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The Green Report: The Question Begs the Answer

By: Jeff Falk
Posted: August 7, 2007, from the August 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Robb Zurek: One of the biggest things we’ve had to do is to actually steer people away from certain types of packaging, such as PLA, because it isn’t compatible with their product. The interesting part is then educating that customer as to what sustainability truly is and how other materials, though they might not be compostable, are environmentally friendly.

Sundeep Gill: At Sun Deep, we always strive to produce cleaner and greener products with friendly ingredient decks and performance aesthetics. In some cases, we are driven by our clients to seek greener ways to accomplish our mission. Often in USDA organic formulas, we find that technology has not yet caught up with innovation, and we find our selves searching for ingredients that have yet to be invented.

Anthony Gentile: Because we have been producing environmentally conscious packaging for 20 years, many people within the industry view us as leaders of the cause. Rather than rely on the past benefits of the Xela Pack and our company in general, we have continued to lead the way by developing new laminates and materials—such as our newest material made with 75% paper, of which 100% is PCRP, that has a white surface rather than the traditional Kraft look—and researching more new materials for possible future developments. People are much more critical of our environmental claims now than they were in the past, but we see that as another opportunity to prove what we’ve known for a long time: that the Xela Pack is a great package that has many environmental benefits to offer.

Markus Schiek and Martha Basanta: drom has predicted this movement for quite some time. For more than 10 years now, drom has been working on and developing a program of raw materials to answer this need specifically. The result of this effort is drom Fragrances’ Pureganic program, which is redefining the degree of purity of essential oils used in fragrance manufacturing and is an effective response to the global trend toward natural products.

Where do you see industry-wide efforts being made? Where can efforts be increased?

Robb Zurek: Certainly, from a packaging industry standpoint, the effort has long been made to encourage recycling. Unfortunately, simple economics dictate that prices will rise when a product is in demand. Keeping sustainability a cost-effective practice will ensure more and more entities will consider moving in that direction rather than shying away because it prices them out of a marketplace.

Sundeep Gill: There is a renewed interest in organic ingredients that are functional, but more strides must be made to increase the spectrum of choices for these ingredients.

Anthony Gentile: I see industry-wide efforts being made in terms of new ways to create high-end packaging with recycled materials. Recycled materials are being used to produce some amazing packages, and I can only imagine that this trend will continue. As far as efforts being increased, I think that product companies and consumers in general need to be better educated on the various aspects of environmental friendliness and responsibility.

Darrin C. Duber-Smith: Demand for this is derived from the next company downstream in the supply chain, but ultimately for the consumer. Industry has been slow to react to this demand and has failed to anticipate it.
Markus Schiek and Martha Basanta: Efforts can be seen across the industry toward natural and organic products. Wellness today is not merely a trend, but rather a lifestyle evolution. The natural and organic personal care industry has already achieved tremendous growth, and shows no signs of slowing down. Efforts will be increased, with education and better technological advances pursued in order to deliver better products to consumers in the segment.

Amarjit Sahota: Most efforts have been, so far, in product development—mainly by using more environmentally friendly/ethical ingredients, i.e. natural ingredients and organic ingredients. There can be more efforts in packaging and ingredient sourcing. Although there is no standard for fair trade cosmetics yet, companies can look at sourcing ingredients from fair trade producers in third world countries. Companies can also look at using biodegradable packaging or recyclable packaging to minimize packaging waste.

Euromonitor International states that 2007 is a year of innovation that pulls together trends to satisfy a broad range of consumer demands and looks beyond the beauty industry for inspiration. Where have you looked for inspiration? What green innovations do you believe have made the biggest impact on the beauty industry? What innovations are you exploring?

Robb Zurek: From a strict package design point of view, we look across markets for innovations. As a packaging supplier to many different industries, we can truly look at a cross-section of trends and look to bring a concept that worked for a pharmaceutical customer to someone in the cosmetic field.
I think we’re most interested to see how PLA evolves over the next few years. Right now, there are a few too many restrictions to its use, but we anticipate innovations to come forth that make it much more user-friendly.
Sundeep Gill:
The food industry has been a great inspiration for us, as some of our skin care items are actually edible. The food industry innovation in eliminating certain synthetic ingredients has certainly helped us in raising the bar for green cosmetics. We are always trying to explore ingredients that have been harvested with not only eco-responsibility in mind, but socioeconomic responsibility to the rural community these ingredients are harvested from.

Anthony Gentile: Advances in recycled materials are where I believe the biggest impact has been made. For years, people could create a package out of 100% virgin plastic and they could still put info about the recyclability of the package on their artwork to make it look environmentally friendly. But even the highest estimates of consumer recycling stand at about 30%. So, what is better? To have a 100% virgin package that is recycled 30% of the time, at most? Or to have a 100% recycled package that is not recyclable?

Darrin C. Duber-Smith: There are several green innovations, thanks to some of the more daring chemists, including 100% natural products that are now possible—with no synthetically derived or processed ingredients, including preservatives. Aveda taking steps to green its packaging and encouraging suppliers to produce more sustainable options [has made the biggest impact on the beauty industry].

Markus Schiek and Martha Basanta: As a global focus for drom, we have been looking toward technological advances to inspire us in moving forward. We’re currently making huge strides and advances in this area, and will continue to explore new opportunities. Our biggest initiative in the green movement is our Pureganic program. We understood the consumer’s needs as well as perfumers’ limitations in how certain raw materials smell. By ways of traditional distillation, many raw materials do not smell true to life, and we wanted to address this. By developing a method of steam distillation, we have reduced the time it takes to recover oil and, thus, preserve the essential components that burn off in traditional methods. This then creates a far superior oil and a virtually new palette for perfumers to work with.
How has demand for naturals and sustainable products fostered product development? Is it a gradual process or have you been forced to make large and immediate strides? Have innovations had to veer from course, i.e. have innovations other than those impacting green trends had to be set aside?

Robb Zurek: The demand for naturals and sustainable products has certainly fostered innovation. We’ve seen it in such unlikely places as makeup compacts made from PLA. That said, we have not had to make huge jumps in thinking. We’re really just skimming the surface of this movement. There’s quite a long way to go before sustainability is an easy-to-fulfill promise.