Can Corporate Sustainability & Economic Growth Coexist?
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Submitted by: Organic Monitor
Posted: Oct 05, 2012 – 12:00 PM EST
LONDON, Oct. 05 /CSRwire/ - The premier Latin American edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit (www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com/Lamerica) came to a successful close last week, bringing together over 160 executives from the cosmetics & related industries. The summit highlighted key areas for sustainable development in the regional cosmetics industry: translate high awareness of green issues into demand for sustainable products, address social impacts, and overcome legal obstacles.
Taking place in São Paulo from 24-26th September, the summit comprised a 2-day conference preceded by two interactive workshops. The opening session (sustainability initiatives) had papers from leading cosmetic companies in the region. Natura Brasil stated the difficulties of combining social and environmental aspects into its sustainable sourcing programs. It has achieved considerable success however; Ekos, its second biggest cosmetics line, directly benefits 1,714 Amazonian families involved in the collection of raw materials. Grupo Boticário is focusing on nature conservation via its Fundação Grupo Boticário. Set up in 1990, the foundation has sponsored 1,306 nature reserve projects, leading to the discovery of 43 new plant and animal species. A key point raised in the panel discussion was the preoccupation of cosmetic companies with environmental aspects of sustainability. One panellist stated a major reason was ‘the special skills required to address social aspects…unlike technical skills, these cannot be taught at university!’
A major highlight of the second session (biodiversity and ethical sourcing) was the detailed account of the Brazilian biodiversity legislation. A lawyer explained how the legislation was introduced to protect genetic assets of the country, but was now stifling innovation. The existing legal framework penalises Brazilian companies not obtaining approval when developing novel ingredients, however it has not yet been enforced to foreign companies. Varying interpretations of the biodiversity legislation has created uncertainty, with companies like L’Oreal taking a cautious approach when sourcing raw materials from the country.
The organic regulation is another contentious issue in the cosmetics industry. Brazilian legislation prevents cosmetic companies to make ‘organic claims’ on their products unless they meet national standards; however the country has yet to introduce a standard for organic cosmetics. International organic cosmetic brands are therefore forced to market their products as ‘natural’ in the Brazilian market.
Findings from the Union for Ethical Biodiversity Barometer revealed that Brazilian consumers are the most aware of biodiversity in the world. Its 2012 survey showed that 97% are aware of biodiversity and 38% can give a proper definition. In session 3 (marketing best-practices), many participants asked why this high awareness is not translating into sales of natural, organic and fair trade products. Considering Brazil has a burgeoning middle-class, high awareness of green issues, yet the market for eco-labelled cosmetic products remains insignificant. A paper by Market Analysis suggested marketing is the solution, since few companies are successfully communicating sustainable values to consumers.
The complexity of measuring environmental footprints of cosmetic products was demonstrated in the final session (sustainable ingredients). The American company Amyris is using cane sugar as sustainable feedstock to produce cosmetic ingredients. The ingredients have lower carbon footprints then synthetic counterparts; however the move to agricultural feedstock raises other questions related to competing land area to food crops, possible use of genetically modified organisms, water footprints, and soil fertility.
Using candeia as a case study, Citroleo and Atina Naturals stated the importance of sustainable cultivation and forestry management in raw material sourcing. Atina Naturals explained how greenwashing was not just common to finished cosmetic products. The growing number of ingredients marketed as natural or ‘Ecocert-approved’ was creating confusion with ‘certified organic’ materials. In a lively panel discussion, key speakers reiterated how innovation remains a key driver of sustainable ingredients in the cosmetics industry.
Discussions about sustainable development in the cosmetics industry will continue in the upcoming Asia-Pacific (Hong Kong, 12-13th November) and European (Paris, 21-23rd November) editions of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.
About the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit
The aim of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit is to encourage sustainability in the beauty industry by bringing together key stake-holders and debate major sustainability issues in a high-level forum. The Latin American edition (São Paulo, 24-26th September 2012) was the 8th edition in the international series of summits; the summit materials are available for a small professional fee. More information is available from www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com/Lamerica
The summit in pictures
Asia-Pacific edition: 12-13th November 2012, Hong Kong
European edition: 21-23rd November 2012, Paris
About Organic Monitor
Organic Monitor is a London-based specialist research, consulting & training company that focuses on the global organic & related product industries. Since 2001, we have been providing a range of business services to operators in high-growth ethical & sustainable industries. Our services include market research publications, business & technical consulting, seminars & workshops, and sustainability summits. Visit us at www.organicmonitor.com
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