-away was that the future we need is well within our reach, but we must act now.

To get there is going to require every company, in every corner of our vibrant industry, to embed environmental thinking into their practices. The Summit was a moment to reflect on the progress that companies of all shapes and sizes have made, and share best practice, to ensure that a sustainable future for our industry feels truly accessible to everyone.

Making sustainable attainable to every company is a commitment CTPA has put front and centre of its own sustainability work with the industry this year - and one that will continue to be a key focus for the team into 2024 and beyond. I also have to make a mention here of the brilliant ‘Commit for Our Planet’ initiative by Cosmetics Europe, the European personal care association, which provides a practical helping hand to companies, whatever stage they are at on their sustainability journeys.


2. Expanding recycling horizons

Of course, it’s not just companies that will bring about a sustainable future - consumers have a key role to play too. How they enjoy our products and, in particular, how they dispose of them, can leave a significant footprint on our planet. We need to encourage them to make positive choices that support a sustainable and circular economy.

It’s why my second stand-out activity this year has to be CTPA’s collaborative activity with Defra to explore how take-back schemes can be encompassed into its work on Extended Producer Responsibility. For example, the anticipated two labelling system, denoting only ‘recyclable’ or ‘non-recyclable’ on product labels based only on what can be recycled kerb-side, would overlook the many hundreds of smaller types of cosmetic packaging that can be recycled through take-back schemes.

It’s why CTPA is keen to see a third way for our sector: one in which companies are incentivised to create or promote take-back scheme options for their customers and, in turn, their customers feel empowered to recycle the many little things that can collectively add up to a big positive difference to our planet. Expect to see more on this in the New Year.


3. Advancing non-animal alternatives beyond our borders

Working towards a sustainable future isn’t only about our sector’s environmental footprint but also ensuring products are created and distributed ethically and responsibly. It’s why our industry’s ongoing, ground-breaking work into animal-free alternatives - also known as New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) - has to be a 2023 highlight.

Even though in the UK, cosmetics and personal care companies voluntarily moved away from all animal testing in 1997, there is still vital work to do to ensure that innovative NAMs are embraced globally - and adopted outside of our sector too. We must ensure, for instance, that up-coming reviews of both UK and EU chemicals regulation don’t create unnecessary requirements for animal data, and we have been busy engaging regulators on this important issue.

CTPA also hosted a training workshop for safety assessors this year, sharing the robust safety data on NAMs in order to help build their confidence in the non-animal science that will become the standard. Caroline Rainsford and Francesca Rapolla presented a poster on this same science at the renowned World Congress in Canada: a chance for the UK to share its expertise with the wider world.

When it comes to non-animal science, I think it’s fair to say that our sector is leading the way. It has therefore been a highlight this year to see it receive the recognition it deserves; not only for its cutting edge science but its collaborative approach beyond its sector or geographical borders.


4. Creating regulatory clarity for companies

I’m returning closer to home for the fourth highlight on my list: work with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). Following several years of engagement with OPSS, we are pleased that it has finalised its process for managing ingredients in the UK. It means that companies now have vital clarity on how ingredients will be regulated and, importantly, they know this process will be very similar to the approach taken by the EU.

We now know that if issues of concern arise, there’ll be a call for evidence, a dossier will be compiled and there will be a robust, independent review by Scientific Advisory Group on Chemical Safety (SAG-CS) - the UK’s version of the Scientific Committee for Consumer Safety (SCCS) in the EU. The SAG-CS will provide a formal opinion and regulation will follow.

For companies in the UK, the value both of having clarity around this regulatory approach, and having such an open and transparent process, cannot be underestimated. After years of uncertainty, it means they can move forward with confidence. CTPA will continue to actively engage a growing range of regulators and political stakeholders so that we can build that same clarity and confidence into every aspect of our UK industry’s future success.


5. Enhancing wellbeing, without and within

Last year one of my highlights was seeing results of a new consumer survey CTPA had commissioned with Opinium which highlighted our industry’s positive impact on people’s well-being. More than eight in ten UK adults surveyed (84%) said using toiletries for cleanliness and hygiene, for instance, helped to boost their self-esteem.

We saw in that same survey the impact that our working lives can have on how we feel, which is why CTPA has been taking proactive steps this year to explore how we can support the health and wellbeing of our own team. Two colleagues have taken a lead on introducing valuable new initiatives to strengthen our physical, mental and financial health.

As we increasingly work with our members to support their Diversity and Inclusion strategies, it’s vital that CTPA continues to offer an inclusive and supportive culture for our team. So while I am of course immensely proud of the big picture progress CTPA has made this year - on regulation, NAMs, sustainability and more - I am just as proud of the way the team has come together to deliver these achievements: purposely, mindfully and collaboratively with our brilliant member companies.

As we approach a festive period that may be particularly difficult this year, especially for those with friends and loved ones further from home, I wish the team, our members, partners and supporters a restful and peaceful start to 2024.


Read more about CTPA’s work in its 2022/23 Annual Report

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