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Green Chemistry and its place in Cosmetic Science

February 5, 2009

If you are one of the 10% of the population that class themselves as “Green” you should read on!

One of my passions in life is green chemistry. With that I don’t mean that everything has to be “natural” “organic” or “chemical free”. I mean that the chemistry that we use for our “want” based purchases should be as environmentally responsible as possible given that we are talking about “luxury chemistry” for the most part. I have spent a good part of the last ten years calling on customers in both Europe and Australia and waxing lyrical about the virtues of the “Cold process”, “Concentrated” and “multi-functional”. Why do this? Well, I truly believe that this is one area where you can truly get a win/win situation. Better products, decreased production costs, increased market share, point of difference and cleaner environment. So, is anyone for Green Science?

Today in Australia around 10% of the population classifying themselves as “green consumers”. These are the group that you will find browsing the “Green Pages”, choosing organic food and cycling to work. 10% may not be majority territory but this one scalable niche market seeing year on year double digit growth. The green customer can be classified as a conscious consumer, a consumer weighing up the environmental and social consequences of each purchase. A consumer that does question the packaging used the miles the product has travelled and the working conditions in the manufacturer’s factory.

So, what does this mean for the cosmetic industry? Well, if we look at what has happened across Europe with food we see that “food miles” are commonly advertised on the products label. The more cynical among us may see this as a way of protecting and promoting local manufacturing at the expense of imports. However, others would see the logic in not transporting goods 1000’s of KM around the globe when you have perfectly good produce 50km away! OK, so this must be an initiative by those people who are “anti-globalisation?” Again, I think not. With careful thought, brand management and transportation strategies it should be possible for imports to compete with locally produced goods – something that Australia will have to address early on given its geographical location and trade balance.

Consumer side we may start to see “cosmetic miles” and “cosmetic carbon footprint” information joining the more well known (and loved) standards of “organic”, “fair trade” and “Natural”. Some of the current standards for “natural” already cover aspects of environmental impact. In future the emphasis on the environmental and social footprints of a product may take priority. Other standards such as the “fair Wild” standard launched at In Cosmetics to protect wild harvest ingredients may also start to play a larger role. More standards, more confusion? Consumer apathy? Communication and co-operation will be required to ensure that the consumer understands the information that they have requested.

For those of us who are at the manufacturing end of the equation there is no need to wait for the consumers desires to trickle back up stream, your journey to “green” chemistry can start right away! Firstly (and to please the accountants) reviewing your business’s carbon footprint is a good place to start. Becoming aware of how and where energy is used and then working to reduce it will make any accountant smile (and have a positive impact on the bottom line). Once the little steps have been taken and some positive returns felt it is then easier to motivate staff (and customers) into changing some of the tricky stuff – formulations, packaging, production methods etc.

The journey to “Green Chemistry” is a long and evolving one that I am enjoying being a part of. If you would like help in “greening” your business give me a call using your solar powered recycled mobile of course!

Amanda @ Realize Beauty . com

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