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Environmentally responsible packaging: a behind the scenes shift in the beauty world: while some brands and suppliers focus on components made of eco-friendly materials, there is also a growing emphasis on clean production methods and efficient manufacturing processes.

Consumers across the board continue to make a push for environmentally responsible products and packaging, but in the beauty world, accomplishing these goals can be difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons.

One barrier is that the beauty sector differs from categories, such as food or drink, where major strides have been made, especially with flexible packaging. When it comes to fragrances and cosmetics, the look, feel and function of the packaging often plays a key role in selling the product--and in consumers' enjoyment of it. When it comes to premium skincare, advanced formulations can require increased protection and therefore, in many cases, additional componentry. For the most part, environmentally friendly materials and wide-ranging prestige appeal don't necessarily jive.

Compounding the dilemma is the difficulty that remains in recycling cosmetics and fragrance packaging. While many components are labeled as recyclable, in reality, local plants aren't always equipped to process them, and in fact, small things often, literally, fall through the cracks.

In addition, beauty product containers are often highly decorated. Nina Goodrich, executive director, GreenBlue, a nonprofit that provides businesses with resources to make products more sustainable--and which incorporates the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC)--says this can cause problems in recycling. "It can be tempting to say something is recyclable because the primary material is recyclable, but the decoration can sometimes make the material act like a contaminant?' She says, "It is important for brand owners to understand the impact of highly decorated and multi material packaging on recycling." That's why she says, it's important to stay away from "greenwashing."

For years, beauty brands and suppliers have found additional ways to address issues of environmental responsibility when it comes to packaging. For one, sustainability has become a way of life in corporate structures, as it has proven over time to be a cost cutting and efficiency model, which positively affects the bottom line through avenues such as streamlining materials and processes and tightening the supply chain.

But is it enough? Goodrich says more must be done.

"I think that the areas where cost savings and sustainability align have been exploited by many brands," says Goodrich. "That was the easy part, now it's time to do the real work. Sustainability can be a driver for innovation and an opportunity for companies that embrace sustainability throughout their organization. It's hard work to develop a corporate sustainability strategy and a good business case that might include re-thinking the current business model. Lots of companies say they are interested in sustainability, but very few have made the effort to develop viable business cases."

Still, progress has been made. Despite the myriad challenges, many suppliers have achieved ways to follow a sustainable business model, offer environmentally responsible packaging, and ensure an upscale look that satisfies brands and consumers.

Some suppliers have implemented somewhat of a laser focus on manufacturing techniques and clean production methods (which also save money and energy--and lessen their impact on the Earth), and use of readily available (and increasingly cost-effective) materials such as PET, FSC board, PCR and recyclable materials, as well as capitalizing on light weighting and reduction of parts. Still others continue to enhance local manufacturing facilities as a corporate ethic, at the same time helping clients to avoid expensive transportation costs and reduce waste.

In part, it's consumers--ever more knowledgeable ones--and niche brands with natural and sustainability edicts at their core (and consumers willing to absorb any added costs involved)--who are helping to drive suppliers to be more creative in what materials they choose and to be transparent in disclosing their manufacturing processes.

In the end though, when it comes to choosing environmentally responsible materials, pricing is often the deciding factor.

Opinions varied among industry experts we spoke with for this article, ranging from those who say they see an upswing in demand and production of eco-friendly components, to those, like Goodrich, who feel that more can be done.

A Global Perspective

To start with, is there indeed an increase in demand for environmentally responsible packaging? What progress is being made on a global level?

According to packaging industry experts Smithers Pira, headquartered in the UK, in the personal care industry, brand owners are increasingly adopting more sustainable packaging solutions in response to growing environmental awareness by consumers. They are responding to these demands by using more natural ingredients, as well as recycled and sustainable packaging materials.

Smithers Pira notes that the food and beverage industry was one of the first to respond to this consumer demand, which has now spread to the personal care market "where green packaging developments are now very much on the increase." With waste regulations becoming tighter worldwide and consumers' environmental consciousness growing all the time, the organization says the global personal care products industry has taken note of the "lean towards 'green,' " and has started to reduce packaging complexity accordingly.

