Does a sustainable packaging exist for the fine fragrance industry? (part 1)

Despite the recent announcement of (among others) Procter & Gamble to go green with their cosmetics brands and particularly in the packaging field, cosmetic companies are not well known for their ethical and environmental friendly business practices. And furthermore, as expected the Procter & Gamble announcement, important in itself, relates to plans to use renewable, sustainable, sugarcane-derived plastic on selected packaging on its Pantene Pro-V, Covergirl and Max Factor brands, all popular brands with no upscale market.

The problem is with the fragrance industry. To the fine fragrance industry, when it comes to luxury items, pursuing shapes and functionalities that simply do not yet exist in the marketplace gives products a distinctive marketing advantage. Here packaging solutions typically embrace lavish materials such as cut crystal, leather, velvet, satin, gold and silver, and draw reference from the artefacts typically associated with a high standard of living. Unfortunately, efficiencies in waste reduction, use of renewable resources and a strict adherence to environmentally sensitive manufacturing policies do not necessarily become readily apparent in a design solution. While many companies do have environmentally friendly policies in place, their packaging solutions don’t always mirror these policies.

But there seems to be a change of mind. It started with the sixth edition of the PCD Congress (Perfumes, Cosmetics & Design) in January, 2010, in Paris, a congress-exhibition dedicated to packaging innovations for the perfumes and cosmetics sectors, which brought together over 1,400 participants from some thirty countries, representing the leading international brands and where the core theme of the conference programme was sustainable development.
The PCD Congress is now followed by the Luxe Pack 2010 in Monaco (20 to 22 October 2010), which is said to be committed to supporting the luxury brands’ search for sustainable solutions by launching the “Luxe Pack in Green” Awards for the very first time,

As, in the meantime, a market research of Organic Monitor finds that the industry is cleaning up, with some beauty companies and ingredient firms falling over themselves to communicate their green and ethical credentials, it indeed looks like, perfumes and cosmetics brands start actively contributing to optimise global resources by reducing the number of components, using bio or agro-materials, reducing weights and volumes, saving energy at all stages in production and distribution, improving effluent management, recyclability.

Organic Monitor finds that most investment is going into reducing the environmental footprint of cosmetic products by using greener formulations and sustainable packaging. Packaging is receiving high interest because of its high ecological impact; companies are looking at biodegradable plastics, recycled materials and innovative ways to reduce packaging. The report gives case studies of companies undertaking up-cycling and light-weighting, as well as those using biopolymers and bamboo.

The cosmetics companies with ‘ordinary’ consumer products might be cleaning up, but in the realm of fine fragrances and perfumes, according to Mintel’s 2009 data an overwhelming 2,341 fragrances were launched this year, in which realm, companies as Gaultier, Lolita Lempicka, Bulgari, Kenzo and Guerlain are just a few that have exploited design to its fullest and still are seeking the limits.
And of course it is extremely difficult and challenging to be sustainable when you are speaking in lyrics to market your upscale products. Lyrics require an extra-ordinary packaging, throwing all well-meant intentions of ‘green business’ overboard.
Perhaps we should recognize that any specific environmental improvement in the fine fragrance market is indeed beneficial, although it may be more accurate to describe the resulting packaging as environmentally improved or environmentally preferable, and not an example of sustainable packaging. After all there just is no such thing as a “sustainable package” in the world of perfumes.

Let’s have a look at some, without doubt beautifully designed, fragrance packages. And let’s be realistic, maybe the perfume market is allowed to take a special seat, in relation to ‘greenness’, as luxurious products require a luxurious outfit. You will see a luxurious combination of glass and DuPont’s Surlyn fits this bill.
continue reading part 2 up within 2 days.

One response to “Does a sustainable packaging exist for the fine fragrance industry? (part 1)

  1. Sustainable packaging is absolutely possible and needed… if only because some of the new bottles I’ve seen are either weird or definitely a future landfill tenant. Case in point – Marc Jacob’s Lola. With purchase, do I get a Carmen Miranda CD of the song ‘The Lady In The Tutti-Frutti Hat’?

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