A key take away from a new report released by UL Environment, entitled “The Sustainable Edge™,” is that sustainability can lead to technological innovation – a conclusion that has been validated in product development laboratories everywhere. When approached to develop a product against sustainability criteria, the immediate reaction of personal care and cleaners formulators might be apprehension, anxiety, or some combination of emotions that could contribute to sleepless nights. However, history has shown that when faced with such challenges, the technical community not only rises to the occasion but very often delivers innovative solutions.
“Consider the response in the nineteen nineties to the demand for reductions in volatile organic content (VOC) in consumer products. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) imposed regulations aimed at reducing VOCs that are believed to have an adverse effect on the ozone layer of the earth’s atmosphere. In the personal care category, limits were placed on the VOC content in hair sprays (EU) , first requiring reduction in levels to 80% and then to 55%.
Hair sprays at that time were usually anhydrous compositions (EU) and the concern within the technical community was that suitable non-volatile substitutes, such as water, might result in products that would be aesthetically unpleasing. Product development scientists and suppliers alike worked diligently at identifying replacement technologies and delivered commercially feasible products that are today compliant with CARB’s regulations.
Based on the consumer purchasing trends highlighted in the “The Sustainable Edge,” it is fair to say that developing products to meet sustainability criteria is a prudent strategy that would enable companies to remain competitive in the future. Ponder these statistics drawn from the report:
- 87% of global consumers consider a company’s social and environmental stance before making important decisions, such as purchase choices.
- 55% of consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact.
- 47% of personal care consumers seek greener personal care products.
Admittedly, the technical challenges required to meet sustainability objectives can sometimes be daunting. However, as we’ve learned from our efforts to comply with CARB VOC regulations, what might initially seem technically unfeasible can be resolved with sound science, out-of-the box thinking and an innovative spirit.
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