How a fragrance leader says brands can work towards UN SDGs

By Ravyn Cullor contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images - Tara Moore
© Getty Images - Tara Moore

Related tags: Fragrance, Sustainability, Perfume, green beauty, circular beauty

The United Nations has set 17 goals to improve the world, and every industry including fragrance can contribute to achieving them.

The Sustainable Development Goals​ cover a broad range of environmental, social, economic and health goals. These include ending poverty and hunger, peace, clean water, gender equality, clean energy and economic growth, among others.

The UN SDGs

  1. No poverty
  2. Zero hunger
  3. Good health and well-being
  4. Quality education
  5. Gender equality
  6. Clean water and sanitization
  7. Affordable and clean energy
  8. Decent work and economic growth
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible production and consumption
  13. Climate action
  14. Life below water
  15. Life on land
  16. Peace, justice and strong institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals

While many of the goals are broad, fragrance and personal care companies can have a hand in accomplishing them as a category that interacts directly with consumers in areas like hygiene, Global Director of Fragrance and Sensory Enrichment for Reckitt, Pamela Asplund, said during a session at the World Perfumery Congress.

“One might ask how all these topics relate to our world of fragrance,”​ Asplund said, “FMCG brands have an elevated responsibility to ensure that products not only answered fundamental consumer needs within their development but also play a vital role in solving real societal issues.”

Reckitt specifically is targeting goals one, three, four, six, eight, 11, 12, 15 and 17.

Fragrance, hygiene and sanitation

In line with SDG three, Asplund said her company is running major research and education programs focused on fragrance and hygiene. In a survey, Reckitt found that 52% of children and 63% of parents and teachers believe hands that look visibly clean don’t have germs.

“Hygiene is not a lifestyle choice, it's a basic necessity,”​ Asplund said. “Eighty percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via contaminated contact hand-to-hand. Many of our FMCG products can play a role in establishing a better life.”

By creating hygiene products with scents preferred by children, parents and teachers, Asplund said fragrance brands can encourage intent to purchase and use, therefore supporting improved health outcomes.

Reckitt has also partnered to create a hygiene education program in schools that reached 20 million students in India, reducing cases of diarrhea by 70%, absences by 39% and COVID-19 cases by 14% next to comparable schools, Asplund said.

She also said fragrance can improve clean water and sanitation access. Smell has been found to be one of the leading reasons people don’t use latrines where running water isn’t available.

Reckitt has developed an improved fragrance technology that more effectively removes the scent barrier to the use of latrines than other products currently on the market.

Partnerships to accomplish SDG 

For many of the programs Reckitt is running to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals, Asplund said the company has partners. Between education institutions and NGOs, the fragrance company works with organizations with expertise in addressing the SDG areas.

In the areas of biodiversity and the water crisis, the company runs programs with the World Wildlife Fund and does hygiene research with the Warwick Medical School.

In the area of biodiversity, the partnership means education programs to bolster awareness of the value of biodiversity and where that metric stands globally.

Our partnerships across this industry and beyond play a fundamental role in helping us achieve our purpose-led ambitions,”​ Asplund said. “We can't find solutions alone. Only together can we achieve our goals, the power to create, cause change, and do more good.”

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