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Sustainability and innovation – key themes at EDANA’s recent OUTLOOK Personal Care Products Conference

Sustainability and Innovation featured as two key themes at the world’s premier Personal Care Products Conference, OUTLOOK, which took place from 26 -28 September in the attractive town of Cascais (Lisbon) in Portugal.
Sustainability and Innovation featured as two key themes at the world’s premier Personal Care Products Conference, OUTLOOK, which took place from 26 -28 September in the attractive town of Cascais (Lisbon) in Portugal. This sixth edition has once again been a resounding success, bringing together more than 360 participants from all parts of the personal care products industry supply chain.

OUTLOOK’s success was due both to the high-level and ground-breaking presentations from 17 leading business consultants, top academics and authoritative industry speakers in the field, and also to the prime opportunity given to participants to exchange information and build personal business contacts. The themes discussed in this sixth edition included Innovation and R&D, Energy and Raw Materials, Incontinence Trends, Sustainability, and Business and Future Perspectives.

Innovation – online, offline and ‘open’

In the innovation topic area, Jaap Favier, Vice President, Research Director of Marketing & Customer Experience, from Forrester, opened up the first day of the conference by presenting the concept of Social Computing (basically the interaction between social behaviour and computers), and explained how companies can use this trend to regain consumer attention. Favier explains that consumers have generally lost trust in brands and instead have turned to friends and contacts for product recommendations. With the rise of social software, for example blogs and chat rooms, where people exchange personal opinions online, companies can tap into this tool to re-capture public opinion, for example by creating a ‘client space’ on a website.

Robert Stargel, Vice President – Global Nonwovens, from Kimberly-Clark Corporation presented nonwovens innovation in the Kimberly Clark Corporation.  He explained that the successful equation for innovation combines creativity with business impact, and that a company must continuously create new ideas which consumers are not necessarily asking for. He went on to give the audience pointers for future considerations and on-going innovation in the nonwovens field, which included rapid prototyping, innovation tools, talent pools, new threats from global competition, modelling and innovation incubation.

Richard Brennan,
Vice President Personal Care, from Kraton Polymers presented innovations in the uses of elastomeric products.  He explained that the new polymers that are currently being created could open up new application opportunities in Personal Care applications, and potentially even in industrial and geotextile applications as well. Allowing the same processing speed for spunbond nonwovens as Polypropylene bi-component, these polymers would offer Polyurethane-type elastic properties.

Wim Vanhaverbeke, Professor & Researcher, from Hasselt University & Eindhoven University of Technology introduced the topic of Open Innovation. Mr Vanhaverbeke explained that Open Innovation (OI) is an open and collaborative innovation between organisations that speeds up the innovation engine. OI is two-fold, on one hand it is filling your company’s gaps with external technology and on the other it is growing new businesses and profiting from others’ use of your technology.  He said, ‘Not all of the smart people in the world work for us.  But we must have enough smart people to recognize excellent research’.

Laurent Gheeraert, Researcher, from the Solvay Business School (University of Brussels) introduced the EDANA Business Field Project. EDANA commissioned a team of MBA students to build, together with selected partners from the industry, a simulation model to analyse the impact of the migration factors for delocalisation in the nonwovens industry. Given the complexity of such a model, only one sector - medical gowns and drapes - was chosen as a pilot. This model, which will be replicable for other sectors, allows the user to identify and quantify the significant factors affecting the decision where to locate. Migration factors are, and will continue to be in the years to come, crucial elements for industry globalisation, and this project will help members assess various localisation scenarios. Mr Gheeraert concluded that a delocalisation decision should only be taken within a strategic framework and the sustainability of the cost advantage depends largely on the wages’ convergence rate in the emerging country.

Energy and raw materials … high demands need sustainable solutions

Didier Lutsen, European Union Affairs Manager, ExxonMobil Petroleum & Chemical kicked off the second day introducing the energy outlook until 2030. His major predictions were that the demand for energy will increase roughly 60 percent from the levels in the year 2000 with liquids, gas and coal remaining the predominant energy sources. Alternative energy sources like biomass, nuclear, wind and solar energy will only generate 1.5 percent of total need.   He said however that even though growth levels are quite high, our energy resources are adequate to sustain this growth, but the use of technology remains vital to meeting energy challenges, for example increasing energy efficiency and mitigating CO² emissions.

