Managing Director & Consultant
There are several ways in which this can be answered and in essence (every pun intended) it boils down to the materials that are used to create the fragrance:
1) Essential oils grown on poor quality soils e.g. lavender, lavandin, spike spanish, etc.
These can be grown organically and/or based on Fair Trade as well as grown sustainably on land that is often unsuitable for other growing purposes e.g. lavender and lavandin grows on very poor soil which would find it hard to grow other meaningful crops without extensive fertilization and artificial irrigation.
2) Other Essential Oils such as Vanilla Absolute grown in rainforest canopies.
Vanilla is an orchid which can only grow within small farms by training the vines on trees in the rainforest, most typically Madagascar but also India, PNG, Uganda, Tahiti. Whilst the rainforest trees themselves do not offer eco-friendly or sustainable crops, the vanilla orchids that grow on them do offer sustainable harvests and do therefore "protect" the rainforest trees that they grow on which most otherwise be cleared to plant other cash crops.
3) Eco-friendly aroma chemicals e.g. synthetic sources from by-products.
For example, linalol and linalool and a host of associated similar products are produced from the by-product stream of vitamin production. Others including several turpentine derived materials are manufactured from the by-products of paper pulp manufacture.
4) Biodegradable materials.
The industry is self-regulating and over the past two decades have deliberately and systematically withdrawn materials from use based on their eco-toxicity profiles. This has included the voluntary discontinuation of several non-biodegradable musks and the development of similar olfactive contribution materials which are biodegradable. Extensive eco-testing, leading to appropriate labeling and restrictive use levels are then used to ensure skin safety and meet stringent environmental conditions. There are literally thousands of materials, each of which is governed by the IFRA/RIFM body whose member companies are monitored for compliance.
You could get into a debate about whether sustainable essential oils are the way to go to create an eco-friendly perfume, however you could also look at the carbon footprint and say that using chemicals sourced from by-product streams would also be highly eco-friendly as otherwise these would be waste products.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hamish Taylor graduated from Edinburgh University in 1987 with a degree in Chemistry and a passion for business. He joined Unilever as part of their graduate programme and spent the next 19 years working for their Quest International fragrances subsidiary. In 1989 he was posted to Japan for the first time, an experience that led to a further three years spent in Japan (1991-94) where he fulfilled Sales and Marketing leadership roles.
After three years of European and global account management experience, Quest was bought from Unilever by ICI in 1997 after which Hamish once again returned to Japan. He led the Asia Pacific Creative Development function in addition to significant account management leadership in Japan and Asia.
Having worked for and with Unilever as a client for some 15 years, in 2002 he moved to the USA to take on global responsibility for Quest's business with Procter & Gamble. Fuelled by a strong identification with P&G's "Connect & Develop" approach to product innovation, his global team won internal and external recognition for creative success. Having fulfilled various business leadership roles in Europe, Asia and the USA, Hamish joined the Fragrance Division executive leadership team in 2006.
After the acquisition of Quest by Givaudan, Hamish left the business in June 2007 to establish Shinergise Partners Ltd.