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Asian Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Closes with Success


LONDON—The first Asian edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit drew to a successful close, bringing together 120 delegates from across the Asia-Pacific region. Taking place in Hong Kong on Nov. 7 to 8, the focal themes of the summit were the marketing and technical issues related to sustainable cosmetics. Major discussions centered on greenwashing and consumer confusion, the lucrative Chinese market, certification and green formulations.

The conference opened with a personal keynote on "Building a Sustainable Future" by Leigh Kite, general manager of Personal Care at Comvita. Quoting official statistics that cancer was the second biggest cause of death in New Zealand, she said chemicals in the environment were potentially responsible. According to Kite, natural and organic cosmetics were the way forward, as they do not contain contentious chemicals. She stated health and wellness was a key part of her company whose ethos is to "keep people well"; Comvita has been marketing a range of honey-based cosmetics since 2007.

A raft of sustainability initiatives were highlighted in the opening session of the summit (Sustainability Best-Practices). Amarjit Sahota, president of Organic Monitor, urged beauty companies go beyond reducing negatives and create positive impacts on the environment and social communities. Rene T. Co explained how Procter & Gamble takes a holistic view to sustainability by the use of product life cycle assessments. Since implementing its sustainability plan in Asia in 2007, it has reduced its CO2 emissions by 36 percent, solid waste by 77 percent, water usage by 32 percent and energy usage by 28 percent. Procter & Gamble plans to expand the use of sugar-based plastics to Pantene products in Asia.

Juno Kano from BASF Japan started the second session (Formulating with Green Ingredients) with a paper on surfactant systems for natural and organic cosmetics. With growing use of agricultural raw materials in cosmetics, Jari Alander from AAK highlighted the challenges of this major development. According to Alander, base ingredients have the highest sustainability impact of cosmetics ingredients of which vegetable oils play an important role.

Dr. Alain Khaiat from Seers Consulting highlighted the options available to formulators looking at using natural ingredients for skin whitening in Asia. He explained how ingredients, such as kojic acid, ascorbic acid and retinol, can have skin whitening applications in cosmetics. The second session ended with a panel discussion chaired by Croda on technical issues associated with natural cosmetics; lively discussions covered alternatives to parabens, the potential use of traditional Chinese herbs in organic cosmetics, and how to avoid animal testing to access the Chinese cosmetics market.

More debate continued in the third session: Marketing and Distribution Innovations. Gordon Chalmers, co-founder of Jasmin Skincare, highlighted how the Australian company has been successful in introducing organic skincare to Chinese consumers. Describing market entry barriers as "the great wall of China," he stated the company had to re-formulate its products and re-think its strategy when entering the Chinese market. He highlighted the vast potential, stating the spate of food scares and distrust in local products made many Chinese consumers willing to pay a premium for green personal care products. He also highlighted the pitfalls, especially instances of fraud and passing off. According to Chalmers, "intellectual property does not always translate into Chinese!"

Dr. Prahallad Maddi Archana from Himalaya Healthcare gave an introduction to Ayurveda and its use in cosmetic products. Lorievelle Valeriano from Panpuri explored the potential of organic products in the spa channel. According to Valeriano, Thailand was a hotbed of product development since it was the spa capital of the world. Just Life, the leading chain of organic food shops in Malaysia, shared its experiences in marketing natural and organic beauty products. The company stated all new products are trialed and voted by its staff before listed in its stores.

Preceding the conference, two interactive workshops were hosted by Organic Monitor. Judi Beerling, head of technical research, emphasized the major technical and formulation issues associated with sustainable cosmetics. Some of the alternatives to surfactants, emulsifiers and parabens were discussed, as well as the certification options. The second workshop (Business Opportunities in the Global Natural Cosmetics Market) highlighted the major market developments and competitive trends. The high incidence of false marketing claims, mislabeling and fraud were shown as key challenges for natural and organic cosmetics in Asia. With the absence of standards, the workshop leader urged retailers to become more active in screening and selecting pure natural and organic cosmetic brands. Although most sales were from the European and North American regions, the Asian natural cosmetics market was reporting higher growth rates. With competitive stakes rising, newcomers to the ‘developed markets’ were advised to take a segmentation approach to market entry.

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