Per Arfidsson, Senior Vice President & CPO, from SCA Hygiene Products focused on energy challenges for the industry.  He predicts that energy markets will remain unpredictable and volatile due to geopolitics, liberalisation of the energy markets, EU sustainable society policies, and the security of supply from countries such as Russia where unstable weather conditions can affect prices.  Oil prices will remain the main driver in energy markets, and the EU emission trading system will have a major impact on electricity costs in the short-term at least. He finished by reminding participants that the energy issue is not only important for industry but for society as a whole, and will become even more important in the years to come.

Gabriela Grab Hartman
, Senior Equity Analyst, from Sustainable Asset Management (SAM) looked at how to measure corporate social responsibility, using tools such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and its impact on financial performance. She advocated that by adding value through social, environmental and economic factors, the personal care industry’s long-term financial performance will increase. SAM’s sustainability assessment methodology identifies the global trends in a sector that have a link to financial performance, in the case of the personal care industry these are: 1) demographic change, 2) changing consumer habits and 3) the shortage of resources. Ms Grab Hartman gave the following advice to the personal care industry: companies should capitalise on business opportunities in emerging countries, innovation is required due to tough competition, and aim for greater transparency.

Health Economics and Sustainability

Professor Hans Rosling, Professor, from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden looked at health as a driver of economic growth, looking at industrial and developing countries, especially Asia and asking whether globalisation is not just modernisation.
His fascinating and lively presentation, using state-of-the art software ( showed the development of population, social and health movements in countries throughout the world over the past 40 years. Child mortality has become a key indicator of prosperity and health and developing countries are moving at a much higher speed than ever before.  As the gap between the previous ‘us’ and them’ (a distinction which, Rosling demonstrated, is obviously prejudiced and over-simplistic) is rapidly decreasing, there are huge opportunities for hygiene products in emerging markets.  In the past a woman used to have on average seven pregnancies, which meant that combined with breastfeeding, she would then only have 120 menstruations in a lifetime. Nowadays on average a woman has two children and 340 menstruations in her life time.  This is just one the opportunities created by changing demographics and economics.

Björn Uddenberg, Director Category Incontinence Care, SCA Personal Care, gave participants an introduction to the future of the incontinence products market. He presented his outlook for the various sectors. In institutions, the market will continue to be concentrated in Europe, North America and Japan with development in emerging countries. Companies will need to produce easy to work with, leakage secure and cost efficient products for this sector. In retail, breaking down taboos with continued communications, developing new product categories and availability, including smaller products, is essential. Finally, in the home care sector, due to the rising numbers of elderly people, continued product innovation for smaller products, which are easy-to-use and cost efficient, is the key.

Speaking on behalf of Mandy Fader from the University of Southampton, Alan Cottenden, Technical Director, from the University College London looked at the question of developing a quality of life tool for evaluating absorbent products. Absorbent products do not treat or reduce the problem of incontinence, but they do enormously enhance the patient’s quality of life. The team developing the quality of life tool believes that the development of a standardised questionnaire is essential for companies to be able to improve products, which on one hand will benefit the user, and on the other hand, will allow the consumer or healthcare service provider to justify spending more money on a superior product. Mr Cottenden gave an example of one respondent’s answer to the question ‘how does using an absorbent product affect your every day life’: “Sometimes it affects being with friends because you just don’t trust the pad and don’t want to leave a wet patch on their seat, so you tend to leave early so it spoils the time with them and they often don’t understand why you are leaving earlier than you should”.

Stefanie Christmann
, Communications Director, SCA Personal Care, and Chair, HAPCO Communications Working Group, unveiled EDANA’s exciting new industry initiative aimed at increasing knowledge and understanding of the societal benefits and sustainability of absorbent hygiene products and personal care wipes. Over the past 50 years AHPs have become an essential feature of modern day life and through the innovation, technology and creativity of the industry supply chain they have improved dramatically from their early forms so much so that these days they offer discretion, increased mobility and flexibility for users, reliability, improved skin health, hygiene and convenience.  Despite their undisputable benefits and contribution to our daily lives, AHPs do have detractors, and so this initiative, aimed at key stakeholder audiences, intends to create a measured, thoughtful and fact-based response to the times in which we live and to evolve to become an ongoing platform for dialogue and communication.  The activities over the next two years fall into three broad categories namely 1) research to help quantify and qualify the benefits of AHPs, 2) production of factual materials about our products and associated themes, including the 2007-2008 Sustainability Report on Absorbent Hygiene Products and 3) dialogue with key audiences to create community of interest on relevant topics.

