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The Green Report: The Question Begs the Answer

By Jeff Falk
Posted: January 30, 2008, from the February 2008 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Editor’s note: This article originally was published in the August 2007 issue of Global Cosmetic Industry (GCI) magazine and is being reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

The best ideas are worthless if they are not or cannot be implemented—regardless of how concise, logical or noble they may be. Ideas make for good copy, but action changes the world.
       Going green has long been a great idea, and there is no shortage of compelling stories explaining why. However, it hasn’t been until very recently that stories of green action have taken center stage.
       At a recent Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Newsmaker Forum, Bernd Beetz, CEO of perfume house Coty, noted that, “The green movement is a total challenge and opportunity. I think we have to open up our minds to translate it into concepts and products.”
       Seeing the movement in motion, find out what a range of cosmetic industry experts have to say about where they think things stand with the move toward green.

The path to green
Where does the beauty industry, in general, stand in meeting growing demands for natural and sustainable products? How effectively is the industry greening?

Robb Zurek, business development manager, Continental Packaging Solutions: The move toward natural ingredients is the most prominent thing happening in the beauty industry. The greater consumer demand for products that are not tested on animals, that are made from natural extracts, etc., has generated a shift away from petroleum-based moisturizers and the like.
       The contradiction continues to lie in the packaging, however. Overall, the percentage of truly sustainable packaging used for these natural products is quite small.

Sundeep Gill, vice president of research and development, Sun Deep Incorporated: We are finding suppliers on a weekly basis that have new, innovative ways of harvesting products that leave little to no ecological footprint on the environment.

Anthony Gentile, director of art and marketing, Xela Pack, Inc.: The beauty industry seems to be doing a decent job of meeting the demands for natural and sustainable products. However, it surely doesn’t seem to be leading the cause or pioneering many huge breakthroughs. The beauty industry has always been closely tied to the luxury market. And, in many cases, such as fur, the luxury market seems to be immune to such ideas as stewardship to animals and the Earth. However, it should be noted that there are some major beauty product companies that seem to be hugely committed to the cause. Hopefully they will set the benchmark in the industry.

Darrin C. Duber-Smith, president, Green Marketing, Inc.: The industry, in general, has been woefully slow to demand more sustainable packaging and natural/organic ingredients, also seen as more sustainable, from suppliers. The availability of supply severely affects what companies can do. Consumers demonstrate a healthy demand for more sustainable products from more sustainable organizations, so it is interesting to see that only a handful of companies, including Aveda and its parent company, are moving beyond simple compliance into the realm of sustainability. Engaging in such behavior reduces costs dramatically in many ways and addresses a growing target market that demands more sensitivity to health and the environment.
     The core natural/organic manufacturers, offered mostly in the exclusive natural/organic channel, have taken the lead in developing products free of synthetically derived and/or processed ingredients, and have been enjoying double-digit growth rates since the early 90s. Volumes haven’t traditionally been high enough to justify putting pressure on packaging and ingredient suppliers to provide these types of products. Now that volumes are higher and larger, mainstream players are finally getting the message—albeit at a geologic pace.
     Neither the mainstream companies nor the natural/organic companies are doing enough with regard to the three main tenets of sustainability—design for environment, pollution prevention and resource recovery. All of this is changing as we speak.

Markus Schiek, head of global marketing, and Martha Basanta, marketing manager, drom Fragrances: As consumers’ lifestyles evolve and change, so must the world around them. Beauty is no exception. As we become increasingly aware of global warming and the need to be responsible and take action with regard to the environment, this will also have an effect on how we all live our lives. This became evident a few years ago as consumers sought natural and organic food, and the food industry answered with a plethora of natural and “good for you” products. For us, it only makes sense that the next phase of this thinking will affect what we put on our bodies as much as it has been about what we put in them. More and more in recent years, there has there been a saturation of natural and organic beauty products on the market. Consumers want to do something good for themselves, and if they see the results, it’s worth it. It is our job, as an industry, to be forthright and honest about what is really natural and organic in a product. Consumers are savvy, and they want to know the truth about what goes into a product. Once we are able to do this, we will be effective as an industry.

Amarjit Sahota, director, Organic Monitor: The beauty industry is looking at green issues far more seriously than ever before. Apart from companies looking at developing natural and organic personal care products, companies are looking at reducing packaging and using environmentally friendly materials.