When the Great Recession was raging, consumers began to pull back from making
green purchases. Industry observers insist that these shoppers are coming back,
but who gets to decide what’s green and what isn’t?
Tom Branna • Editorial Director
SURE, COSMETICS CAN BE produced sus- tainably. But are suppliers, marketers and, most importantly, consumers,
willing to pay the price to attain these lofty
standards and, if these standards are attained, just whose standards should become
the standard for sustainability?
More than 180 personal care industry
executives descended on New York City in
May to debate these issues and arrive at
some sort of consensus at the Sustainable
Cosmetics Summit, organized by Organic
Monitor. Summit topics included a diverse
range of issues including environmental impacts, social footprints, sustainable supply
chains and organic cosmetic standards.
The Summit opened with a keynote by
designer William McDonough, who
founded the Cradle-to-Cradle Products
Innovation Institute, which has been billed
by some as a step on the path toward the
State of California’s plan to build a cradle-to-cradle economy. McDonough’s interests
in sustainability are far-flung and he and his
team have worked with a variety of industries to help them become more sustainable.
For instance, he showed the audience several buildings and architectural designs that
are better for the environment and the people who work in them.
A more cosmetic-centric view of sustainability was delivered by Charles J. Bennett, vice president, earth and community
care, Aveda. He urged the industry to become more engaged with sustainability, not-
ing that changing public policy is forcing
companies to innovate or else get driven out
of business. At the same time, Bennett noted
that public reporting will continue to grow
in importance, so he urged the audience to
become proactive and stay honest about
sustainability claims, lest they run the risk of
ruining their brand reputation.
Bennett referred to a 2010 Edelmann
poll that found 86% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least
equal weight on society’s interests as on
William McDonough, founder of Cradle to Cradle
Products Innovation Institute, delivers the keynote
“The intensity level continues to in-
crease,” he told the audience.“Social media
drives social purpose.”
Yet, at the same time, more companies
are fighting for a limited number of raw ma-
terials, which is driving up prices, while reg-
ulations such as REACH and the soon to be
released ISO 26000, are forcing companies
to rework their supply strategies.
“Unless we make the changes we need
to make, the availability of resources and the
needs of people will be a flash point,” he
warned. For example, he asked the audience
if all formulators should have access to sustainable ingredients, or should they be limited to only those who can pay?
And while he acknowledged that the
cosmetics industry does a great job formulating products using some sustainable ingredients, he questioned the sustainability
of major formula components, including
surfactants, polymers, thickeners, emollients
and preservatives. Still, he insisted that some
materials are becoming more sustainable
“Cargill and General Mills believe, that
in a few years, palm oil will be produced sustainably,” Bennett observed.
Bennett reviewed Aveda’s position and
mission in regard to sustainability and
pointed out that seven products and packages have already been certified cradle-to-cradle. Packaging plays a major role in
Aveda’s sustainability efforts, as the products
use high post-consumer recycled packaging