Health and beauty products company Aveda recently achieved gold-level Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification for seven of its products, becoming only the second U.S. company to become certified, after Method, the cleaning-product company.
Aveda worked with McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) LLC, which pioneered the C2C concept, to certify its products and packaging as environmentally sustainable, said Chuck Bennett, Vice President of Earth and Community Care at Aveda.
Bennett recently discussed with Environmental Leader some of the keys in developing its C2C process.
Key #1 – Define the certification criteria and determine which products might be a good fit.
The process toward C2C certification began in 2004, Bennett said, with development of certification criteria for R&D team and product formulators. The teams then determined which products could effectively meet the environmentally friendly criteria, which includes a materials assessment, process evaluation, audit and issuance of certificate.
“Cradle to cradle certification was kind of a logical outcome of our ongoing efforts. We wanted to communicate the benefits of our efforts, and one way to do that was to become certified,” Bennett said. “We didn’t start out to get certification. We saw it as an end for the process.”
Key #2 – Involve the right people.
For Aveda, obtaining C2C certification was not the object of giant, overarching committees. Rather, it was an ongoing process conducted by a defined group of stakeholders, Bennett said.
Bennett oversaw and coordinated the process, working with Aveda’s packaging director, its vice president of R&D, and some supply chain partners, which Bennett declined to identify.
“We don’t produce our own packaging. We purchase it separately. The challenge for us was to pull together all the information from our suppliers so that it could be evaluated to the same standards as our products,” he said.
Some suppliers were hesitant about disclosure of proprietary information, he said, so confidentially agreements were put in place, between Aveda and suppliers as well as MBDC and the Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency, the Hamburg, Germany-based environmental consultancy founded by Michael Bruangart. Braungart also is a partner in MBDC.
Key #3 – Keep the lines of communications open.
Over the five years of the certification project, Aveda was in constant communications with EPEA.
“For us, it was a matter of deciding which products we wanted to certify, because we wanted it to be a cross-section of our product line, and the products also had to meet the standards, so there was some preliminary communications about that,” he said.
“While these products tend to be some of our better sellers, the products chosen for gold certification were chosen because they are pillars of our business, and represent a cross-section of Aveda’s most productive domains,” he added.
Part of the certification process has to do with the way in which the products are manufactured. In this case, Aveda was not required to alter any of its manufacturing processes to achieve certification.
Energy use, water use and corporate responsibility are incorporated into the process.
“The fact that we use 100 percent renewable energy use in our operations certainly helped in the gold-level certification,” Bennett said.
“The products were certified gold, but the packaging was only certified silver,” Bennett said, adding that the process will result in Aveda making improvements in packaging. “Some of the packaging elements were less than optimal. We want to take a systematic look at packaging across the product line.”
“The entire relationship and systematic review has been a good way to understand how we really walk and talk,” Bennett said.