Green chemistry key to a more sustainable cosmetics industry

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Green chemistry can provide the key to lowering environmental footprints while continuing to manufacturer products that consumers want at prices they are willing to pay, according to a panel of experts at the recent HBA show in New York.

Industry experts from ingredients suppliers, government bodies, and finished goods manufacturers gathered in New York to discuss how green chemistry might be applied to the cosmetics and personal care sectors.

Donald Versteeg from P&G referred to green chemistry as the tools to help with what he called the sustainability journey.

Versteeg argued that sustainable living does not mean returning to the ways of our ancestors, but rather finding ways to achieve what we have now, using fewer resources.

For Dr Liliana George, executive director of strategic developments in R&D at the Estee Lauder Companies, green chemistry is a way of reducing the impact of a product, without necessarily changing the product itself.

“No one is asking you to change the end product, but how you get there can be altered and improved,”​ she said.

Green does not necessarily mean natural

The speakers were also keen to point out that green does not necessarily mean natural. George argued that although consumers may believe otherwise, the more natural ingredients in a product does not mean the greener the product.

Only if a natural ingredient has been grown, harvested and treated in a sustainable way, can it be seen as a green option, she explained.

In addition, synthetics can be green as long as they have been produced using green chemistry principles.

George also called on marketing departments to figure out ways to play up green chemistry to the consumer, and explain its relationship with natural ingredients and sustainability.

She has previously mentioned to this publication that when the palette of green ingredients made available by suppliers expands there will be ‘exceptional’ green product development.

Although some suppliers are making great strides in the area, George said there are not yet enough ingredients for formulators to work with.

“We have to challenge the suppliers to come up with new ingredients,”​ she said.

Opportunities for development

Also present at the HBA conference, was Stephanie Clendennen from Eastman Chemical, which has won the presidential green chemistry award for its work in developing a biocatalytic process to produce emollient esters for use in cosmetics products.

Clendennen highlighted that approximately 75 percent of ingredients fall into three categories: thickeners, surfactants and polymers. She explained that although there were currently not many greener alternatives to choose from in these categories, there was significant opportunity for development.

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