Abstract: Going Green: The Growth of Natural Beauty

Geoffrey Jones


This paper examines the history of environmentally friendly or green cosmetics since the 1940s. Today the size of the global "purely natural and organic beauty products" market is estimated $6.9 billion. When the sector began, it was the preserve of fringe entrepreneurs such as Emil Bonner and Yves Rocher, who were far ahead of any perceived consumer demand. The market was minimal until the 1970s, when wider environmental concerns and concerns about the health risks of some products began to translate into a potential market for green cosmetics, and several more business-savvy entrepreneurs entered the business, including Horst Rechelbacher and Anita Roddick. The paper explores how these entrepreneurs widened the concept of "greenness," and also shows why large mainstream beauty companies were slow to understand the potential market. During recent years new entrepreneurial firms, such as Korres from Greece, and the entry of the major beauty companies such as Estée Lauder and L'Oréal, have transformed natural beauty into one of the fastest growing segments of the industry, despite continued uncertainty about what green really means. Overall, the paper provides a case study of how a niche, even weird, idea can become a mainstream industry trend.