Agricultural Sourcing and Cradle 2 Cradle approach
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Soaring oil prices and developments in green chemistry are encouraging chemical companies to switch to plant-based materials, especially feedstock. Many companies have started to promote these ‘green’ ingredients on their environmental credentials, however Organic Monitor believes this development could open up a Pandora’s Box in the beauty industry. The diverting of agricultural land from food crops to make cosmetic ingredients raises many ethical and ecological questions. Food security is becoming a major global concern because of rising food prices and scarcity of agricultural land. If agricultural land needs to be diverted from food production, at the very least the beauty industry needs to ensure that the ingredients are sustainable sourced. Organic Monitor sees some early indicators that the beauty industry is moving in this direction. L’Oreal and Unilever have already made commitments to sustainable sourcing. In the USA, Wal-Mart is putting pressure on its suppliers to adopt sustainability practices. Apart from the supply chain, the media and NGOs are also putting pressure on companies to become more sustainable. Such developments could make sustainable sourcing mandatory in the beauty industry, rather than a preferred option as present.
A number of other sustainability schemes, labels and standards are emerging. Natural & organic standards have become established, with many cosmetic ingredient companies having some natural & organic lines in their product portfolios. Fair trade is gaining interest as it guarantees a price premium to growers in developing countries. Biodiversity, another element of sustainable sourcing, has become fashionable since the United Nations declared 2010 as the year of biodiversity. The growing importance of climate change is making companies more aware of their carbon footprints. Some beauty companies propose giving their carbon footprint data on product packaging; this move is likely to push ingredient companies to start measuring and reducing their carbon emissions, especially those dealing in plant-based materials. Organic Monitor's full article "Agricultural Sourcing: Pandora's Box in the Beauty industry?" is available here
A growing number of natural & organic product companies are looking to shore up their ecological credentials in response to rising consumer expectations. Organic Monitor believes the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) design approach offers a novel way for these companies to integrate sustainability into their business practices. Designed by McDonough & Braungart, the C2C design approach involves production processes in which nutrients are recycled at the end of their life-cycles. It takes a holistic approach to product design, seeking to create systems that are not just efficient but waste free. Products made in accordance to the C2C design approach are given a certification. C2C has thus evolved from a systems approach into an eco-label. Although originally made for industrial design and manufacturing, the C2C approach has expanded into consumer goods that include food & beverages, personal care products, cleaning products, apparel and office products. However, Organic Monitor research finds the adoption rate in the natural & organic products industry is very low. This is surprising considering many such companies have sustainability built into their corporate ethos. With consumers increasingly demanding more from natural & organic products, the C2C approach enables companies to create positive impacts rather than minimizing negative ones. Sustainable sourcing and the Cradle 2 Cradle approach are key features of Organic Monitor's summits, which give case studies of pioneering initiatives: Sustainable Cosmetics Summit (New York, 12-14 May 2011), and Sustainable Foods Summit (Amsterdam, 23-24 June 2011).