With this in mind, Smithers Pira says there are three factors that generally make packaging environmentally friendly: recyclability, reduction of plastic and reduction of the type of materials used. According to the Group,"recycled and eco-friendly materials are beginning to play a role within the beauty industry as all cosmetic manufacturers are looking at packaging that is sustainable and has fewer environmental effects." Recycled PET is one popular sustainable material being used in the green packaging sector today. Smithers Pira says PET is a favorite choice for personal care product packaging due to its similarities with glass, and because it is a 100% recyclable material.

Packaging Suppliers Weigh In

Like BlueGreen's Goodrich, Jack Albanese, director of new business development at Lombardi Design & Manufacturing, says when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging, the beauty industry could be doing more.

Albanese says, "As important as this is, the beauty industry is not as committed to environmentally responsible packaging as it can be. There are niche brands that make the effort. But for the most part, some combination of specialized design features and pricing take priority."

Albanese tells Beauty Packaging that he likes to view environmentally responsible packaging in a larger scope. "For instance," says Albanese, "the true environmental cost is more than just the recyclability of a particular resin or material. Even with the best intentions, brands may find consumer access to local recycling lacking or not available for specific materials. The true environmental cost is the embodiment of all of the resources used in the making of a product. This includes everything from how and where packaging is made to the emissions produced in its transportation, to the amount of waste created and the disposal (or re-use) of the waste."

Richard Engel, executive vice president, Decotech, says the emphasis on environmentally responsible packaging has been somewhat misplaced. "The sustainability focus has traditionally been on the actual final package itself rather than the process of creating the package," says Engel. As an example, he points to the beverage industry "It's great that bottled water packaging is being made with thinner plastic to create less waste. But it takes hundreds of gallons of production water just to create that one bottle of drinking water. Simply focusing on the end product ignores the much more important environmental impact from the production process as far as environmental responsibility goes."

Engel says the sole focus on the finished package will start to change when people understand that only about 60% of the material they drop in a recycling bin actually gets recycled. "The real significant environmental impact," he says, "is found in the production processes that created the packaging. The smarter companies and consumer will focus on the production process more and more in the future."

In fact, recent product launches from Aveda and Origins include information on manu- SPF facturing and energy use right on the packaging. (For more on production processes and energy claims, please see the Mintel sidebar in this article.)

Carole Grassi, marketing director for dispensing systems, Albea, feels the industry takes a comprehensive approach. She says the beauty industry has been extremely proactive regarding environmental responsibility, in terms of supply chain, carbon footprint, reduction of material, reduction of gas use, water use, etc. She says major brands such as Unilever, L'Oreal, WalMart, Chanel--as well as bio and natural brands--consider this trend a corporate mandate.

According to Grassi, "It is a mind-set, a way of life." She says environmental responsibility can be applicable in many different ways: in terms of recycling, development of re-usable products, refillable or rechargeable products, reducing materials--or using bioplastics or developing delivery systems that use less water, such as with Albea's mechanical foamers.

At Diamond Packaging, Tom Dasilva, vice president of sales & marketing, says, "The industry as a whole is very conscious and aware of what's available to them as far as environmentally friendly materials and processes. In some form, either through a supplier that is very environmentally responsible or materials that are, efforts are made to build sustainability into their packaging and organizations whenever possible. Obviously, budget and timing constraints get the better part of certain options due to their higher cost and availability"

He says sustainability has become a standard expectation and it is provided via greater efficiencies and availability in the supply base. Most organizations working with major beauty industry corporations have fully embraced all major environmentally friendly processes, methodologies, and materials so they are able to meet and respond to customers' requirements and needs.

Special Challenges Faced

Undeniably, the industry faces a struggle due to the desire for an upscale look in materials and presentation.

"There is a clear demand, driving our beauty industry's sustainability agenda, but there are clearly several challenges still to overcome," says Aude Charbonneaux, Albea's sustainability manager. "At first sight, environmentally responsible packaging leads us to consider options such as weight reduction, recycled material, simple decoration. However, such options do not easily satisfy the market, even today."

Charbonneaux adds: "Our marketing team underlines: 'Packaging should be attractive.' That's a key challenge for our industry!"

Nevertheless, she says, "Considering the environmental impact of the product life cycle, sourcing an environmentally responsible package requires that we consider the way the packaging is produced. As an example, decoration of a package can have a very high environmental impact if not done in a certain way. That's the invisible, behind-the-scenes part for consumers, yet it nevertheless is a very important way for us to differentiate our offer in terms of environmental responsibility towards our customers."

