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Thursday, April 11, 2013

THE GREEN REVOLUTION OVERTAKES COSMETICS


Sustainability and greenness  take many forms.  I have a colleague who helped developed a best-selling sun block for Shiseido that I was told is based on marine algae.  These natural products are purported to improve your skin condition and could well be more comfortable.  I've used Anessa, and it feels like I'm not wearing sunblock.  Today, I again feature guest blogger Claire Wilkinson:


When it comes to cosmetics and personal care products, considerations of sustainability in everything from sourcing ingredients right through to packaging and disposal, are on the minds of the CEOs of the world’s most important cosmetic companies. The demand for natural and organic products has significantly increased over the past decade; research from consulting firm Kline & Company indicates that the demand is rising at an annual growth rate of approximately 13.9 per cent, and natural personal care products are predicted to achieve a growth of over $6 billion in 2015. Asia is currently the largest market for sustainable cosmetics, followed by Brazil, Europe, and the US.

Despite the promising statistics, the amount of synthetic and toxic ingredients in Pharmaceutical and Personal Care Products (PPCPs) continues to worry organisations like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US, which claims that that over three million tons of chemicals (including formaldehyde, phthalates and dioxin) are released into the environment on a yearly basis. Many of these toxins find their way into our bodies through contaminated fish; even nitro musks (shown to cause cancer in laboratory rodents) have appeared mother’s milk. Worst of all, we are far from comprehending the exact extent to which the thousands of chemicals dumped into the environment, are affecting our health.

From May 16 to 18 this year, the City of New York will be hosting one of the most important conferences in the green PPCP sector: the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit. The yearly event, which also takes place annually in Brazil, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, brings together cosmetic giants, upcoming green companies, retailers, industry and certification organisations, researchers, academics and investors. Some of the most important issues which will be covered at this year’s event include:

* Sustainability Initiatives: The cosmetics industry needs to improve measurement techniques for its environmental impact and increase adoption rates of sustainable packaging. Companies like Natura Brasil reveal how measuring and reducing its carbon footprint have enabled it to become carbon neutral. Moreover, carbon emissions should be offset through investment in relevant projects such as reforestation.  Given the ban on animal-tested cosmetic products in Europe, the summit will also discuss alternative testing methods, which will be directly relevant to the myriad of countries expected to follow suit when it comes to prohibiting testing on animals.

* New Green Ingredients: These include new plant and marine raw ingredients, marine algae and products created using plant stem cells. Researchers have found that stem cells obtained from Uttwiler Sp├Ątlauber apples in Switzerland can stimulate human stem cell proliferation by 80 per cent and (when used alongside liposomes obtained from lecithin), their extract can decrease wrinkle depth by 15 per cent in four weeks. Stem cell technology boasts a host of advantages for when it comes to sustainability: it eliminates the need for deforestation and genetic modification, involves a minimal use of water, and does not require the use of pesticides, herbicides, or heavy metals.  The Summit will also feature an interactive workshop focusing on the technical difficulties involved in using green ingredients. Practical advice will be given on how to use new alternative like natural preservatives, emulsifiers, emolients, etc.

* Consumer Behavior: The highest environmental impact of cosmetic products is cause by a conjunction of: the sourcing of raw materials, the way products are used and finally, the way they are disposed of. In the same way that improperly disposing of medication leads to a dangerous build-up of toxic waste – which finds its way to our water supply and is a serious threat to wildlife and agriculture – a lack of consumer awareness about how to use and eliminate cosmetic products causes immense environmental damage. PPCP companies should encourage customers to return unused beauty products to their pharmacist rather than flush them down the toilet or otherwise introduce them into the water supply. Moreover, consumers need to be educated on the effects of different ingredients, so they avoid purchasing products containing toxic solvents, petroleum or hydrocarbons. Purchasers should also opt for products with biodegradable packaging and, as a whole, they should aim to use cosmetic and personal care products more sparingly.

*Marketing Developments: Many buyers are unaware of what a truly natural product is, or of the importance of supporting natural, organic PPCP firms. In areas like Eastern Europe, there is a markedly lower level of interest in sustainable cosmetics. Successful marketing strategies should comprise a number of clearly defined requisites, including transparency, respect for FDA standards and clear product labeling, and should target countries which have a long way to go in terms of environmental awareness.  
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