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Putting on a New Face—Environmentalism’s Impact on Ingredients and Packaging

Liz Grubow

With an ever-increasing focus on environmental consciousness and sustainability, more and more beauty companies are developing green strategies in branding, design, packaging and in the use of product ingredients to demonstrate their commitment to change.

Immersion in cradle-to-cradle (C2C) certification and best practices is one avenue companies are pursuing in order to buck the trend of traditional cradle-to-grave design and manufacturing. The hope is that this method can provide opportunities to educate retailers and consumers on how changes or reductions in material/ingredients, innovative printing technologies using plant-based or recyclable inks, and alternate production processes, among other strategies, can positively impact the environment by reducing waste and saving energy.Time magazine calls C2C “a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.” C2C is a design protocol that supports the elimination of waste by recycling materials or products into new or similar products at the end of its intended life, instead of disposing of it in landfills. C2C certification provides a company with a means to tangibly, credibly assess achievement in environmentally intelligent design and help customers purchase and demand products that pursue a broader meaning of value. This means using environmentally safe and healthy materials; designing for material reutilization, such as recycling or composting; the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency; careful use of water, and purest water quality linked with production; and instituting strategies for social responsibility. Aveda is the first beauty company to receive C2C certification for four botanical ingredients: sandalwood oil from Australia, rose oil and lavender oil from Bulgaria, and uruku from Brazil.

Within the Framework

Mastering the craft of C2C within the framework of a company’s strategy can be a daunting challenge. There are many stumbling blocks and cost implications that a company may encounter on its way to becoming green: capital investment, the right balance of size/weight so the SKU can be easily conveyable through a shipping lane but big enough to discourage rising in-store theft, and the appropriate material choices to use in promotional vehicles such as in-store displays so that they are sturdy but eco-friendly.

Based on LPK Beauty Group’s research with retailers and consumers, C2C products and packaging do indeed gain the attention of both groups. Retailers have endorsed brands that have made these cutting-edge changes. Consumers have expressed an interest and consideration in purchasing these brands, but it is suspect that they will automatically purchase these products simply due to this factor. Price/value will continue to play a key role in addition to the shift in consumer attitudes and values in the trend LPK refers to as “Simplistic Slowdown.”

The dramatic downturn of the global economy has resulted in consumers slowing their consumption habits, savoring time as the new luxury and seeking out more simplicity in their lives. Beauty marketers, fueled by this trend, are divesting certain details such as busy aesthetics, excess packaging and multiple vessel shapes/sizes and concentrating more on brand storytelling, introducing refillables and using materials that harken back to the past— i.e., glass bottles or natural ingredients. The Olay Definity brand, for example, decreased its use of plastic by extensive retooling of packaging components.

Unilever has standardized the number of containers it uses. For Ponds, it chose to utilize primarily white bottles/jars to showcase the brand. Since consumers are simplifying, a question remains whether they will reward brands that do the same or spend more on specialty products that capture their interest and imagination. Around the globe, there is strong consumer awareness of going green—including in China where changes in consumption to improve the environment have already taken shape. The use of refillable products is a practice that is widely accepted in Asia, and is also prevalent in Europe. For example, Crede shampoo is one of the most popular brands from Japan, and is offered in several refillable sizes. Parfums Givenchy offers several refillable products, including lipsticks and compact foundations. Stila Cosmetics are packaged in recycled cardboard with the logo in simple typeface. Consumers can pop their favorite Stila eye shadow or cheek color pans into an environmentally friendly, refillable compact.

The slower experience of refilling containers creates a higher level of emotional engagement; however, U.S. consumer culture is not as accepting of refillables. Perhaps the convenience factor overrides the benefits as well as the hygienic perception of individually wrapped products as a prevalent driver of purchase. The new value equation forecast calls for less hyper-churn disposable SKUs and more meaningful product innovation. Perhaps the recent push of reusable bottles for water will continue to set the tone for other consumer segments.