Economics are also a deciding factor.

Decotech's Engel says, "The biggest challenge is the trade-off between environmentally responsible packaging and the cost of making that package."

Diamond's Dasilva agrees: "Cost is the major challenge faced. As margins shrink within packaging, it becomes ever harder to support and fully utilize most of the available environmentally friendly materials and processes. It has to be a true motivating factor by business owners to truly see this as a worthy expense and venture, versus other possible selling tools."

"From mass brands to prestige, we're selling luxury which is manifested in differentiating beauty packaging from other sectors," says Lombardi's Albanese. He says this results in packaging with more features such as additional components and decoration--all adding to the true environmental cost. "From an environmental point of view, that's a real challenge," says Albanese. "A challenge I believe can be met in realistic terms by utilizing the benefits of local sourcing offered by domestic suppliers like Lombardi who are committed to similar environmental practices."

Consumer Perspective

Consumers' awareness toward packaging is often prompted by what formulations people are using and how they're caring for their own health. While it's not always so simple to implement the same criteria with bottles, jars and cartons, Sandra Krasovec, associate professor, Packaging Design Department, Fashion Institute ofTechnology (FIT), thinks that the awareness is present and, in many cases, goals are followed through.

She says: "From everything I read and hear from designers, marketers, and others in industry, sustainability is being considered whether it be on the product side or packaging or both. I believe it is still a growing trend although maybe at a slower pace in the beauty industry because of value perception and brand positioning. Consumers expect beautiful packaging and 'presentation' when it involves high-end cosmetics, fragrance and other personal care items."

Krasovec believes that consumer engagement by leading the anticipation of opening a package to uncover a favorite product is critical in building brand loyalty. On the other hand, she says, consumers are more educated and informed about the "healthiness" of their products and respective packaging than ever before and take environmental claims seriously.

"They are looking to feel good about what they buy--from a personal perspective, being careful about what they put into and on their body--and from a societal perspective, to make sure that what they buy doesn't harm the planet. Messaging has to be truthful and companies have to be transparent--it's easy to lose once-loyal consumers if messaging is deceptive. It is a tough challenge to meet marketing objectives, consumer expectations, and sustainable packaging criteria, but it is being done." (See sidebar on the packaging design program at FIT and how students are addressing environmentally responsible issues.)

Albea's Grassi also notes the "inside-out" connection. She says, "There is greater awareness of the need to take care of oneself, by careful selection of formulas, reducing preservatives, finding products that deliver more protection. This consumer trend drives selection of airless and neutral packs. The demand is growing but there are some challenges. First: How to combine sustainability and glamour? Let's not forget that the quest for exciting beauty products drives the trend toward pre-miumization. This is evidenced by decoration, upgrading, etc. The consumer is rarely attracted by a pack that won't reflect beauty--a mirror, for example. For some prestige brands, sustainability needs to be integrated in their products, and is a corporate mandate. However, they may not wish to communicate the 'sustainability' message, per se. In such cases, sustainability needs to be transparent, just a way of living, 'baked into the cake.' The challenge therefore is to find materials that can be decorated as the standard ones. And at the same price, since customers--as well as consumers--are rarely willing to pay a premium for 'sustainability.'"

Aurelie Emond, marketing director, Albea, shares a similar sentiment. She says the challenge is to combine environmental responsibility with packaging solutions that hold consumer appeal. "In developing the cosmetics package, we start with the consumer mindset--needs and desires. In some cases, and with some brands, the primary driver is 'eco': in terms of formula (preservative-free, for example), purity, the natural look of a 'nude' makeup and more."

However, Emond says many consumers select their cosmetics primarily on the basis of the "luxury" communicated by the product. "Cosmetics are a daily indulgence and a variety of design elements communicate a sense of 'luxe. These include the weight of the pack, the use of metal, or the decorative elements that enhance the enjoyment of each usage."

Emond says Albea strives to combine the two: environmental responsibility and package appeal. "There are a variety of elements in this equation, such as reduction in water consumption, electricity reduction, material waste and more. This is the confluence of art, design, environment and commerce."

Sustainable Practices

Followed As noted, a number of suppliers follow stringent manufacturing and other sustainable practices, which are vital to their DNA, sought after by brands, but not necessarily apparent to consumers.

