THE SCENT OF SUSTAINABILITY
Prestige Singapore|October 2021
Amid mounting concerns about climate change, the world of perfumery is innovating planet-friendly alternatives. Nafeesa Saini decodes what it means to make a sustainable perfume today.
Nafeesa Saini

The beauty industry has an ugly side and it’s called pollution. Microplastics from packaging and formulations pollute oceans and harm wildlife; palm oil plantations drive deforestation, decimating habitats and endangering species; sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone bleach coral reefs, risking marine life and food security.

Less is discussed about perfumery’s environmental impact, but this niche industry is not faultless. Similar pollutive packaging and unethical supply chains aside, it contributes to ozone pollution as fragrances contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Now that the industry’s environmental awakening is accelerated by the pandemic’s devastating effects, consumer demand for eco-friendly beauty is surging. Cosmetic brands and large conglomerates are responding by pledging new green frameworks.

The next big thing now is fragrance, but what makes a sustainable scent? Following the key principles of renewable resources, environmental protection, fair trade ethics, and social welfare, we explore the new innovations fuelling the eco-conscious perfume movement.

THE NEXT FRONTIER

“Carbon-neutral” is one of the newest buzzwords loved by beauty brands. To be a carbon-neutral brand, it must offset, by other means, the same amount of carbon dioxide that it emits into the atmosphere during its production and operations.

This year, Firmenich, a Swiss producer of fragrances and flavor ingredients, committed to carbon neutrality by 2025 and carbon positivity by 2030. The latter generally refers to going beyond net-zero carbon emissions and reducing carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. It also announced that by 2030, all of its fragrances would be renewable and it would use 99 per cent partially or ultimately biodegradable ingredients.

Coty also announced a partnership with cleantech start-up LanzaTech to introduce sustainable ethanol into its perfumes through carbon recycling. Ethanol is a core ingredient in fragrances as it efficiently disperses the scent.

LanzaTech captures industrial emissions and turns the waste gases into a more sustainable source of ethanol. Coty’s scientists worked with the start-up and production partners to develop a fragrance-grade high-purity sustainable ethanol from carbon capture. This uses near-zero water consumption and reduces the need for agricultural land.

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