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The Green Report: Part II

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

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Thierry Cruchon: Undoubtedly, consumer pressure has had a great impact on the growing demand for natural and ethical products. The consumer, both concerned with his well-being and health and alarmed by the increasing cases of skin intolerance and allergies, has stood as a prescriber. Then, media outlets have taken over consumers’ voices, leading to the beauty industry’s awareness and to the implementation of regulation initiatives like REACH.

How has innovation in both sourcing and marketing been impacted? Is the “greening” a new opportunity or a hurdle to overcome?

Alban Muller: More factors are taken into account in sourcing; more questions are being asked to make sure the final product will be in line with the consumers’ expectations. What is happening is not an eco-fashion trend but a new business opportunity, providing consumers with better products that follow the 3P approach: people, planet and profit.

Thierry Cruchon: As far as SILAB is concerned, greening is neither an opportunity nor a hurdle to overcome; it has just been our core business for the last 25 years, and we have been developing natural products—stemming from naturally sourced raw material and produced by nondenaturing, eco-friendly technologies—since the creation of the company in 1984.

Of course, there is no doubt that SILAB benefits from this new trend of ethical consumerism and taste for natural products. But this has not made us change our strategic pathway. In terms of sourcing, the greening trend requires special attention to the reliability of the material suppliers’ networks upstream. At SILAB, in line with sustainable development and respectful of the Convention of Rio and biodiversity principles, we have always made it a point of honor to check that our networks operate under a code of good bioethical observance and that they are not involved in bio-hacking issues. In terms of marketing, I guess that in a general manner, a new line has to be adapted, but there again, greening has not made us change ours—we have always put the emphasis on the fact that engineering natural ingredients is clearly our job.

How has your company dealt with these changing sensibilities? What have been the challenges in meeting evolving consumer aspirations for natural and sustainable products?

Alban Muller: We already had a sustainable development-oriented policy. Due to our activity and our affinity to nature, this way of working and thinking is actually the very heart of our corporate culture. This has led us to dramatically change the technologies used to produce plant extracts. Today, we use renewable resources: plants, water that we recycle in our Filtering Gardens, and alcohol produced from wheat that grows around our factory; we flash-pasteurize our extracts before drying them with a low energy technology (zeodration) in order to get native extracts that are then blended with glycerin; we obtain petrochemical- and preservative-free liquid extracts.

Thierry Cruchon: Since our core business already deals with greening, we have been looking beyond beauty, and have begun to get involved in concrete actions to measure and control the impact of our activity on the environment. In June, we launched the first edition of SILAB Corporate Social Responsibility charter—a concrete illustration of our commitment toward our employees and the community at large. This charter shows our involvement in terms of social, economic and ecological issues. From an ecological point of view, more specifically, we work on the impact of our activity on the environment by managing a policy of waste recovery as well as water and energy saving.