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April 22, 2018

The Ethical Shift in CPG


Can corporate be good? Multinationals are introducing ethical self care and beauty products to address the growing needs of conscious citizens. Are we finally at the verge of a collective awakening?

There’s something funny happening in the marketplace where all the sudden, I’m noticing really smart, ethical products pop up by major corporations who typically aren’t known to produce ‘good for the planet’, goods. You could say, if there’s market, there is a mission – the beauty category was responsible for around 89 billion U.S. dollars in 2017 alone. But there is a perception that some consumers hold which assumes corporate players are monsters when it comes to being ethical or sustainable – from unjust labor practices, poor use of ingredients in products mass produced, to manufacturing waste and overuse of energy, water, and so on which can make many earth-loving human angry. Of course, when you are producing tons of product for a global marketplace you need resources, but where must we draw the line when it comes to being responsible before it’s too late?

The Industrial Revolution provoked us to produce – at the time it was a positive thing –  it created jobs, made people a living, gave us stuff to buy and be happy with, and so forth. But then suddenly it seemed, we had a lapse of time and people started to wake up; studies were conducted, things were measured, the Internet happened, and a lot of information became transparent. We learned that there was a lot that needed to be done to minimize greed and carelessness.

I personally have a minor tendency to indulge in self-care and beauty products here and there –  I mean, I probably have 5 different types of shampoos in my shower at any given moment. Hey, I’m curious! And I like to smell good. While at a Procter & Gamble beauty immersion in Ohio, I also learned that women on average own up to several types of deodorants – good, so it’s not just me (and to be clear, I’m working on my hoarding tendencies).  Things take time to change, but the time is now and the agenda for change is becoming more and more of a force to reckon with.

So, who is leading the charge on the race to become a better, ethical global corporate citizen in the beauty category? I’ve identified a few brands here that I have to tip my hat to, and here’s why:

Seed Phytonutrients by L’Oreal 

I attended the launch for L’Oreal’s new brand Seed Phytonutrients the other night and was not only honored to be there, but the event was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before – everyone was so incredibly amped up by the fact that we were celebrating an ethical product that would make the world a better place. And that’s not just a marketing position to drive appeal; these guys are the real deal.

During the launch party, one of the Founders gave an endearing speech and told us that after their internal launch, the team received an overwhelming amount of queries and requests – curious to learn more about the brand, their approach, and so on. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the decision to grow Seed Phytonutrients inside an organization as large as L’Oreal was a conscious choice – the team wants to help create change and influence within one of the largest beauty companies in the world.

Their packaging is so genius you will be left scratching your head as to why no one created this years ago – totally compostable, made with 100% PCR paper (post consumer recycled paper) this is the first shower-safe paper packaging in the beauty industry. Can I get a HELL YEAH. Man I LOVE this brand so much. At the launch I connected with Bradley Farrell, VP & Lead Brand Farmhand, Seed Phytonutrients who commented on their new endeavor:

At Seed Phytonutrients, we are a very passionate group with a mission to plant the seeds of health, well-being, and sustainability for future generations. Our philosophy is simple, everything we do and every decision we make, revolve around our 4 brand obsessions: preserving seed diversity, supporting independent American organic farmers, leading environmental sustainability, and the idea that natural beauty means healthy living.” 

So, what’s with the seeds? The seed is the most concentrated part of the plant, and an ideal choice for top quality ingredients. It’s where a plant’s nutrients are encased and protected from environmental elements so they remain in their purest form. Seeds contain high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, phytosterols, carotene and vitamins A, C, D and E.


Herbal Essences:bio renew by Procter & Gamble 

The Herbal Essences brand has been around for a while – almost 50 years! When I was a teenager I recall purchasing the shampoo and conditioners, when Clairol still owned the brand. But Herbal Essences has gone through some major changes for the better – the brand has introduced a bio:renew collection in 2017 which uses recycled plastic for the packaging, and totally axes some of the big chemical no-no’s including: no parabens, no colorants, no gluten, no mineral oils, no BPA, and no added phthalates. And they even have an ethical NO-NO LIST that calls out the bad stuff banished from their products you can read on their website.

