Sustainability is a word we see more and more in the beauty industry, and increasingly concerning fragrance. Quite rightly too! As consumers, we are challenging brands to ensure that the products we buy are sustainable so we can continue to enjoy them in the future.
But what is sustainability? What does sustainable fragrance mean? Well, the answer is simple. Sustainability, in the context of fragrance, is all about ensuring perfume products’ production without the depletion of natural resources to maintain ecological balance.
Consider this – perfume is a luxury product, which means it has no real reason to exist other than the joy it brings. So, when something doesn’t need to exist, it shouldn’t have a negative impact on the environment; this is the essence of sustainability. With so many of us considering the climate and environment, and how these relate to our purchasing habits, perfume brands are changing practices to meet our changing needs.
Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a necessity to ensure the future. Let’s take a quick look at how the perfumes we wear can be sustainable.
1. The Juice
The first place to start with sustainability in perfume is with the juice and the ingredients used to make it. Each of the fragrances we wear comprises a range of materials by perfumers, many of them working for the big perfume houses such as IFF, Givaudan and Firmenich (of course, many perfumers are independent too). For the most part, perfumers work with natural and synthetic materials, blending them to create fragrance compositions that are novel, exciting and beautiful.
To be sustainable is to think about where those materials come from. How they’re sourced and what impact harvesting them, extracting them, and producing them has on the planet. To think sustainably is to consider the long-term effect of these things and what actions can be taken to ensure that materials can be sourced, produced and extracted in a way that’s minimally harmful to the environment so that they can continue to be used in the future.
Sustainability goes beyond the argument of whether natural or synthetic is better (honestly, most good perfumes need both, don’t @ me) because both have an impact in one way or another. Instead, sustainability in fragrances looks at how the industry can lessen its impact on the environments and communities from which it sources its materials, because without those, where would we be?
Montblanc Explorer is an excellent example of a fragrance that has sustainability on its mind. Created by a trio of perfumers, Explorer uses materials from Givaudan’s Sourcing for Shared Value program, which showcases materials essential to perfumery (such as patchouli and vetiver – you know, the staples). They also support the local communities producing these materials to embrace ethical and sustainable development. The program also features educative initiatives for these communities, ensuring sustainability for the future; this is just one way that perfume can be sustainable.
2. The Packaging
Another way is with packaging. The packaging is an essential element in any fragrance presentation. Sure, the juice is important, but we all know that when we drop some serious dollar on a bottle of perfume, we want it to look nice. We want a fancy bottle and a lovely box, thank you very much. But with packaging comes waste and with waste comes trouble. We don’t want the planet being destroyed because we couldn’t resist a fancy box, which is something that brands are becoming more and more conscious of, which is a good thing!
One easy way brands are offering more sustainable packing options is via refillable bottles. For example, Mugler has been doing this right from the outset, offering multiple refill options that allow consumers to purchase one bottle and keep it for life. In addition to this, many other brands use recyclable and recycled card for their boxes. These are the bread and butter of sustainable packaging options, but as technology develops, perfume brands are looking at more intriguing ways to be more sustainable/environmentally friendly.
Acqua di Parma pulled out all of the sustainability stops when they launched Colonia Futura last year. Futura boasts several innovative packaging elements that are more ecologically friendly. Firstly, the cap and bottle are both recyclable (with the cap being made from recycled plastic, not the brand’s signature Bakelite), which is very good news. But the cool part is the label on both the bottle and box, which is made from scrap dust sourced from marble quarries. How cool is that?
Both Colonia Futura and Montblanc Explorer are hopeful products. Hopeful because they show just how brands are thinking deeply about sustainability and putting positive measures in place. There is still a long way to go, but these aren’t the only products and brands out there doing sustainable things, there are so many, and each one is doing something different. The more the big fragrance houses and brands focus their attention on sustainable fragrance, the easier it will be for smaller brands to follow suit, which means that we have exciting things ahead.
Sustainability isn’t a buzzword; it’s just the new way of doing things.