I’ll get straight to the good part: What’s the deal with the lady from L’Oreal? Many of you asked me this after I tweeted: “L’Oreal rep is reportedly ‘very upset’ about my presentation.” So here’s what I can tell you about that story.
Just as I was about to get on stage to give my keynote speech at the NY Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, I was approached by the conference organizer. He had come to warn me that a woman from L’Oreal was “very upset” about the remarks I was about to give. She was insisting on a rebuttal and she had been calling and sending faxes to the Personal Care Products Council, demanding that they get down to the Marriott right away to defend the industry (the trade association never did show up at the Summit, sustainability apparently not being one of their chief concerns).
The L’Oreal lady hadn’t actually heard my remarks, since I hadn’t given them yet, but she was triggered by two of my slides published in the conference manual:
“Lack of Safety Data” pointed out that 90% of chemicals on the market have no human health data and less than 20% of cosmetic ingredients have been assessed by the industry’s safety panel (I’m upset about that too!); my other slide described efforts to reform federal cosmetics regulations via the Safe Cosmetics Act.
Amarjit suggested I could omit the offending slides, to which I replied hell no, and pointed out that a little controversy is a good thing for this type of conference, which provides an important space to debate hot-button issues that are critical to the conversation about sustainability.
Sadly, the debate never materialized. The L’Oreal lady left before I spoke. Nobody ventured a difficult question or challenging opinion after my talks. I was left to wonder: Did I do such a good job that everyone in the room was convinced? Had all the big companies left by the Summit’s second day? Were people asleep?
I did get a lot of positive feedback from supporters — many people in the room worked for progressive businesses at the forefront of greening the industry — and as for the rest, I welcome rebuttals to the ideas I presented at the conference. As promised, here are my two talks, and I’d love to hear your feedback.
For consumers, sustainability is about health. The big companies at the Summit were talking about sustainability in terms of packaging, waste, carbon footprint — things that save them money and things that, as fellow keynote speaker Bill McDonough pointed out, they are stupid not to do. What they’re not talking about: health. But this is the primary driver for women who are buying green products. Here’s more in my morning keynote address.
Smart companies are taking a precautionary approach. We used to believe the “dose makes the poison” but recent science has changed our understanding about the many ways chemicals can impact health. The warnings from the scientific community, increasing media attention and growing public awareness about the health impacts of chronic, low-dose toxic exposures are changing consumer preferences and prompting new policies that require transparency and precaution. Smart businesses understand these changing dynamics of the market and are getting ahead of the curve. Here’s my afternoon talk.
For more on these points, also check out the short video of my Organic Nation TV interview. And here are a few more highlights from the conference:
Thanks to @aeidinger and everyone else who was tweeting live from the #SustainableCosmetics Summit. Follow me on Twitter @SafeCosmetics. Here are more observations from the conference:
Bill McDonough rocked the house. The cosmetics industry, he said, has a design problem. He didn’t go into much detail about how to fix the problem (I think you have to hire Bill McDonough to find out), but he did offer these gems: “How about lead in your lipstick, is that smart? How about a neurotoxin in your face cream? Kiss your child, kiss of brain death … How can something be beautiful if it hurts healthy children and the planet?”
Very interesting presentation by Jenny Rushmore of Proctor & Gamble. She shared that the recent redesign of Gillette razors has saved hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic in one year — equivalent to the weight in plastic of a Boeing 747! I am stunned and pleased by that, although I can’t help thinking about all the plastic 747s that are still being created by making plastic disposable razors in the first place. P&G is now experimenting with corn-based plastics. Possibly promising (though still polluting). Keep redesigning P&G!
A shout out to the brilliant Jody Villecco and her team at Whole Foods who are doing a huge favor to the natural products industry with their precautionary Premium Body Care Standards and decision to require organic certification for products marketed as organic. We heard at the conference that Target is now considering adopting Whole Foods standards for natural personal care.
Thanks to the many great businesses that have supported the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit since the beginning and who are forging the path for a sustainable cosmetics industry. They are proving it can be done, that it’s possible to make non-toxic products that are just as good and sometimes better than the toxic conventional stuff — and that you can have a lot of fun doing it! Thanks also to Organic Monitor for organizing the Summit and for inviting the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to have a seat at the table. Hope to see you again next year!