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Corporate Social Responsibility prompts formulators to clean up

By Simon Pitman , 29-Jan-2010
Last updated on 29-Jan-2010 at 13:30 GMT

With sustainability and corporate social responsibility being the industry buzz words of the moment, it is no surprise that big changes are filtering down to product formulation.

“The beauty industry has historically received much criticism for unethical and non-environmentally-friendly business practices,” said Fanny Fagot Coste, a market research analyst with Organic Monitor.

“However, pressed by consumers who want greener products or retailers such as Wal-Mart with its Sustainability Index, cosmetics manufacturers and ingredients companies are making much progress in becoming good corporate citizens.”

Greener formulations, reduced eco footprint

Key to the formulators’ efforts has been the aim of developing greener formulations that have a reduced ecological footprint, both in the sourcing of the ingredients and their actual manufacturing.

In light of this, several companies are taking a holistic approach to formulation production by undertaking initiatives such as reducing greenhouse emissions, waste, water consumption and energy used during production.

Likewise, the sourcing of ingredients is also focusing on the sustainable farming of natural ingredients for formulas, while also incorporating ethical practices in every aspect of the supply chain and employing philanthropic initiatives such as donating to eco charities.

Big players focus in on CSR to improve image

Indeed, such initiatives, once the undertaking of niche organic and natural cosmetic players, have now filtered down to some of the biggest mass market companies as a means of improving their public image.

Underlining this, Avon, P&G, Estee Lauder and Colgate Palmolive all made the top 40 of the Newsweek 2009 Green Rankings, Fagot Coste points out.

She also stresses the way the market for natural, organic and fairtrade ingredients has exploded, underlined by the extended offerings in these categories by ingredients companies in recent years.

Ingredients companies make greening up easier

In response to this development many ingredients companies have published comprehensive guides and formulation tools that help to orientate formulators through the green maze.

One such innovation is the Green Chemicals Solutions, which Fagot Coste describes as being “a unique system that shows at a glance what proportion of natural, renewable raw materials is found in any care chemicals product, and how green a whole formulation can be”.

However, despite the positive aspects of corporate social responsibility, there are some traps that formulators would be wise to avoid if they do not want to have mud in their face after blowing on the ethical and green trumpet.

In particular, Fagot Coste points to the fact that because of the increasing number of natural ingredients that also come from food crops, environmentally conscious companies should be careful to avoid being blamed for inflating food prices.

Fanny Fagot Coste is scheduled to give a presentation about sustanability and CSR at the forthcoming in-cosmetics conference programme, to be held in Paris, 13-15 April .

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