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In My Opinion: The Language of Sustainability

By: John Paro
Posted: January 10, 2008, from the January 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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We quickly saw that our line was both green and natural, but more importantly it was sustainable, and having addressed these sustainability issues would be good for business. Improving yield meant lower raw material costs. Less energy consumption meant lower energy costs. These savings have allowed us to offer competitive prices to our customers while maintaining our margin objectives. Eliminating problematic by-products has protected our personnel, as well as our customers and end users, and has allowed us to comply with local, state and federal environmental guidelines.

So when HallGreen ingredients are advertised as being built on a sustainable platform, we’re trying to convey all those considerations in a single concept. Now you can see why I care about the language of sustainability. I do not want it to become the equivalent of the word “light.”

I admire the leadership that the personal care industry has brought to the topic of sustainability. New strategies, methodologies and reporting systems seem to surface weekly. Company after company is reporting that sustainability initiatives deliver quantifiable benefits for the business and the end user.

Sunscreens have shown us the importance of conveying consumer-friendly information in packaging and marketing communications. SPF has entered the global lexicon, conveying critical information to consumers about the level of protection each product provides. I hope we can take the concept of sustainability to that level of understanding—that the word can be used to tell consumers how a product was manufactured so they can make educated buying decisions. It is in our own best interest as an industry to reach out and define the benefits of the concept to consumers as they make their choices. None of us want to have consumers say, “That doesn’t mean anything,” when they refer to our products or our claims.

In the end, I believe nomenclature that defines sustainability in a clear, concise way will help us improve product differentiation, enhance brands and images, and reorient our corporate and global cultures. Sustainability is the right way to think about environmentalism and it is good for business.