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Time to up the ante of sustainability in Asia

By Andrew MCDOUGALL , 04-Dec-2012
Last updated on 03-May-2013 at 11:15 GMT

The time is now to raise the bar for sustainability in the Asian cosmetics industry in every aspect, say several industry experts who discussed the topic at this year’s Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Hong Kong.

According to event organisers and research firm Organic Monitor, Asia-Pacific is lagging in many ethical and ecological areas, such as alternatives to animal testing, ecological packaging, green formulations, as well as consumer education.

Keynote speaker Sam McKay, CEO of Jurlique, highlighted the growing importance of Asia to the cosmetics industry at the 2nd edition of the summit, announcing that with big brands targeting the region, it would come under increased scrutiny.

“Asia has become our number one focus as a region,” he said. “All the big brands are looking at Asia, making it difficult for us to get listings and build distribution.”

McKay’s Australian organic skin care brand is expanding across the continent, acquiring several of its distributors to build a direct presence, with growing competition, the biggest challenge.

The challenge for Western natural & organic brands in Asia is low consumer understanding of green issues, as brands are resorting to opening concept stores so they can engage directly with consumers; a tactic adopted by many cosmetics companies.

Issues raised

Other topics in the Asian market that were discussed at the summit included animal testing, sustainable packaging and ingredient sourcing.

With some ethical cosmetic brands unable to enter the Chinese market because of its animal testing methods, alternative methods were extensively discussed.

Anthony E. James from the Chinese University of Hong Kong stated that China was falling behind many Asian countries that are now using a range of alternative testing methods, as international trade could force China to accept alternatives to animal testing methods.

Sustainable packaging of cosmetic products is another area the Asian cosmetics industry needs to address, according to Organic Monitor, as few Asian brands are taking steps to reduce the environmental footprint of their packaging.

Grace Culhaci from Pure and Green Organics shared her difficulties in finding sustainable packaging solutions, stating that most packaging companies are disinterested in supplying sustainable materials.

Availability of green raw materials for cosmetic formulations was another issue discussed for Asian companies. Asia has a rich abundance of native plants, herbs and raw materials for cosmetic ingredients, however ethical sourcing is often ignored.

The next Asia-Pacific edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will look at ways of raising consumer awareness of green and sustainability issues in the region. The summit will once again take place in Hong Kong, on 11-12th November 2013.

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