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Going Green

By Brid Costello (Women's Wear Daily) - April 3, 2007

The beauty industry is beginning to turn over a new leaf by introducing ecologically sound business methods.

Aveda, the Estee Lauder Cos.-owned beauty brand, switched its major manufacturing plant to wind energy in September 2006. London-based hairstylist Louise Galvin made her business “carbon neutral” (meaning the company’s carbon emissions were offset by environmental programs, such as tree planting) in 2004. And Spa Titanic, a treatment center in Huddersfield, England, was developed from its birth in 2006 to have its production make as little impact on the environment as possible. And that’s just to name a few of the beauty companies going au naturel.

“Who hasn’t seen ‘An Inconvenient Truth?’” asked Anna Hooper, associate director of The Communications Store, a London-based public-relations consultancy that formed a “green team” last June to contribute to environmentally friendly activities. She was referring to the Oscar-winning documentary about climate change by Al Gore.

Indeed, the film, which paints a grim picture of the earth’s future if environmental issues are not addressed, has inspired many a beauty executive to implement greener work practices. To help raise awareness of ecological issues, for instance, Aveda even went so far as to host screenings of “An Inconvenient Truth” for journalists.

“I think beauty companies have an overwhelming responsibility,” said Dominique Conseil, Aveda’s president. “Beauty has to be good. If it’s not good, it’s not beautiful.”

“Why would anyone want a beauty product from a company that they know is polluting the environment?” said Zack Mansdorf, senior vice president of security, health and environment of L’Oreal North America and worldwide, adding the company has been involved with environmental projects for 15 years. “The key for us is to improve ecoefficiency, which means doing more with less.”

Aveda, also a longtime campaigner on environmental issues, switched its primary manufacturing facility in Blaine, Minnesota, where 60% of the brand’s products are made, to 100% wind energy last fall. Working with Xcel Energy, an environmentally sound electricity and gas supplier, Aveda buys energy certificates to offset its electricity use.

“It’s something we’re really proud of,” said Conseil.

While such moves are still relatively rare, going green has become less onerous in recent years. Galvin, who introduced her Sacred Locks hair-care line in 2003, recalled when she decided to offset the carbon emissions generated by her brand, it was a burdensome task.

“It took nine months to analyze, as the move was unprecedented in the beauty industry,” she said.

The Communications Store is also looking into greatly lessening its carbon output, but in the meantime its employees take everyday measures to do so, including using environmentally friendly taxi services and printing on both sides of paper. The Communications Store also encouraging its clients to cut down on packaging and paper-heavy press dossiers. Hooper said such initiatives were introduced because many of the firm’s employees felt strongly about actively participating in environmental projects. “It improves staff moral,” she said. Hooper noted that while progress is being made within the beauty industry on the environmental front, it still has a long way to go.

“[Being environmentally friendly] should be second nature for all of us-whether you’re a natural, organic greener-than-green brand or a doctor’s cosmeceuticals brand,” she said, adding beauty manufacturers could take more interest in where their materials are sourced from and their transport options, for instance.

Opened in March 2006, the Titanic Spa did just that. Dubbed an “eco-spa,” its swimming pool is salt-regulated, so chlorine isn’t required. And its developers bored for water locally to meet the spa’s requirements and those of the surrounding neighborhood, rather than sourcing water from further away that would require more energy usage.

“We are very conscious that people want to use products [and services] that are as natural as possible,” said Christine Page, the spa’s marketing consultant, adding Titanic Spa’s nature-related philosophy also affects the choice of products used there-Elemis and Decleor. “People want to come to a natural environment, have natural treatments and see that [ethos] filtering out of the treatment room and reflected in the environmental aspect of the spa.”

According to executives, it’s not only the environment that wins when companies go green. While taking ecological issues into account can initially be costly-Galvin said her efforts cost several thousand pounds, for example-they can pay dividends in the long term.

“Those cost savings are passed on to our clients,” said Hooper.

“Aveda believes profit and ecological goals are not mutually exclusive,” added Conseil, noting environmentally oriented projects saved his firm $230,000 (.174,845/$119,050) per year between 1996 and 2004. “We go further.and think they’re synergistic.”

Continued Amanda Le Roux, general manager, Europe, for Aveda, “Profit can be green.”