Alternatives to Attract Consumers

There certainly are many companies trying to draw consumers to their brands by offering inventive alternatives

The Body Shop sells approximately 25 hand-mixed products in distinctive green bottles, which can be refilled in its shops. Founded in England, the company currently operates in 51 countries. From that first day in 1975 when the late Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop, its policy has been “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.” It is currently introducing bottles made from 100% postconsumer recycled plastics. On the ingredient front, palm oil from sustainable sources in Columbia is used in its soap bars. Hemp is also used in The Body Shop product formulations. In addition to moisturizing and protection properties, hemp is an environmentally friendly crop. It requires little fertilizer, and, because it has few natural predators, it can be grown without pesticides. Its deep roots actually prevent erosion and improve the condition of the soil. In addition, the brand/retailer’s shopping bags are reusable and made from organically grown cotton produced without the use of pesticides.

MAC Cosmetics, based in Canada and sold worldwide, uses simple black and white, recyclable packaging. It encourages recycling with its “Back-to-Mac” program. Consumers are given a free lipstick, lip gloss or eye shadow of their choice with the return of six empty containers.

Lush Cosmetics, headquartered in England with products sold in more than 30 countries, uses the term “Naked Is Nice” in referring to its packaging, or lack of it.

Approximately 70% of its products are sold naked—including bath bombs, shampoo bars, bubble bars, massage bars, body butters and solid facial cleansers. When it does have to use packaging, postconsumer recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials are used whenever possible. The total recycled content in all Lush packaging is about 89%, including paper bags, aluminum tins, gift wrap, ribbons, boxes, tags and inserts. That means that for every ton of material bought by Lush, 900 kg comes from recycled sources.

Its pots and bottles are made with 100% postconsumer recycled (PCR) plastic, saving about 65 tons of CO2 and 90 tons of virgin plastic, or 800 barrels of oil, each year.

Lush’s shopping bags are made with 100% postconsumer recycled paper, saving 100 tons of CO2 each year. It uses biodegradable plastic bags and eco-friendly packing tape to protect products for shipment. The packing tape is fully recyclable, tamperproof, tamper-evident and is stronger per square inch than polypropylene. Its gifts are wrapped with recycled paper and protected using shredded wood or recycled shredded paper, both of which are 100% biodegradable.

U.S.-based Pangea Organics, sold in more than five countries including China, utilizes brown apothecary style bottles and molded fiber packaging that loosely resembles an egg crate and is manufactured using 100% postconsumer newsprint without the use of glues or dyes. The packaging contains either embedded amaranth or Genovese sweet basil seeds, is manufactured with zero waste and is 100% compostable, biodegradable and plantable. And the company’s #2 HDPE brown plastic bottles are screen-printed rather than labeled.

Serving the Evolving Consumer

Looking at category implications, how should cosmetic/skin care companies design for evolving consumers? Based on insights from its caseload, LPK forecasts that this shift in consumer values will become deeply embedded in the psyches of those who endure these changing times. The effect will evolve differently for each generation, and these deeply rooted emotions will create a distinct difference between “then” and “now.” Consumption must become completely reframed and more humanized in order to assure quality, value, worth and meaning. Microcommunities will create an “economy of reputation” and be the ultimate judge of a brand’s worthiness and worthwhileness.

By optimizing global sustainability initiatives, companies can drive new revenue and avoid contemptuous derision by stockholders, retailers and consumers by exhibiting energy efficient protocols in product ingredients, packaging, promotional in-store vehicles and production. Companies that understand that keeping the value proposition transparent, authentic, trustworthy and genuinely honest—while simultaneously addressing the environmental challenges head-on with an impeccable sense of timing—will be seen as the true innovators. Companies that create brands from the inside out and set up communication platforms that translate this into a robust brand expression will increase their reputation in the industry. In turn, those companies will provide a dose of inspiration for those who are struggling to evolve in the quest to preserve the planet.

Liz Grubow is vice president and group creative director of the LPK Beauty Group. In her 20-plus year career, Grubow has helped develop and manage brand identity programs for some of the world’s most successful beauty brands—including Pantene, Olay, MAX Factor International and Cover Girl.

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