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FMA Ponders Green Fragrances: a Balancing Act

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured, Perfumer & Flavorist magazine
Posted: January 8, 2009, from the January 2009 issue of P&F magazine.

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Despite these efforts confusion reigns, continued Son. In the absence of all-encompassing green and sustainability standards and the rise of disjointed self-labeling efforts, the consumer is left without confidence. "[Products will] say ‘we’re 100%,’ but they don’t really say 100% of what. Others say ‘made with organics,’ but if you read the labels, they’re made with three organic ingredients—everything else is not."

Son noted that US consumers have become accustomed to seeing the USDA organic labeling in their food shopping, so it is no wonder that many would like to see this standard reflected in their beauty products. "More and more manufacturers at the premium levels—because they can command the price—are pushing the boundaries to have 95% or 100% organic products." Son cited the recent launch of hair and beauty products bearing USDA seals.

Son concluded that the fragrance industry should be aware of consumer motivations behind the quest for "green" products. In the beginning, she said, "It was more about ‘I’m afraid of putting bad chemicals on my body, therefore I’m going to use organic.’ Marketers and consumers have since both become savvier. They look not only at what’s inside the product, but what’s outside the product." To this end, she said, packaging claims have expanded to include production in carbon-neutral facilities and donations to green charities. "Consumers are challenged with ‘how green can I be?’" she explained. "Until we get a standard of what the ‘best green’ is, I think manufacturers will continue to [pursue] different seals, different accreditations with their products."

Pursuing a Label vs. Defending Safe Materials

Last month, P&F magazine detailed the NPA’s natural labeling standard ("Defining ‘Natural,’" page 44, December 2008), and speaking before the FMA audience, Fabricant discussed the implications for the fragrance industry.

"Why do we build a standard now?" he asked. To begin, said Fabricant, of all the "green" claims, natural is the most popular. In that light, the NPA perceived a need to give the term meaning. For instance, said Fabricant, free trade and product lifecycle are not being sufficiently addressed by existing natural and organic personal care standards. (See NPA Standards.)