Clinique Superfine Liner for Brows

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Alice Luke
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The Superfine Liner for Brows has been sold by Clinique for several years and is one of their most popular brow items. Clinique is owned by the high-end beauty company, Estēe Lauder. This company has involved itself in several sustainability efforts, including successful initiatives to reach net zero carbon emissions, achieve zero production waste, and promote sustainable palm oil. However, the ingredients used in this product pose several environmental concerns, and some of Clinique's practices show a lack of regard for reducing waste, as well as upholding transparency. Overall, Estēe Lauder seems to carry a willingness to partake in significant transitions towards sustainability, but still has a long way to go in enabling the Clinique brand and this specific product to participate in this transition.

What it's made of:


The first ingredient listed in this product is diisostearyl malate, an ingredient partially derived from palm oil. Due to palm oil’s capacity to contribute to deforestation and poor labor practices when grown and manufactured, it is important for companies to source and handle their palm oil responsibly. Estēe Lauder has a page on their website discussing their involvement in the palm oil industry and their initiatives to operate with responsible palm oil practices. In 2020 the corporation published a policy called No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE), in which they outlined their current policies and future goals regarding sustainable palm oil. It is stated that 100% of Estēe Lauder’s palm oil is certified through RSPO Book & Claim credits. However, this certification does not ensure that only sustainable palm oil is used throughout their supply chain. It rather means that they have purchased credits with sustainable palm growers and smallholders, yet may not actually be currently receiving sustainable palm oil for their usage.

Estēe Lauder helped found the Action for Sustainable Derivatives (ASD) in 2019, with the mission of increasing traceability among their supply chains. Estēe Lauder also divulges an ambition to have 90% of their palm oil be supply-chain certified by the RSPO by 2025. While this is an admirable goal, the integrity of RSPO certifications retain some uncertainty, as the organization’s methods have been criticized in recent years. The most fool-proof and trustworthy way for ELC and other companies to display the sustainability of their palm oil is to directly identify the players among their supply chain. Unfortunately, Estēe Lauder has not made this information easily accessible. Ultimately, Estēe Lauder appears to display a desire to make all of their palm oil usage sustainable and transparent, but it does not seem like they have reached that point as is. Other ingredients of questionable sustainability in this eyebrow pencil include polyethylene and synthetic wax, both of which are derived from fossil fuels.

The pencil itself is made of non-recyclable plastic and the packaging it comes in is made of paper. Estēe Lauder has an initiative to make 75%-100% of their packaging recyclable, as well as increase their use of post-consumer recycled material by 50% by 2025. These initiatives display a desire from the company to shift towards a more circular system of material consumption. Nevertheless, it seems that Estēe Lauder places more emphasis on their ambitions for the future than what they have already accomplished in terms of ingredient and packaging sustainability.

How it's made:


Though there was no information displayed on the specific product’s page regarding its production process, Estēe Lauder has a report outlining their sustainability initiatives and progress that includes their production footprint. In 2020, Estēe Lauder sourced 100% renewable electricity and achieved net zero carbon emissions. They also achieved zero waste-to-landfill in their manufacturing and distribution processes. In addition, the corporation set up three new solar arrays in 2020 and signed a purchase agreement with a wind farm that has enabled half of their electricity consumption to originate from renewable energy.

Overall, I was impressed by Estēe Lauder’s progress towards sustainable production. It seems that within their production processes, they have made some of the changes necessary to shift towards a sustainable company, and that they seek to continue to make transitions towards improving on this front in the long-term.

Who makes it:


Estēe Lauder has launched a number of projects recently with aims at improving the socioeconomic conditions of workers within their supply chains: In 2019 they co-created Project Lampung which financially supports sustainable palm smallholders in Lampung, Indonesia and aims at increasing palm workers’ incomes and conditions. They then provided a grant to contribute to the Mosaik Initiative, which provides certifications to palm stakeholders for producing palm oil sustainably and partaking in forest restoration projects.

While Estēe Lauder has displayed positive efforts towards equity and sustainability, Clinique seems to miss the mark in some ways with their attitudes towards sustainability: First, I was disappointed to find no information at all regarding sustainability on the Clinique brand website itself. This makes it difficult to trace the sustainability of specific products as opposed to the Estēe Lauder corporation as a whole. Additionally, one of Clinique’s core marketing tactics also suggests a severe lack of regard for sustainability: On almost any given day, the brand has some sort of website deal in which customers receive a collection of upwards of 7 various mini-size products upon spending a minimum amount (often around $40). Due to these minimum amounts often being so low, some sort of deal like this applies to almost every single online transaction. This marketing tactic relies on heavy material consumption, often leading to customers receiving products that they will rarely or never use. Unfortunately, these sorts of practices make it seem like Clinique and Estēe Lauder are only on board with shifting towards a circular consumption system when it will not require too much financial sacrifice from them.