Decotech is immensely proud of the accomplishments they have made in regard to clean manufacturing processes. The company has been voluntarily certified as compliant under ISO 14001 for many years. Because Engel says the impact caused by the production process on the environment is much greater than the impact of the finished product on the environment, Decotech "has been obsessed with minimizing the environmental impact of our production processes."

For example, he says, "We are officially compliant as a Zero-Waste-to-Landfill facility. Not one piece of garbage goes to landfill from our buildings. In fact, all the waste that we cannot recycle or re-use is actually converted to electricity in a Waste-to-Energy program we participate in. We also continually seek out new processes and techniques that allow us to use much less energy year after year. While we do have programs to use renewable energy as much as we can, it is significantly more impactful to simply reduce your energy consumption overall, no matter what your source is. Our manufacturing facility has been recognized by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Stewardship Initiative "for its voluntary and proactive measures taken to go beyond compliance in an effort to improve the environment and ensure a sustainable future."

Albanese says Lombardi Design & Manufacturing, "answers environmental concerns by running on 80% renewable energy, offering local manufacturing without overseas transportation emissions, re-uses the byproduct of our production as post-industrial resin, and is always investigating eco resins like our pioneering work with Tenite."

Environmental sustainability is also a statute at Diamond Packaging, where Dasilva says, "We continually look to be a true environmental steward in all aspects of our operation. From utilizing 100% wind energy and FSC-certified paperboards and other sustainable materials, to thorough recycling programs throughout our operations, being sustainable is a way of life. It is an investment in our role to preserve and maintain a better tomorrow for our future organizations and personnel.

Sustainability programs at Albea, says Charbonneaux "are organized around four pillars covering both social and environmental responsibility at the different stages of our process: our suppliers and partners, our people and communities, our operations, and our products."

Getting Onboard

What is the future of environmentally responsible packaging and practices? We asked GreenBlue's Goodrich what advice she has for beauty brands regarding sustain-ability/eco-friendly practices.

A

* I "To be successful," says Goodrich, "compties need a strategy and a champion. In the early days, the champion was often the CEO. I think having the CEO as the champion works well, but it can also come from collaborative teams within the organization. Goals and measures are also important. In the early days some of the goals had unintended consequences for other areas, but I think the industry has progressed."

She also thinks it is important that the Packaging goals are linked to the corporate sustainability strategy. "Packaging is often a gateway for sustainability in a company and can play an early role in education about sustainability. Global corporate programs oft4-1 include goals around: Zero Waste to Landfill, Garb+ Energy and Water. Packaging sustainability strategies are often built around sustainable sourcing, optimization of the packaging and design for recovery. Recovering packaging, recycling and incorporation of recycled material into new packaging often dominate the sustainable packaging conversation. It's important not to lose sight of the bigger sustainability picture especially when it comes to cosmetics and personal care."

In the end, legislation may play an influential role in propelling sustainable packaging goals forward. Goodrich says that the EU REACH initiative on chemicals is moving toward the U.S. "Many companies are becoming more aware of the materials they use to make their products and their packaging. This increased focus on material health will influence product itigredients, packaging and decorating."

RELATED ARTICLE: Designs of Tomorrow: Students' Approach

Do packaging designers of tomorrow view environmental responsibility as a priority when designing packaging for beauty, fragrance and personal care? How does it fit in with price constraints and brands' desires? Consumer demand? Beauty Packaging asked Sandra Krasovec, associate professor, Packaging Design Department, Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), how issues regarding sustainable packaging are incorporated into the curriculum at FIT--and about the school's new program in this area.

We have built sustainable best practices into the curriculum of our Packaging Design BFA Program at FIT.

As part of the design process, students consider sustainable criteria (based on the definition that the Sustainable Packaging Coalition has established) as they develop brand and packaging design solutions to meet project objectives for consumer products in any category. The beauty sector is especially challenging for the reasons mentioned (in this feature article). One of the first considerations is package reduction--reducing the amount and/or types of packaging materials, the size of individual packages, or even componentry--which can make a significant difference in the environmental footprint a product may make. Students learn quickly how tough it is to be innovative, meet all of the consumer demands, maintain brand positioning and still offer a beautiful, functional packaging design at a certain price point.

