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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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However, none of their natural brands can stake claim to the type of eco-friendly packaging introduced by P&G, which, as a result, has taken a strategic advantage in the sustainability race. Until the sugarcane bottle came on stream, eco-packaging innovation focused on cutting back the amount of material that had potential negative effects in terms of the environment, though not actually eradicating offending material.

The problem with stripping back the packaging is it risked compromising the ease of use of a product, as well as its perception of quality. And the eco-integrity of consumers is often eroded when there is a compromise at stake. For example, demand for recycled toilet paper is low in the U.S. and much of Western Europe because consumers perceive too much compromise on comfort. Quite simply, the green integrity of consumers is often shallow.

Green Consumption Choices Free From Compromise

The key selling point of P&G’s eco-friendly bottle is that there is negligible compromise on the original. It is, therefore, a pain-free consumption choice for eco-minded (but potentially fickle) consumers, meaning consumers can flex their green ambitions without any quality downside.

That the innovation has come from one of the world’s biggest players is also important because most eco-packaging innovation in non-food consumer goods had come from niche players. In recent years, for example, U.S.-based Seventh Generation, a frontrunner in eco-friendly home care, introduced a liquid laundry detergent in a bottle made from recycled cardboard and newspaper.

It is virtually certain to see more ecological packaging in beauty in the year ahead as consumers in developed markets buy into compromise-free alternatives to plastic bottles. Sugarcane bottles will grow in profile, but we could also see a shift toward cardboard packaging for personal care products. Tetra Pak, for example, is rumored to be looking at new non-food product categories for its packaging formats.