Features

Ecology in Motion

By Melissa Meisel , Associate Editor | June 2, 2014

The North American edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit returns to New York City.

Sustainable is defined by Merriam Webster as an adjective that is “able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed; involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources and able to last or continue for a long time.” For suppliers, marketers and consumers, it’s a way of life—a personal ethic and a feeling of inspiration that impacts life on a daily basis. Such was the sentiment at the North American edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit (www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com), which took place in New York City last month. The annual three-day summit brings together CEOs, founders and senior executives from across the beauty industry to  discuss sustainability issues.

Amarjit Sahota, president, Organic Monitor, confirmed green materials were a leading theme at this year’s conference. He said in his presentation, “Innovation is the key element of the industry, for example, what is seen with green actives…marketing also brings about lots of issues, as seen with information available on handheld devices and the influence of social media.”

Sustainability is the heart and soul of Seventh Generation, noted Joey Bergstein, chief marketing officer of the company, in his presentation, “Meeting the Sustainability Challenge.”

“Consumers are passionate about us and it says something about who they are and what they stand for. Being ‘radically transparent’ by full disclosure on what’s in the products is a driving force for Seventh Generation,” he explained.

The household and personal care company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, was the first to sell products with recycled paper, explained Bergstein. Today, Seventh Generation has expanded into various categories including home care. Future goals include more “nurturing nature” by decreasing its carbon footprint and “zero waste” by 2020.

“It’s really easy to make a green product that doesn’t work or a really expensive green product that does work—success is the balance: making effective products at the right price,” said Bergstein.

Another “big name” presenter at the summit was Dave Rapaport, vice president of earth and community care at Aveda, who told the audience, “Sustainability has to be embedded in all that we do as a core purpose. Aveda has integrated this thinking across the business.”

According to Rapaport, it all starts with formulation and product development. For example, Aveda sources salicylic acid from wintergreen, taps into Ayurvedic principles that incorporate “5,000 years of wisdom” and uses holiday gift paper from forests in rural Nepal for its gift sets. Sustainability also can be utilized in manufacturing and distribution by offsetting the carbon footprint on aerosol sprays to certifying acreage at company headquarters by the National Wildlife Federation.

Rapaport added that Aveda also engages its customers via its retail network and salons by guest participation, as seen in Earth Month every April.

Regulations—always a hot topic at industry events—also made the agenda via Dominic Watkins, partner, litigation and regulatory, DWF, LLP, which has numerous locations in the UK.

Safety stems from the ingredients themselves to accurate labels, he explained. Issues from the food industry also will be permeating the personal care sector in the future, Watkins added.

Marketing methods also came into play at the summit. Charlene Swanson Crawford, president and founder of natural online shopping source Eco Diva Beauty, shared her experience in the industry.

“The power of consumerism is like having a vote every day of your life in an election,” she said, adding that independents can expand their brand by providing “amazing” service and building trust by word-of-mouth marketing.

The highlight of the second day of the summit was the CEO Roundtable, which featured Kurt Nubling, CEO and co-founder of Primavera; Jasper Van Brakel, CEO, Weleda North America; Wendy Cockayne Lucas, general manager, Desert Essence; Brook Harvey-Taylor, president and founder, Pacifica; and Nicole T. Rechelbacher, owner, Intelligent Nutrients. The topic of maintaining green formulations dominated their discussion.

The first question, posed by moderator Sahota of Organic Monitor, was, “How important are green formulations to your brand and what are you doing in this arena?” The answers were both varied and illuminating, proving that marketers are striving to keep up with the trends in the naturals sector.

“We work with Third Party Certification and are all about being transparent,” noted Rechelbacher of Intelligent Nutrients. “It’s very important to work closely with your supplier.”

Harvey-Taylor of Pacifica said it is a challenge to make products both effective and sustainable, as the mass-market consumer is starting to care more and more about ingredients. For example, her product line sold at stores like Target and Drugstore.com is 100% vegan and cruelty free. The company’s latest creation is a “7 free” nail polish formulated without parabens, phthalates (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, xylene, camphor, formaldehyde, resin and animals.

All in all, marketers are “refining green to the consumer,” said Van Brakel of Weleda.  “If we weren’t green, we wouldn’t be sitting here.”

From sourcing natural cosmetic components in small villages in Nepal to finding more alternatives to animal testing, it is clear that the household and personal care industry is determined to make the world a better place, one product at a time. 
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