When designing with sustainability in mind, students have to be aware of what the alternatives are in creating high-end beauty packaging. As new materials are developed and printing technologies move forward, high-end finishes that are expected in the beauty category can be produced in a more sustainable way and still achieve the desired affects. Part of the design challenge is to keep up with what's happening in the materials technology and manufacturing arenas and understand the options that are out there without sacrificing brand equities and consumer expectations. And of course, always being mindful of what the budget is.

FIT's Sustainable Packaging Design Certificate Program, the first of its kind, is still underway with its initial launch--we are excited to register our first cohort of students and get started. The program was developed with five sequential courses that can be completed within one academic year--something a student can put on his or her resume right away. With a few administrative issues resolved, the first course, Foundation in Sustainable Packaging Design, is being offered in the evenings during FIT's summer session. lt will be offered again in the fall semester with the second course Systems Thinking for Sustainable Packaging Design. More info: www.fitnyc.edu/SPD; sandra_krasovec@fitnyc.edu

RELATED ARTICLE: Pravana's Biodegradable Range

All of the bottles and caps in Pravana's Nevo collection are biodegradable; the pumps are not.

The Super Shape Hair Spray is packaged in completely recyclable materials, from the cap, to the can, to the shipper case. In addition, the actual product meets the strictest environmental aerosol regulations.

Unlike plastic bottles that take an estimated 500 to 1,000 years to break down and which do not ever really biodegrade (they only break down to smaller pieces), the plastic bottles in the Nevo line contain a special ingredient that attracts bacteria to eat and fully digest the bottles. This process starts approximately 250 days after the bottle is introduced into the landfill. Depending on the type of landfill and the associated bacteria types and levels, the total biodegrading process takes from 2-8 years. Once complete, there is no residual plastic. During the process, the digestion of the bottles produces methane gas, which can be captured at the landfill and converted to electrical energy.

In addition to helping care for the planet, 5% of the sales of every Nevo product goes to City of Hope to help fund cancer research. This is a product line that helps care for the planet and the people on it.

RELATED ARTICLE: Clarins' Commitment to Sustainability

Clarins Double Serum ($85) is the brand's hero anti-aging product--and No.1 selling item. It contains 20 pure plant extracts and potent high-tech molecules. This pioneering product also features a unique double chamber system to allow for oil and water-based ingredients to be blended on demand. The double pump distributes a precise dose, enabling the combination of water- and oil-soluble ingredients for optimal absorption. The outer carton package contains no loose, extra paper, and all written information is printed directly on the inner carton to reduce paper waste.

Originally designed for the launch of Thierry Mugler's Angel fragrance in 1992, The Source is a key concept of Thierry Mugler fragrances that solidifies the long-term sustainability commitment of the brand. After 20 years, a new Source - fragrance fountain has been launched. This innovative new design reinforces the brand's commitment to provide a luxury product with extraordinary service while protecting the environment. Currently, one refill of Angel Eau de Parfum or Alien Eau de Parfum occurs every 7 seconds worldwide. Now, with the new four-canister Source, Thierry Mugler fragrance aficionados will have even more opportunities to sample the fragrances and save money.

The Source takes a century-old tradition of refilling one's beautiful perfume bottle from a fountain at the point of sale, rather than discarding it and buying a new one.

According to the brand, without the Source there would an extra 1,515 tons of bottle waste in the world each year.

RELATED ARTICLE: Natura's Pouch Packaging

Natura's Sou line of body, bath and hair products features what the Brazilian brand manufacturer calls "an intelligent design" and a low environmental impact, with high style. It also provides environmentally responsible packaging at mass market prices.

The standup pouches were developed using an efficient process that uses less material and ingredients to generate less residue, less waste and less environmental impact, and uses up to the last drop of each product.

One of the inspirations for the design of Sou was the drop, the most essential form a liquid can have. The format is the same for the entire line, with colors that differentiate the product categories, making selection easier. Standardizing the packaging also improved transportation, storage and inventory control.

According to Natura, the packaging uses 70% less plastic, issues 60% less CO2 and generates 3X less residues, when compared to conventional market packaging. The company says for every roll of 1,000 empty [unfilled] Sou packages, it would be possible to transport only 28 conventional [rigid] market packages.

Written by Jamie Matusow, Editor
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Date:Apr 1, 2014
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