Cosmetics with a conscience

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 July, 2011, 12:00am


As consumers look beyond sales counter and consider the social and environmental impact of the beauty industry, pressure is mounting on players to deliver products that promote personal grooming with a conscience.

Hong Kong's beauty shelves are being filled with a host of new products that go beyond the notion of being natural or organic, and the city will take centre stage in the ethical debate in November when it hosts the first Asia-Pacific edition of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.

Beauty lines such as Kahina Giving Beauty recently debuted in Hong Kong, where the premise is not only to be organic, but to put some of the profits back in the hands of the communities where the ingredients are sourced, in this case the Berber women in southwest Morocco. As founder Katharine L'Heureux explained on a recent visit to the city, 25 per cent of the company's profits go back to the women who source the raw materials. 'I was so taken by these women. I developed my brand around the concept of women helping women through beauty rituals.'

Similarly, the Rahua hair care brand by stylist Fabian Lliguin recently launched in the city. As well as adhering to a 100 per cent natural ingredients (the products are vegan-friendly), it also promotes fair trade and the preservation of the Amazonian tribe. Both products also use organic ingredients where possible. With Kahina, the outer packaging is created from 100 per cent recycled materials and its bottles are made from recyclable glass.

The rise of these products is not surprising - Asia has become a key focus for groups attempting to promote sustainability as the region, and China in particular, become big growth areas for the beauty industry.

According to Marie-Theres Wimmer, Marketing Events Assistant at Organic Monitor, which is organising Hong Kong's Sustainable Cosmetics Summit: 'With Chinese consumers becoming more affluent and more concerned about health and wellness issues, we see China as having a large untapped market for natural and organic beauty products.'

During the summit, representatives from the manufacturing and raw materials side of the industry will join retailers, distributors, researchers, academics and investors to debate topics such as green formulations, and what kind of standards and certification schemes would be suitable for Asian companies and consumers.

A hot topic at the moment for example is the use of agricultural land - as this land is being increasingly diverted from food production, the beauty industry is being pressured to ensure that its ingredients are sustainably sourced. Hong Kong may however have some way to go when considering its contribution to the debate. As Edwin Lau, spokesman for Friends of the Earth points out, the city has shortcomings when taking even the most basic recycling efforts into account.

Hong Kong has a meagre record when it comes to recycling plastic and glass - high and low quality plastics are still mixed together for recycling, and it is still up to consumers to make the effort to find a recycling bin for their old beauty products, he stresses.

The Sustainable Cosmetics Summit will take place in Hong Kong from November 7-8, 2011 (