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Principles of Sustainable Development Q&A

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: October 9, 2008, from the October 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

Complementary to “The Future of Beauty,” from the October 2008 issue.

GCI: How did Cognis define what it calls its essential pillars of its corporate strategy? What was the impetus? How was it implemented? And what were the challenges of successfully achieving these pillars as ongoing concerns?

Petersen: An increasing awareness among people of the need for an equilibrium between body, spirit and soul, combined with the social requirement for a balance between economic demands and ecological and social compatibility, has given rise to two major long-term trends: wellness and sustainability. Since 2001, Cognis has made these megatrends essential pillars of its corporate strategy. Cognis is meeting the increasing demand expressed by consumers, retail chains, governmental agencies and public authorities for improved environmental protection and sustainable development in all its strategic business units with the “strategy nature” as well as with environmentally compatible and high-performance products based on natural raw materials.

GCI: How were steps toward sustainable development undertaken? Since the Alban Muller began operation under this vision, do was its path toward reaching certain sustainability goals easier than for a company that makes that decision later in its development? What were the challenges?

Muller: We have built a trust-based relation with our farming partners to develop local cultures of various medicinal plants in the French “wheat belt” (Beauce region, in the center of France, all around our factory). We aimed at obtaining plants of the strict quality we wanted, but, also, we expected to cut down delivery delays and transportation distances and costs. My point is that we have no other choice than developing sustainable products, selecting production techniques that respect the environment. And It proves to be an economically sound way to manage. Most people have not realized yet that caring for a sustainable development is simply caring for your company.