‘No room for greenwashing’: The reality of sustainability for the personal care industry

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Sustainability and palm oil: no room for green washing

Related tags Personal care Biodiversity

With sustainability very much an industry focus and in the public eye, we caught up with Chris Sayner from specialty chemicals company Croda to get his take on the current state of sustainability in the personal care industry.

According to Sayner, sustainability - the practice of development and manufacture meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own -  has advanced enormously in the past two decades, going from a somewhat niche area of effort by some companies, to an essential demand for the industry.

For ingredients suppliers, a strong sustainable profile now sits as one of the core demands that customers expect, alongside such long-time essential considerations as cost, service and quality. Sayner asserts that it is now a key metric by which companies are judged.

He notes that we are now past the point where companies can present surface-level green credentials: “There’s no room for green-washing any more​.”

Referring to such industry bodies as the CDP, EcoVadis and Sedex as key registers and external references offering legitimacy and transparency to companies looking to step forward in this area.

“People just won’t accept your word for it: independent verification is now necessary to give true transparency.”

Palm oil: a central focus

A key point of focus for sustainability within the beauty and personal care industry is palm oil production and supply.

Consumer awareness of the environmental issues surrounding palm production, particularly deforestation and loss of biodiversity is creating more pressure than ever for consumer companies to support sustainable palm,​” explains Sayner.

“This is most pronounced in home, food and personal care largely because of the very wide use of palm derivatives in these consumer goods; around 70% of the world’s cosmetics contain palm derived raw materials together with most household detergent products.”

Increasing awareness, rising pressure

Increasing NGO activity and rising consumer awareness is putting ever more pressure on the industry to source sustainable palm oil and derivatives for their brands.

“Membership and active participation within the RSPO is important​,” explains Sayner of how brands and companies can respond to this demand.

“All major Personal Care Consumer Companies are members of RSPO and, in the 2-3 years up to 2014, many have lent support to sustainable palm via Book & Claim.

“While they continue to do so, the big change in 2014 and 2015 has been the significant shift in adopting the physical supply chain via CSPO (Certified Sustainable Palm Oil) Mass Balance ingredients. In many cases companies have set volume targets for CSPO Mass Balance ingredient consumption. This is a huge step forward in effecting change.”

The industry expert notes, however, that there is a broad spectrum of momentum and enthusiasm from companies in response to this, from “proactive understanding of the issue to ambivalence”.

He suspects that those companies committed to support CSPO with Mass Balance within the target period up to 2017 indicate a driving ambition to affect change, while “quoting targets beyond these dates seems to suggest ‘let’s wait and see and have others take care of developing the supply chain’.”

Croda is committed to reducing its contribution to deforestation and any resultant impacts on climate change and biodiversity, he notes. The company’s target in line with our policy is to enable traceability of all palm derived raw materials by 2017.

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