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The Green Report: Part II

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: August 26, 2008, from the September 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

In its August issue, GCI magazine asked a panel of seven industry experts where they think things stand with the move toward green. This month, Alban Muller, president, Alban Muller International, and Thierry Cruchon, general manager, SILAB, weigh in.

Where does the beauty industry, in general, stand in meeting growing demands for natural and sustainable products? How effectively is the industry “greening?”

Alban Muller: The cosmetic industry has always been using so-called “natural” products, unfortunately tooting a marketing horn without going more in depth into the efficacy realities of natural actives. Today, the attitude goes well beyond the “natural miracle organically grown plant from the top of the Himalaya, drowned into propylene glycol and preserved with parabens.” Today, “naturals” as such are out. Consumers want more. They are getting more and more concerned by protecting their environment, and show skepticism toward mere marketing claims; they expect more than a superficial “natural” label. No worry, the answer for the market is simple: sustainable development.

That global and vital approach means that all the ingredients used and the packaging, boxes, inks, transportation, production processes, etc., should be analyzed in detail and precisely revisited in order to first evaluate and then improve their impact on the environment, progressing to zero footprint. This is what we are working toward, beginning with a charter for the “eco-responsible natural cosmetic,” and we are elaborating in the Cosmetic Valley (an association of companies working toward responsible development and synergies between them) competitive cluster.

Greening not only concerns one single ingredient appearing on the label, it includes all the steps leading to the cosmetic products on the shelves of the stores. The idea is to consider the global ecological cycle of the product. Simple to understand, not so easy to set up as it challenges absolutely everything. It requires methods and faith.

Thierry Cruchon: 2006 and 2007 have been years of mergers and acquisitions. In the past years, cosmetic industry actors got involved in greening either by taking over some organic brands or by integrating natural active cosmetic branches in their R&D department. Natural and ethical pressure has become more and more obvious in (consumer) magazines and marketing material, and on beauty shelf space.

What has had the greater impact, thus far, regulation initiatives like REACH and California’s Prop 65, initiatives by retailers or consumer demand?

Alban Muller: I believe it is consumer demand on one side, but also an overall perception from the actors in the industry—global warming, alarming reports in the media, a new high-ranking government minister in France who has a right to evaluate all public spending from a sustainable development point of view, etc.