Organics and sustainability – positive action


Organic Monitor’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit highlighted the need for positive change

Organic Monitor’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit highlighted the need for positive change

Practical sustainability initiatives for the beauty industry were discussed extensively at Organic Monitor’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, held in Paris at the end of October. In a move to encourage sustainability in the beauty industry, the event brought together 180 key stakeholders from 26 countries to debate major sustainability issues.

Practical approaches to lower environmental and social impacts were the central theme of the three-day summit, with several speakers calling for positive action from the beauty industry. Prof Dr Michael Braungart challenged beauty companies to be more positive rather than lessening their guilt. “The discussion should be about having positive impacts, not reducing negative impacts,” according to the founder of the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) design approach. By drawing examples from the beverage industry, he showed how pioneering companies were becoming carbon positive rather than just carbon neutral. He said there was a concern that too many beauty companies were considering sustainability because of guilt rather than a genuine desire to change.

The need for positive change was also the message from Jean-Yves Berthon in his opening address. The founder of Greentech urged cosmetic companies to develop ethical relationships when sourcing raw materials. He suggested more education and knowledge sharing between companies to support the environment and social communities in developing countries. Alexis Kryceve, co-founder of Pur Planet, further stressed the importance of ethical sourcing in his paper on carbon offsetting. Kryceve said ingredient sourcing has a direct impact on climate change since deforestation is responsible for 20% of carbon emissions that cause global warming. He endorsed fairtrade as it encourages farmers to continue agricultural practices, thus mitigating carbon emissions.

Speakers in the opening session highlighted various sustainability initiatives for manufacturing and ingredient companies. Rainer Plum from the New Ethics Institute showed how CSR and sustainability were increasingly converging in the beauty industry. Beraca’s Filipe Sabará shared his experiences in implementing sustainability programmes for cosmetic ingredients. The Brazilian company is spearheading various social and ecological projects in the Amazon (see p19). The Union for Ethical BioTrade shared the latest findings from its Biodiversity Barometer, highlighting the rise of biodiversity in the corporate agenda.

An update of the leading European standards for natural and organic cosmetics was given in a green formulations session. Valérie Lemaire of Ecocert introduced the new labelling scheme for the harmonised Cosmos standard. New logos for Cosmos-Organic and Cosmos-Natural are in the pipeline, enabling consumers to clearly identify certified products. Julie Tyrrell gave an update on the NaTrue standard, including how the NaTrue label can be used by consumers to download ecological and ethical information from the internet.

Some of the major technical and formulation issues associated with natural and organic cosmetics were also covered in the second session. A review was undertaken of the various emulsifier and surfactant systems for natural and organic products. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and CPL Aromas discussed sustainability issues concerning natural and organic fragrances, while David Reccole, founder of Couleur Caramel, went through the pitfalls of making certified organic colour cosmetics.

Ido Leffler, co-founder of Yes To Carrots, opened the second day of the summit with a keynote on Going beyond naturals and product differentiation. Amarjit Sahota, founder of Organic Monitor, stressed how marketing had come to the forefront in the increasingly competitive natural cosmetics market. “The goalposts in the naturals arena were moving, with pioneering companies now focusing on CSR and sustainability,” he said.

Burt’s Bees is at the forefront of sustainability initiatives and Andrew Dixon explained the Burt’s Bees ethos, including a Dumpster Dive day at the American company in which employees get involved in waste management.

Also in the marketing and distribution innovations session, Whole Foods Market shared its experiences in selecting and marketing natural cosmetics. According to the global natural food retailer, product design and packaging footprint are key factors when selecting new personal care products. The importance of online retailing was covered by, outlining the pitfalls and challenges of this exciting new marketing channel. Other papers looked at distribution, social media and consumer behaviour.

The final focus of the conference was sustainable packaging. Key speakers explored the gamut of sustainable packaging solutions available to beauty companies. Summit participants learned that cosmetic companies focus mainly on recycling and ecodesign to lower their packaging footprint, whereas the take-up rate of bioplastics remains low. Case studies were given of companies with novel approaches to sustainable packaging and Aveda was commended for its sustainable approach to packaging. John Delfausse, global package development for Estée Lauder Companies said “environment is at the heart of every packaging decision for Aveda”. The US company is the largest user of Post Consumer Regrind (PCR) plastic in the beauty sector, saving over 1 million pounds (0.45 million metric tonnes) of virgin plastic a year. It is also one of the first beauty companies to adopt the C2C design approach.

The summit came to a close with 80 delegates attending two interactive workshops honing in on two key aspects of sustainability in the beauty industry – green formulations and packaging. Judi Beerling, Organic Monitor’s head of technical research explored the paraben-free preservative options available to cosmetic formulators while Material ConneXion gave a practical guide to sustainable packaging.

While many best practices were highlighted the general consensus was that much remains to be done, especially in packaging and resource management. As Sahota concluded: “Companies are taking steps in the right direction, however greater strides are required.”

The next Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will take place in New York from 12-14 May 2011