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A Deeper Shade of Green

By: Lisa Doyle
Posted: August 31, 2011, from the September 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

Gone are the days when the label of “natural” was enough to differentiate a beauty product and lure shoppers. Customers have grown leery of products that claim to be earth-friendly without much explanation or information to back up the claim. In fact, Just Green It!, a guidebook designed to instruct consumers how to dodge specific products making such claims (including beauty products), was recently featured on the Today show and is lauded by celebrities across the U.S.

As a result of publications and media attention such as this, the specifics of a brand’s commitment to sustainable sourcing throughout its entire life cycle—from ingredients to production to packaging—are coming into play more than ever when it comes to seeing results in the marketplace. “[We] will see beauty companies placing increased importance on the environment, focusing on sustainable sourcing with attention to maintaining biodiversity,” says Nica Lewis, head consultant for the beauty division of data researcher Mintel. “A renewed emphasis on repackaging to minimize waste will also be a factor,” she adds.

Starting at the Top

“At the Estée Lauder Companies, we are beginning to determine the greenness of our products by considering the environmental impact products have throughout their entire life cycle, not just by determining whether the ingredients are considered natural or organic,” explains Chia Chen, executive director of bioactives, R&D, The Estée Lauder Companies (Chia Chen is among the presenters featured at Natural Beauty Summit America 2011, October 6–7, New York.). And any company, whether it’s a brand or a supplier, will achieve greater success in greening their business when the commitment to do so is an established corporate initiative. The Estée Lauder Companies launched its Green Chemistry program, which it uses as a tool for evaluating its processes—and suppliers. “Green chemistry changes the way that we, as scientists, can achieve a final result,” says Chen. “The process of creating a product is more sustainable, whether or not the product itself is considered natural or organic.”

Many suppliers are following suit. “Anomatic recently established the Sustainability Operations Group, a cross-functional team responsible for implementing our company-wide sustainability plan,” says Mark Ormiston, director of environmental sustainability, Anomatic Corp, an anodized aluminum packaging supplier in Newark, Ohio. “The group—with backgrounds in chemistry, geochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental engineering and environmental sciences—is committed to promote innovation and green manufacturing through conservation, optimization, reduction and recycling efforts.”