Ioannis Hatzopoulos
, External Relations Manager, Procter & Gamble and Chair of HAPCO’s Sustainability and Environmental Working Group presented the absorbent hygiene industry’s commitment to sustainable development and its newly released 2007-2008 Sustainability Report.  Using data from 2005 and 2006, this latest edition is an update of the 2005 report and has been extended to contain data on sanitary pads, pantyliners and tampons.  Dr. Hatzopoulos provided updates on all aspects of sustainability, covering social, economic and environmental advances.  Of particular note is the trend analysis of the environmental impact of baby diapers and incontinence products EDANA commissioned in 2006. This shows the change in the environmental impact of our products in various important areas over time.  A baby diaper today weighs 40% less than 20 years ago. The global warming and summer smog impacts of baby diapers, for example fell between 1987 and 2005 by 37% and 43% respectively. Similar positive tends have been shown with incontinence products.  The 2005 and 2007-8 Report are both available on the EDANA website.

Business of the future

The last section of the conference looked forward to business and future developments. Professor Suzanne Berger from MIT gave a fascinating presentation on the constraints and opportunities that globalisation offers companies. Prof Berger asked whether all companies in a sector need to follow their competitors in ‘best practice’ outsourcing and off shoring methods, and she puts forward that they do not. She insists that there is not just one method for success, instead she illustrated that there are many companies who become new market leaders in old industries. She also demonstrated that the net impact of globalisation in terms of job losses was limited, if not insignificant. Prof Berger urged companies to focus on innovation, and on balancing open innovation with protecting the company’s intellectual property.

Geleyn R. Meijer
, Group Innovation Director, from LogicaCMG introduced the concept of how the web is changing public, private and professional life.  He believes that the future of personal care products is in personal care services. Innovation is required that encourages creativity close to the user, so basically, connecting the customer and the company is the core of the business model and this can be achieved by using the internet. Thanks to the power of ICT and the internet, you, me and we are all part of the innovation process. He gave advice on how to create a successful business model, including 1) explore and identify new end-user communities, 2) focus on services, 3) experiment with partners and alliances and 4) embed innovation in the organisation.  He concluded that simplicity is not easy, but Business Model innovation can be made to last.

Chris Fuller,
Director, from Equilia Limited introduced Management Buy Outs (MBOs), their increasing significance in the European economy, and how to get the most from one. He advocated that the best way to profit from a MBO is to prepare, present and maintain a Business Plan, and to plan the exit procedure and its contractual priorities.

Lastly, Irina Barbalova, Head of Disposable Paper Products, from Euromonitor International presented the trends in the global hygiene products industry, where the biggest global growth markets are in Eastern Europe and Latin America. In terms of product trends, facial wipes show great potential in the wipes market and already count for almost a quarter of market sales. The hygiene market is being driven further by following the ‘green’ trend, quality improvements and extra features, and the introduction of new products on the market. In her outlook for the future, Ms Barbalova predicts that East Asia is set to overtake Europe by 2011, and in order to succeed, companies must think ‘outside of the box’.

The next opportunity to think ‘outside of the box’ and to experience innovation first hand, is at INDEX 08, the world’s leading nonwovens exhibition, which takes place in Geneva on 15-18 April 2008.

Since its launch in 2001, OUTLOOK has gained a reputation for high quality papers and excellent opportunities for networking and business development. Building on the success of its six previous personal care conferences EDANA is already making plans for the next OUTLOOK on 17-19 September 2008 (venue to be announced soon).

The CD-ROM of the complete set of papers will be available for sale from EDANA from 1 November 2007.

For further information, please contact:
Catherine Lennon, Communications Director, EDANA
Telephone: +32 2 734 93 10 / Fax: +32 2 733 35 18
A selection of photos from OUTLOOK is attached in the pdf document and copies are available in high resolution jpegs – please contact Abigail Goundry, Communications Assistant, if you wish to receive copies.
Tel: +32 2 740 18 22
Fax: +32 2 733 35 18
EDANA | Avenue Herrmann Debroux 46-B-1160 Brussels, Belgium | Tel: +32 2 734 93 10