A Deeper Shade of Green

  • Determining the greenness of products requires consideration of the environmental impact products have throughout their entire life cycle, not just by determining whether the ingredients are considered natural or organic.
  • More and more, consumers are looking for products made from local resources to minimize environmental impact.

Gone are the days when the label of “natural” was enough to differentiate a beauty product and lure shoppers. Customers have grown leery of products that claim to be earth-friendly without much explanation or information to back up the claim. In fact, Just Green It!, a guidebook designed to instruct consumers how to dodge specific products making such claims (including beauty products), was recently featured on the Today show and is lauded by celebrities across the U.S.

As a result of publications and media attention such as this, the specifics of a brand’s commitment to sustainable sourcing throughout its entire life cycle—from ingredients to production to packaging—are coming into play more than ever when it comes to seeing results in the marketplace. “[We] will see beauty companies placing increased importance on the environment, focusing on sustainable sourcing with attention to maintaining biodiversity,” says Nica Lewis, head consultant for the beauty division of data researcher Mintel. “A renewed emphasis on repackaging to minimize waste will also be a factor,” she adds.

Starting at the Top

“At the Estée Lauder Companies, we are beginning to determine the greenness of our products by considering the environmental impact products have throughout their entire life cycle, not just by determining whether the ingredients are considered natural or organic,” explains Chia Chen, executive director of bioactives, R&D, The Estée Lauder Companies (Chia Chen is among the presenters featured at Natural Beauty Summit America 2011, October 6–7, New York.). And any company, whether it’s a brand or a supplier, will achieve greater success in greening their business when the commitment to do so is an established corporate initiative. The Estée Lauder Companies launched its Green Chemistry program, which it uses as a tool for evaluating its processes—and suppliers. “Green chemistry changes the way that we, as scientists, can achieve a final result,” says Chen. “The process of creating a product is more sustainable, whether or not the product itself is considered natural or organic.”

Many suppliers are following suit. “Anomatic recently established the Sustainability Operations Group, a cross-functional team responsible for implementing our company-wide sustainability plan,” says Mark Ormiston, director of environmental sustainability, Anomatic Corp, an anodized aluminum packaging supplier in Newark, Ohio. “The group—with backgrounds in chemistry, geochemistry, chemical engineering, environmental engineering and environmental sciences—is committed to promote innovation and green manufacturing through conservation, optimization, reduction and recycling efforts.”

According to Stewart Warburton, global marketing director of the home and personal care division for Rhodia Novecare, headquartered in Cranbury, New Jersey, “Rhodia has a sustainability policy called the Rhodia Way, which requires Rhodia manufacturing sites and business units to conduct self-assessments of their practices and establish plans to promote continuous progress.” As a result of the initiative, Rhodia has been recognized as one of only nine chemical companies worldwide to be listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, listing the most efficient companies in the area of social and environmental responsibility.

GAR Labs, a private label cosmetic manufacturer in Riverside, California, has also been cleaning up the act by cutting its factory water use in half by incorporating a 4 Stage Deionization system that removes 99.9% of all the impurities and minerals from GAR’s water supply for water used in manufacturing, as well as cleaning the equipment and machinery used in the production process. Additionally, GAR Labs has completed the installation a 100,000 watts of solar energy, covering 11,000 square feet and preventing 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. “Today GAR’s customers want to be assured that the materials used in the products they sell are safe and that their products are produced in an environmentally responsible way,” states Tom Raffy, owner and founder of GAR Labs. “My commitment to minimizing GAR’s energy footprint which will help keep our customers competitive in today’s global economy.”

Measurable Results

Once these initiatives are in place, it’s time for suppliers to deliver results that will attract brands and ultimately, consumers.

Improving the production process of their offerings, whether they’re related to a beauty product’s ingredients or packaging, is a great place to start. “Specifically, we can point to the fact that since the 1990s, our sustainability practices have led us to eliminate more than 31 million tons of greenhouse gases and reduce the impact of organic waste in the water by 46%,” says Warburton. “One of the key achievements to date has been the installation of an environmentally friendly vapor degreaser utilizing a next-generation solvent, which has enabled Anomatic to greatly reduce the company’s overall fossil fuel dependence,” says Ormiston. “This latest innovation is capable of recovering more than 90% of the petrochemical lubricant used in the preceding process of metal fabrication for direct reuse by advanced filtration technologies.”

Going Local

Savvy consumers know that an organic claim doesn’t always mean eco-friendly; for example, a face cream may contain organic acai berries but its carbon footprint, when accounting for the energy used to transport it to the supplier alone, can be way off the charts. More and more, consumers are looking for products made from local resources to minimize environmental impact. Monadnock Paper Mills, based in Bennington, New Hampshire, has a long history of using sustainable and local sourcing for its production processes. “More than 40% of our electricity is hydroelectric, produced right by our plant,” says Dave Lunati, Monadnock’s director of marketing, of the facility owned by the mill since 1904. Additionally, all of Monadnock’s graphic arts printing and packaging papers are made using 100% renewable electrical energy and are manufactured carbon neutral.

The Nature’s Gate brand, based in California, has had a long-standing partnership with the Bayliss Ranch in Biggs, California. “Practicing organic farming for more than 150 years, Bayliss uses natural resources that exist on the farm and does not use synthetic or inorganic chemicals,” says Jennifer Schweitzer, brand manager, Nature’s Gate. “Today, with 11 of its 1,600 acres dedicated to growing Nature’s Gate botanicals, the farm is run by Donna Bayliss, a fifth generation family member. Water used on the farm is derived from rain and runoff of the Sierra Nevada snow pack. This clean water seeps down into the ground and fills the Bayliss water supply well. And, the farm’s 12 full-time employees are local to the community and live within an average of 11 miles from the farm.”

Consumers continue to seek sustainably sourced beauty products, and they’ll continue to expect more and more out of the companies that make them. “Green can definitely be a differentiator—especially when you take into consideration the full scope of green and use green as an opportunity for innovation,” concludes Chen.

Lisa Doyle was formerly the associate editor of GCI magazine and is a freelance writer in the Chicago area. Her work has appeared in Skin Inc. magazine, Salon Today, America’s Best, Renew and Modern Salon.

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