Cosmetics brands clue in on the added value of green packaging

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Green packaging Packaging Packaging and labeling Sustainable packaging

Changing to green packaging can add to brand value and also reduce manufacturing costs, but setting about doing this presents a unique set of challenges, as an Organic Monitor researcher explains.

Cosmetics companies have been increasingly shifting towards the use of green packaging in recent years, but choosing which materials are best, finding a suitable design and conveying the message that the packaging is better for the environment can be a significant challenge.

“Historically there has been a lot of focus on light weighting packaging,”​ explained Fanny Fagot-Coste, research consultant at Organic Monitor.

“The first R of the 3Rs aptly stands for Reduce. For instance, Garnier reduced the weight of its Fructis shampoo bottle from 24g in 1996 to 18.5g in 2007. This 5.5g reduction per bottle resulted in the equivalent of 300 tons of CO2 not released in the atmosphere per year,”​ Fagot-Coste added.

Many brands have also turned to Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) content, including Lush, Keihl’s, The Body Shop, Neal’s Yard and Lancome’s Aroma Blue brand are incorporating PCR pet into the packaging design by using recycled PET, for example.

Sustainable and natural materials

In particular, the make-up category has tapped into this trend in a big way by using sustainable and natural materials, an idea conveyed by the brand Cargo, which has marketed compacts made out of paperboard and bamboo compacts.

Other make-up brands to tap into this trend have included Smashbox, Urban Decay and Physicians Formula, Fagot-Coste points out.

In the luxury segment, the approach has been a little different. Often it is harder to get a very high quality finish with recyclable and greener materials, so to overcome this problem, many luxury cosmetics companies have chosen to emphasise the fact that their packaging can be re-used for other purposes.

This trend underlines secondary packaging that can be re-used as trinket boxes, for example, or fragrance bottles that can be used as ornaments or even re-filled – a trend Fagot-Coste says is being promoted by brands such as Thierry Mugler, Givenchy Ange ou Demon and Flower by Kenzo.

Conveying the fact that the packaging is greener

But finding the right green material and incorporating it into a product design in an appropriate and still appealing manner is one challenge, conveying the idea that the product is more eco-friendly as a result is another.

Fagot-Coste points out that many companies are using websites, in-store promotions or packaging labels to convey the idea that their products have greener packaging to consumers.

Examples of this have included a label on Garnier’s Fructis hair care range to explain about the more environmentally friendly credentials of its packaging and an in-store promotion by Lush called ‘Get Naked’ to highlight reduced packaging.

Likewise, logos and certification programmes are playing an increasing role, as Fagot-Coste explained: “BDIH, Ecocert and Cradle-to-Cradle are centred on the total sustainability of products and certified cosmetics therefore boast environmentally-friendly packaging, that consumers are usually unaware of.”

Certification and logos underline the message

She also pointed out the fact that FSC certification is common emblem that is being increasingly recognised by consumers, while The Green Dot scheme is also growing in popularity on the back of its contribution to the recovery and recycling of its packaging.

However, the abundance of schemes and the different logos have led to some degree of consumer confusion and, in turn, a degree of apathy, which can undermine the ambitions of companies in the green packaging arena.

“An online discussion started by Mintel on Toluna [consumer polls] revealed that people quite often check packaging suitability for recycling after they have bought the product,”​ said Fagot-Coste. “So conveying a green message is most likely to affect repeat purchase after initial buys,”

Get the green message over, regardless of the hurdles

All of this means that, despite all the potential pitfalls, it is still of vital importance to convey the fact that the brand is going the green packaging route.

“If not told, consumers hardly ever notice that a package has been light weighted, is printed with vegetable inks, is made of PCR material or is compostible.

“Green packaging is a step in the right direction that must be taken by beauty companies and failing to do so would be detrimental to brands in the long run.”

How To Make Green Packaging The Selling Point - conference

Amarjit Sahota, director and founder of Organic Monitor, will be giving a presentation about communicating the idea of green packaging at next week’s Luxe Pack exhibition in Monaco.

The presentation is part of a symposium organised by called How To Make Green Packaging The Selling Point, which will also include presentations from Knoll Packaging and sustainability consultants Clownfish, and will take place at 3.15pm - 4pm on October 22.

Likewise, Organic Monitor is also participating in another presentation at the Luxe Pack event. The Natural Cosmetics and Sustainable Packaging: A Match Made in Heaven conference segment will take place on Friday October, 22nd 11am - noon and will also feature speakers from L'Occitane and Alcan Packaging.

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