Sustainable manufacturing is most important to consumers, Grail Research

By Katie Nichol

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Biodiversity

Consumers of ‘green’ health and beauty products cite sustainable manufacturing processes as being the most important green characteristic of a company, according to a recent report from Grail Research.

The Green Revolution – A Deep-Dive on Green Health and Beauty Product Consumers revealed that this was considered the most important attribute by 83 percent of respondents.

“I think that consumers view manufacturing processes as the most important because they have the highest impact on the environment of all the aspects of the value chain,” ​Silvia Springolo, Grail Research client services manager told USA.

Companies should communicate sustainability

According to Springolo, for companies that are able to do so, implementing sustainable manufacturing processes can be a way to get ahead of the competition.

“It is a competitive advantage over the companies that cannot do this, either because they don’t have the capabilities or because is too expensive to change their old, legacy processes, at – for example – large, established organizations,” ​she explained.

However, although Springolo believes that companies with truly environmentally friendly manufacturing processes should communicate this to consumers, not all companies do so.

“Achieving 100 percent sustainable manufacturing is extremely hard, so companies might not feel comfortable promoting their green processes knowing that some other steps of their manufacturing process are detrimental to the environment,” ​she said.

Springolo also noted that due to the fear of being accused of greenwashing, many companies are cautious about what they communicate to consumers when it comes it sustainability.

“Many companies are adopting a very conservative approach, sometimes preferring not to say anything about their green initiatives rather than promoting them to the public." she said.

Certification is "definitely a step in the right direction"​ when it comes to tackling the greenwashing problem, Springolo says, adding that consumers need more education on the practices that are truly sustainable.

Lack of consumer awareness over green initiatives

When survey participants were asked to associate companies with green activities from a given list, consumer giants Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble fared amongst the best, with both being noted for their involvement in social responsibility projects and their transparency about product risks and safety.

However, the majority of respondents could not recollect the green initiatives of companies such as Estée Lauder and Unilever.

This points to a lack of consumer awareness rather than lack of green action, as many companies are investing heavily to improve their processes and products, according to Springolo.

Unilever in particular has been active on the sustainability front, particularly in the palm oil debate, dropping supplier PT Smart. CEO Paul Polman recently announced plans to double the size of the business while reducing its ecological footprint.

Sustainability trend here to stay

According to Springolo, the move towards sustainability is not a passing fad.

“I am not sure how far we would be able to go, (would we ever be able to produce the majority of the products we consume with zero or positive impact on the environment?) but there is no going back to where we were,” ​she said.

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