Green Suppliers: The Sin of Omission

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(This is a letter to many of the chemical manufacturers and their distributors and formulating chemists. You know who you are…)

Green Chemistry is the future and so many of you are working hard to use the principles of green chemistry to create exciting, new ingredients. Thank you. But we need to talk about brands and their consumers.

First, the set up: my dad was an uncomfortably honest man. When I was 11 he caught me in a pre-teen lie (that I don’t even remember) but I sure remember learning what the “sin of omission” was – because evidently I only told half the truth and boy did I hear about it. I learned a serious lesson that day. The “sin of omission” became a significant part of how I understand and judge the world.

Now the issue: please stop deceiving your customers about “green technology”. The exploding development of “plant-derived fermented” products depends on the use of genetically modified micro-organisms (GMMs). Why can’t you explain that to people?

I know consumers are freaked out by “GMOs”, and maybe they should be. The chemicals necessary to grow those open pollinators have come under hard scrutiny as potential carcinogens. Story for another day.

But GMMs are different. Yeast and other modified micro-organisms – seem to actually be safe and sustainable. Even if GM yeast was sprinkled all over the planet, in all likelihood, it would die and biodegrade. There does not appear to be any big risks from GMM (although I’m always open to learning more) so why do you all seem to be afraid to disclose the technology? You test the safety of the finished ingredients, right?

Can you take the time to explain the technology and sustainability and safety issues to your customers? This would be a seriously good step on the road to sustainable production.

Only saying that an ingredient is “made from sugar” (or whatever crop) is half the truth.  And worse than the “sin of omission” is going to be the anger when consumers discover that so much of this technology is in their personal care products and you all just said “it’s made from sugar”. There is very little that packs the same punch as betrayal.

So, buck up! Tell the whole truth. Educate your customers and business partners. Stop the deception. Share your expertise, knowledge and be an educational scientist. Help your customers teach their consumers.

Truth is sustainable.