Grand Rapids, Mich. — For high-end beauty brand Aveda, using post-consumer resin in packaging doesn't mean compromise.
Aveda, a unit of Estee Lauder Cos. Inc., has hundreds of products available through both the retail and salon channels, and the vast majority of the packaging is made using post-consumer resin (PCR).
"We have a deep passion for sustainability," said Edmond Irizarry, executive director of packaging development for Aveda at the Re|focus Sustainability & Recycling Summit in Grand Rapids. "You can be both sustainable and aspirational and that's the journey we're on today from a packaging point of view."
The Aveda brand dates back 40 years and has always held an environmental ethos, he explained.
"Before it was cool and hip to talk about packaging sustainability we were doing it," Irizarry said.
Aveda has even put its environmental priorities ahead of business decisions, specifically electing to limit its business in India, for example.
Aveda does not participate in the popular single-use sachet – flexible packaging – portion of the market because they are difficult to recycle.
“We haven’t been able to identify as a brand a sachet solution that fits within our mission,” he said.
The company also does not sell into China because that market still requires animal testing.
Aveda, despite being part of a publicly traded company, believes its brand values are more important than certain business opportunities.
Aveda has such a reputation for working with recycled plastics that other brands within the Estee Lauder portfolio go to that company for advice and guidance, Irizarry told the Grand Rapids crowd.
Kim Holmes is vice president of sustainability at the Plastics Industry Association, organizer of the annual Re|focus conference.
"Aveda is a great example of how you can use PCR and not compromise your brand and not compromise your customers' expectations," she said. "They have made full commitments to using PCR in their products and that commitment sometimes comes at a cost of changing the aesthetics of your packaging. And that scares a lot of brand owners, but Aveda embraced it."
While Aveda's product packaging portfolio is nearly all PCR and bioplastic based, the company has a goal of converting its full line in the coming years, Irizarry said.
"We are not done," he said. "We don't want to use any more virgin plastic. [This is] a huge commitment for us. We want to elevate the look of our packaging. You can be sustainable, but you also can be beautiful."
Aveda, because it is a luxury band, can afford to absorb potentially higher packaging costs associated with PCR use.
"We try not to look at it SKU by SKU," Irizarry said. The company, instead, looks at its packaging costs across its portfolio. That helps the company make bigger picture decisions.
A challenge the company sees is creating packaging with recycled and bioplastic content that will appeal to the emerging generation of consumers in this Instagram age, he said.
Aveda also wants to continuously improve the environmental attributes of the company's packaging with resin use being largely addressed at this point, he said. Light-weighting could be a future area to tackle.
"We have a deep passion for sustainability," Irizarry said.