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FILM: The Green Pioneers
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32 mins, 2008
This is a profile of two companies that seem to have proved it's possible to be green and make a profit. Ecover make cleaning and washing products. They avoid raw materials based on petrochemicals which, they claim, make "the big brands" so damaging - to our health and the environment. Green People make skin care products, using only natural, organic ingredients. They take the same position as Ecover. They believe conventional products are the cause of many of our modern health problems, from allergies to even cancer.
SO WHAT'S THE BIG PROBLEM?
Ingredients based on petrochemicals have one big advantage for the companies that use them - they're cheap. But some of these ingredients are harsh chemicals, they have a different molecular structure to "natural" ingredients. It means our bodies don't recognise them, they can't break them down. The result? They built up in the fatty tissue with unknown long term consequences.
Not everyone takes this view. Toxicology consultant Paul Illing disputes that man made chemicals are any more damaging than their natural equivalents.
BUT IS IT WORTH THE RISK?
A link between these chemicals and cancer has not been proven, "but the contrary has not been proven either," says Peter Malaise, of Ecover. Ian Taylor of Green People agrees. "While there is a doubt, we would prefer not to deal with these substances."
THE LONG HARD ROAD TO GREEN PERFECTION:
But finding natural alternatives to synthetic ingredients is not easy. Ecover has been developing its formulae for 30 years. Green People are often disappointed when developing a new product: either the formulation breaks down or they find it's been contaminated by synthetic chemicals: it's back to the drawing board!
A NEW FORMULA FOR BUSINESS?
Both companies have found new formulae for their products, have they found a new formula for business, too? Although profits are important, they are not the be-all and end-all of business. Says Malaise: "I think that attitude is completely wrong. Companies are there to serve the needs of people."
A DROP IN THE OCEAN?
Both Ecover and Green People are small players in a multi-billion pound market. Can they ever change the approach of the "big brands"? Can their niche market for "green consumers" ever become a mass market? They are both growing at about 20%. Says Ecover's managing director Mik Bremens: "I think that is considerable growth. I don't think that's a drop in the ocean, I think it will be a great wave!"
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