Herbal Essences is also 90% naturally derived which means that plant derived materials, mineral derived materials and water, all of which undergo limited processing, make up at least 90% of each bio:renew formula. The remaining percentage of the formula that is not naturally derived consists of ingredients that are necessary to ensure the efficacy and stability of the formula, as well as its texture and fragrance over time. The core building block of bio:renew is the antioxidant Histidine – similar to how superfood works in the body, bio:renew purifies and protects hair from the inside out by trapping, neutralizing and removing the build-up of free radicals that wreak havoc on hair.

Rachel Zipperian, Product Development: Products Researcher at Procter & Gamble provides insight to the brands latest initiatives: “I want to drive awareness of the issue of Plastic Pollution to empower people to make better choices everyday.”  For her work on Herbal Essences, despite the heavy plastic use for their products, they are making efforts to help offset emissions by buying renewable wind credits – last year they bought enough credits to offset 3.6 Million gallons of gas… that’s 74,000 barrels of oil!

Their manufacturing site also sends ZERO waste to the landfill.  Zero waste to landfill means that through composting, recycling and energy recovery programs not a single drop of product or waste reaches local landfills. Rachel adds: “We are working on better solutions each and every day at Herbal Essences. My favorite use for the plastic waste – disposable flower pots! My husband and I created an art installment to help spread the news to fellow P&G employees. And at my kids school, I worked with the PTA to get a refillable water station in the cafeteria to reduce water bottle usage. I hope to break the disposable water bottle habit early!” 

Herbal Essences bio:renew

Visiting the P&G lab in Ohio


Love Beauty and Planet by Unilever

Unilever has just unveiled Love Beauty and Planet – delivering what they call, small acts of love in every bottle. Cute. But what does that actually mean? Take it from Molly Landman, Unilever Global Marketing Director for new eco-brand Love Beauty and Planet: “Today’s consumer is extremely discerning in what she expects from a beauty brand; not only in terms of efficacy, but in terms of sustainability, eco-friendliness and a certain ‘naturalness.’ We really felt like there was an opportunity to speak to that consumer who was raising her hand, to not only give love to her beauty but also give love back to the planet.” 

So, how have they done it?

  • Packaging: 100% recycled bottles –  every bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic and is 100% recyclable. They also use a special adhesive to ensure labels separate from the bottle during the recycling process to help ensure our bottles get a second life.
  • Fast-Rinse Conditioner Technology: apparently this is a patent pending technology which apparently can help you reduce shower time and save some water. Having given it a whirl, the conditioner is definitely lightweight…though I have to say as much as I appreciate the thinking behind this, it really is up to the consumer to make a conscious choice to not take long showers and help reduce water waste.
  • Scents Infused with an Ethically-Sourced Oil or Extract: the in-shower products are infused with an ethically sourced essential oil or absolute, like French heirloom lavender, Moroccan mimosa flower or Bulgarian rose. These ingredients are obtained by Unilever’s fragrance partner, Givaudan, whose responsible sourcing program helps support the ecosystems and livelihoods of the farmers and communities who grow them.
  • Social Partnerships:  Love Beauty and Planet partners with Ashoka, who has been identifying and supporting the world’s leading social entrepreneurs since 1980, to provide funding to environmental changemakers working to inspire less waste in this world. Now this is quite cool – I think ALL corporations should 100% have a CSR (corporate social responsibility) effort in place. If you’re going to be a leader, lead with positive intention.
  • Carbon Tax Fund:  $40 per ton of Greenhouse Gas emitted during the creation, manufacture and distribution of products is contributed to a “Carbon Tax Fund.” This fund will be used to support third party programs designed to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions and landfill waste.

Facial mist and hair & body oil

Coconut face mist is a thumbs up

What’s your point of view on multinationals offering sustainable products? Are there any others that you feel are doing an honest, good job at offering consumers what they need while positively contributing to the world?


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