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Sustainability Drives Game Changing Innovation in Beauty

By: Rob Walker, Euromonitor International
Posted: April 4, 2012, from the April 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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That the need for plastic innovation had crossed industry borders was illustrated in 2010 when, right on the heels of Coca-Cola’s launch of a 100% sugarcane-based high density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle (for one of its juice brands), Procter & Gamble announced the use of a sugarcane-based packaging for Pantene’s Pro-V Nature Fusion line and its CoverGirl and Max Factor brands [“P&G Announces Plan to Use Innovative Sustainable Packaging”].

The sugarcane, a natural and renewable resource, is a replacement for petroleum, which is identified as the main environmental culprit of a normal plastic bottle’s composition. Sugarcane is also less costly than petroleum, which is vulnerable to erratic price hikes. The innovation has brought sustainable packaging full throttle into the competitive mainstream of beauty and personal care and strengthened P&G’s environmental position.

Leading Beauty Companies Lining Up To Flex Sustainability Credentials

P&G’s main competitors had been focusing on organic and naturally sourced ingredients to beef up their own sustainability credentials. Unilever, for example, recently introduced Timotei Organic Delight, a certified (conforming to the authenticity principles of the COSMEBIO charter) organic line of shampoo, which is said to be free from colorants, silicones, parabens and sulfates.

This type of “free from” claim is increasingly common as a rallying call for eco-conscious consumers. L’Oréal’s Garnier Fructis Pure Clean line of hair care products claims to be free from silicone and parabens, for example, while Beiersdorf’s Nivea Pure & Natural line of skin care flexes similar biodegradable credentials.

That L’Oréal, Unilever and Beiersdorf—the world’s second, third and sixth biggest players in beauty, respectively, according to Euromonitor International—are active in certified natural products is evidence that the eco-category is no longer the exclusive terrain of niche players. This is a strategic shift that has happened over the past two years.