Research Proposal: Impact of Sustainable Design on the Cosmetics Industry in the UK

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Sustainable Design and the UK Cosmetics Industry

Sustainable Design and the UK Cosmetic Industry

The topic of sustainability and its affect on industry is a relatively new concept. However, it is becoming important for several reasons. First, governments around the globe are beginning to toughen environmental laws. New regulations require many industries to "go green." However, perhaps an even bigger reason to go green is that what was once a niche market for organic, sustainably produced goods is now mainstream and expected to reach 2 Billion Euros this year (GCI. "European Natural Cosmetic Sales Approaching ?2 Billion" 2009).

Towards a Uniform Set of Standards

Revenues for natural and sustainalby-produced products continue to climb. More companies are beginning to enter in the market, which will have an increasing impact on price the competitive landscape within the industry. Terms such as "sustainability," "organic," "natural" and others now have a high market value. Everyone wants a slice of the eco-marketing pie. However, in order for these labels to continue to have value, consumers must be assured that these labels mean the same to everyone. They want to know what they are getting they see these terms. Otherwise, they will lose faith in the marketplace and refuse pay a premium for those products.

The need to retain consumer confidence in organically produced products has led to talks about the need for standards in the cosmetics industries. Currently, six certification agencies exist in the EU specifically for the cosmetics industry. These agencies are Soil Association (UK), BDiH (Germany), Ecocert (France), Cosmebio (France), ICEA (Italy) and Ecogarantie (Belgium) (GCI, "Global Natural Products Market: The Battle of the Standards Gains Pace" 2009). According to GCI, these agencies certify nearly 1,000 cosmetic companies and 10,000 products. Currently, there is a movement for more uniform standards. Two primary standards are currently the top competitors for adoption. The Cosmos Standard, and NaTrue are the main rival standards competing for acceptance.

The forerunner of these standards is the Natural Products Association (NPA) of the United States. Prior to 2007, no standards existed in the U.S. regarding the certification of natural products. Raising awareness and understanding of the logo is a key hurdle that must be met in order for it to retain its meaning for the consumer. The National Science Foundation is currently in the process of developing standards that will require products to contain a minimum of 70% organic products. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is also in the process of developing standards for organic certification (GCI, "Global Natural Products Market: The Battle of the Standards Gains Pace" 2009).

In Asia and Latin America, standards are typically developed and enforced by private organizations (GCI, "Global Natural Products Market: The Battle of the Standards Gains Pace," 2009). The development of a set of uniform standards in the EU will have a dramatic affect on the cosmetics industry in the UK. It will mean tighter regulation and more oversight by outside entities. Keeping up with these requirements will be likely to yield higher prices because of the costs of compliance. However, regulation may be necessary in order to maintain consumer confidence in natural product label claims. Regulation represents a major debate in the natural products cosmetics industry in the UK. Views regarding the need for regulation and what they contain remains a key topic for debate in the industry.

Natural products standards are one of the most controversial topics in the cosmetics industry. The debate is global and draws upon many different theories and viewpoints. Definitions of what it means to be sustainable differ according to source. Every certification agency has its own theory and definition of what it means to be natural. An understanding of these various theories will be necessary in order to understand the standards debate.

It is expected that research into standardization of the organics and natural cosmetics industry in the UK and other areas of the world will continue to concentrate on the development of manufacturing and transportation practices. Few journal articles currently exist regarding the effect of sustainability regulation on the organics and natural products industry at the current time, but it is expected that in the future, its impact on the industry will become a topic of interest in academic circles.

Fairtrade and Sustainability

The sourcing of ingredients plays an important role in sustainability. The topic of fair trade is inextricably linked to the organic and natural products industry. Fairtrade and policies regarding how third world countries are treated in a supply relationship is an important issue. Thus far, France is leading the EU in fair-trade products (Pitman 2008). The topic of fair-trade will have an impact on the cosmetic industry of the EU and many nations.

The issue of fair trade is new to the cosmetics industry. This term has been a part of the coffee industry for many years. There is much information available on the impact of fair trade and the affect that is has on the alleviation of poverty and on their ability to compete on the marketplace. Although the connection of the impact of fair trade in the coffee industry and the cosmetic may seem disconnected, they are not. Like the coffee industry, raw materials for the organic and natural cosmetic industry are sourced globally. Therefore, many cosmetic ingredients are now going fair trade as well.

Fair trade policies extend beyond humanitarian reasons and social responsibility. Companies, such as Weleda, have set up their fair trade practices to protect endangered plant species and to encourage other sustainable practices from their suppliers (Organic Monitor 2008). Fair trade encourage sustainable farming practices for plant and animal-based products. The top ten ingredients in the cosmetic industry for 2009 are argan oil, acai, goji berries, baobab, acerola, blueberry, probiotics, palmitoyl tripeptide-3, myrrh, and tumeric (Cosmetics & Toiletries 2009). These are all plant-based materials and are farmed or produced from the wild. This makes establishing fair trade practices in the cosmetics industry as important as it is in the coffee industry. Much of the information learned about the economic impact of fair trade in the coffee industry can be applied to the sourcing or plant-based materials in the cosmetic industry.

The coffee industry made fair trade a topic of interest in academic studies. Currently, a number of studies are forthcoming. Many of them will be featured in the new publication by the Fair Trade Institute (2009). Economic factors that affect Fair Trade and the cosmetics in other countries will also apply to the emerging sustainable cosmetics market in the UK.

Fair trade has global impact and can be expected to have one of the greatest impacts on the cosmetics industry in the UK, above any other factor in the development of a sustainable cosmetics industry. The key impact will be on supply chain management and on end-product marketing of the materials. In the standard industry practices, the supply chain and end marketing of the product are often far removed from one another. However, in the case of sustainability, they are intimately tied to one another. The ability put a sustainable label and demand a higher price for the produce depends on the ability to source raw materials that are fair trade and sustainably produced.

Current research into fair trade and the sustainable marketing of products has experienced an explosion of research in the past two years. Much of it applies to any product, and the economic impact of fair trade and the country of origin and on the final marketing and distribution of the product. Theories regarding fair trade and its impact are in their infancy and are not yet fully developed. However, when one begins to view the current body of research from a macro-level, several themes are beginning to emerge. The following will summarize the current body or research into fair trade practices and how it can be applied to the cosmetics industry in the UK.

An exploration of responsible business practices in SMEs resulted in the development of 16 criteria for responsible business practice in the UK (Moore, Slack, & Gibbon 2009). This criterion was used to evaluate responsible business practices in UK Fair Trade Organizations. The findings of the study demonstrated that most, but not all of the criteria developed by the researchers were applicable to UK Fair Trade Organizations. Research into Fair Trade and other sustainable practices is still in its infancy in the UK. Development of criteria is an important step for future research.

The purpose of fair trade, on a global level, is to improve the well-being of small-scale producers and laborers in developing nations. It is now considered the socially responsible thing to do, particularly if one wishes to receive price premiums associated with fair trade products. In theory, Fair Trade and sustainable practices have a positive impact on conditions in the producing country. The actual impact has been investigated by several researchers.

The impact of Fair Trade certification in the Nicaraguan coffee trade demonstrated the ability of farmers to meet their objectives under the certification… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Impact of Sustainable Design on the Cosmetics Industry in the UK."  Essaytown.com.  November 3, 2009.  Accessed October 18, 2019.
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