Few Brands Are Making Progress in Sustainability

Posted on August 23, 2013 @ 07:52 am

According to Organic Monitor's latest research, there is a great need for a 'green overhaul' in the beauty industry, because although we are all preoccupied with green initiatives, little progress has been made in reducing the environmental impact of packaging in a meaningful way.

Some brands are attempting to reduce a product's environmental footprint by making structural and design changes to packaging, but Organic Monitor's research notes that most packaging design changes only lead to an incremental decrease in packaging materials - and in some cases, any 'green' benefits from less packaging material are offset by higher unit sales. They say more radical solutions involving materials are necessary if any significant environmental impact will ever be achieved.

Some cosmetic brands are experimenting with sustainable materials like bamboo and wood, but according to Organic Monitor, plastic packaging still prevails due to the high cost of other materials, combined with the lack of an adequate waste disposal method for other materials. They also say that even biodegradable plant-based plastics have yet to make headway in cosmetic applications.

Brands Making 'Green' Progress

Organic Monitor calls out a few brands that are truly 'green' innovations -- Procter & Gamble is using hybrid polymers to overcome the limitations of bio-plastics, with its Pantene Pro-V Nature Fusion. Its packaging is mainly made from bio-polymers sourced from sugar cane.

And, Unilever is one of the few companies considering a packaging overhaul to address its environmental footprint. It recently developed a compressed can, which it is using for a number of its deodorant brands. The cans are about a third smaller,reducing packaging material costs as well as transportation costs.

Another front-runner in sustainable design that Organic Monitor calls attention to is the Brazilian beauty company, Natura Brasil. Its latest launch is the mass skin care brand SOU, and it uses flexible packaging that contains 70% less plastic than rigid containers that hold the same volume of product.

Should Cosmetic Companies Be More Responsible for Waste Management?

In Brazil, the cosmetics association ABIHPEC is working with municipal agencies to collect and recycle packaging waste, according to Organic Monitor.

In the U.S., Tom's of Maine has partnered with Terracycle to collect its packaging waste and use it in new product applications. A closed loop system whereby waste is used as raw materials is considered the way forward for many cosmetic brands taking the green road.

Organic Monitor's Upcoming Summits

Sustainable packaging is a focal theme of the upcoming Latin American and European editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.

The Latin American summit will take place in São Paolo on September 18th-20th; the European summit will be hosted in Paris on October 21st - 23rd. (More details on www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com).

Discussion topics at the next summits will include environmental impact of packaging, eco-design innovations, novel packaging materials, bio-plastics in cosmetics, and green packaging success stories. Papers will be presented by Natura Brasil, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Arkema, Selerant, Aptar, ABIHPEC and other organizations involved in sustainability.