Exclusive interview

What does ‘being green’ really entail?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

What does ‘being green’ really entail?
Sustainable sourcing, certification standards and ISO 16128 are key considerations for environmentally-conscious brands.

We caught up with Jorge Larranaga, Deputy Director of the Manufacturing Department at Number Three to explore how these key issues will impact sustainability agendas and environmental programmes.

1. How has sustainable sourcing changed over the past year? 

Unfortunately, in Japan, sustainable sourcing is not a hot topic. Whereas in other countries consumers are worried about environmental issues and make responsible purchasing choices that push companies to be more responsible, in Japan, there is not such a strong environmental concern.

Therefore, issues such as sustainable palm oil, GMOs, fair trade and microbeads are hardly considered by your average consumer.

While Japanese multinational companies have strong corporate social responsibility programmes where sustainable sourcing is considered and implemented, most of the Japanese companies do not realise the increase in brand equity that sustainable practices bring.

2. Is the issue of sustainable sourcing gaining traction?

Traction is coming because more companies are choosing to develop greener products that contain natural and more sustainable ingredients or packaging materials.

As a result, ingredient distributors have increased their portfolio of natural ingredients and nowadays it is easier to source more sustainable ingredients at a premium price.

Although there are only a few companies that currently choose the certification route, the number of natural and organic certified businesses — under various standards — is steadily increasing year after year, driving the growth of sustainable ingredients.

3. Why was it important to you to become certified under COSMOS, Vegan, and Halal standards? 

Number Three has redefined its strategy towards becoming a wellbeing company invested in greener practices that result in better products for our clients and the environment. COSMOS and Vegan third-party certifications were adopted as a way to reassure our customers that we are invested in good practices that are monitored by international organisations.

Halal certification was initially a request of our distributor in Malaysia, in order to cater to the Muslim population. Soon we realised that Halal principles are within our wellbeing core of vegan practices, and we are working towards converting all our product ranges into Halal.

4. How difficult were these to obtain? Did you have to adopt any new processes? 

Our ISO 22716 GMP accreditation certainly helps us to bring other certifications, so the process was not especially difficult, except for Halal certification.

We were required to create dedicated Halal production lines, where everything had to be labelled as Halal and handled in a way to avoid any cross-contamination.

We had to label all the containers, tanks, utensils, carts, scales and create specific procedures to handle approved products. Additionally, we have to submit routine samples to an independent laboratory for porcine DNA and cholesterol testing.

5. What are the common hurdles associated with using green ingredients? 

Firstly, you need to understand what “green” means to your marketing and R&D departments because they may have different perceptions. If this is the case, then this will result in products that do not meet expectations.

Certain natural ingredients are subjected to price and quality variations due to bad harvests, so that also has to be taken into account. When there is a synthetic equivalent, usually you will pay a premium when sourcing a renewable ingredient.

A good strategy is to source a green ingredient as a second source alternative. When there is a bump in price or supply constraints due to a sudden increase in the crude oil price, you will see the benefits.

6. Why is the ISO 16128 so pivotal to the future direction of sustainable sourcing? 

ISO 16128 is certainly helping to explain what natural and organic means, so ingredients suppliers, formulators and marketing people can be on the same page.

Raw material manufacturers are already listing natural and naturally derived indexes on their ingredients technical references, which helps to understand how natural an ingredient is.  

Coconut oil derived ingredients that were marketed in the past as 100% natural, are now classified as derived natural, only if the finished ingredient contains more than 50 % of natural origin, renewable carbon content.

7. Is this gaining ISO 16128 high on the agenda for Japanese brands?

In February 2018, the Japan Cosmetic Industry Association released labelling guidelines for the use of ISO 16128 references in cosmetics products, encouraging companies to display the reference and their raw material distributors.

While I have not yet seen any brand in Japan make reference to the ISO 16128 guidelines, I think it is only a matter of time until suppliers can provide all the references for the ingredients. It will be interesting to see how companies that are already certified under natural and organic standards deal with the ISO labelling.

8. What positive impact do you expect this will have?

ISO 16128 guidelines should be considered as the starting point before embarking on creating greener products, and once their limitations are understood a third-party certification will gain more significance.

It is important to point out that ISO 16128 is not a standard, and therefore cosmetics cannot be certified. It is purely informative and the cosmetics manufacturers are responsible for calculating the natural and organic index of the products based on the information provided by the ingredients manufacturers.

Jorge Larranaga, Deputy Director of the Manufacturing Department at Number Three, will be speaking about how the sustainable sourcing of cosmetic ingredients in Asia can lead to more successful formulations at in-cosmetics Korea on 13th June 2018 from 16:00 - 16:45.

For more information visit https://korea.in-cosmetics.com

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