Sustainable cosmetics: Mica, a mineral with a dark glow

Ingredients for cosmetics sometimes come from the strangest places. The mineral above is Mica, a natural mineral used in blusher, eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, foundation but also found in car paints. It is found in several parts of the world, among which India. The mica mines in the North-East part of the country deliver the very best quality. However, in India child labour is endemic and more than 75% of India’s mica mining is unregulated. This poses significant threats to producers of cosmetics who do not want to be linked with child labour in their supply chains.

How to prevent child labour in mica supply chains

In order to tackle this and other issues in cosmetics supply chains, companies must take steps to introduce visibility and transparency into their supply chains. With 75% of mica mines in India being unregulated, there is a big chance the mica you source comes from disputable origin. Only recently, the Guardian found that car makers including Vauxhall (Opel), BMW, Volkswagen and Audi have been linked to child labour and debt bondage through their suppliers, who source mica from illegal mines in India. The children working in the mines, scraping the mica from the rock walls, are the first link in complex global supply chains stretching around the world, including cosmetics.

A positive step towards a child labour free supply chain would be to map your supply chain beyond your tier 1 suppliers, all the way back to the mine. That way you know if your mica is sourced from regulated or unregulated mines. But by only buying traceable mica, you don’t solve the root cause of child labour in mica supply chains, — the actual reasons why it exists. The many small illegal mines are often family businesses, where the whole family works in the mines in order to survive. Often mica mining is the only source of work around. As for other commodities where child labour exists, a yearly audit is not enough. On the ground support, continuous monitoring and training programs are needed to improve the livelihood of the mining families.

However, this is not something one company can solve on its own. Stakeholders in the supply chain will need to work together with local and international NGOs, in order to create conditions in which local miners can make a sustainable income allowing them to send their children to school instead of to the mines.

How technology can help

Using technology alone is not enough to stop child labour, but it will support making informed decisions based on data collected in the field and along the supply chain. Technology can be used to streamline monitoring and auditing at multiple stages of the supply chain, recording key details of miners and social data. When companies or organizations decide to actively support miners, ensuring that children go to school instead of working in the mines, you will need to check and register this data. A flexible platform allows stakeholders to easily register, share and exchange data. Visual representations of supply chains give new opportunities to discover possible issues, for example a map showing the location of the mines and which supplier is sourcing from which mine.

Because supply chains are complex and long, spanning around the globe, companies will need some sort of technology to gather and analyse all data available. Only then can companies be in full control of their brand reputation and inform their customers on the sustainability of their products.

More information

ChainPoint offers software for sustainable supply chains. At ChainPoint we believe that collaboration and sharing of information is crucial for the efficient production of high quality, safe and sustainably produced products. ChainPoint is a secure, online software platform to manage and share product, process and supplier information, from raw material to finished product. With our software and services we help companies improve quality and sustainability whilst reducing cost and risk.

Contact us for more information, or meet us at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris on 24–26 October. Alternatively, visit our industry page on cosmetics.

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