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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

Jimena Villegas

Comparison Analysis of Green and Conventional Products

Jimena Villegas

Comparison Analysis of Green and Conventional Products

This dissertation deals with an assessment on the sustainability of household care (HHC) products. So far, the HHC sector has been largely regulated by governments in order to control its environmental implications. Simultaneously, different organizations in this sector have made efforts to reduce health and environmental impacts of cleaning products, which are mainly chemical based. At the same time, companies have introduced “green versions” of their products and new companies have been funded under the eco‐branding movement. These initiatives are an important step to reduce negative impacts of cleaning products on the environment. However, product interaction goes beyond those limits as impacts on society and economy have to be considered as well. At the moment, a new trend in the HHC sector towards sustainable development can be noticed. This dissertation focuses on two main questions which arise from this trend. Firstly, the notion of a sustainable cleaning product has to be defined. Secondly, it has to be examined whether green cleaning products are in fact contributing to transform the HHC sector towards sustainable development. For this purpose, a comparison between green and conventional products within three categories of cleaning products is presented. In order to perform the comparison, a collection of important aspects of cleaning products is determined. Those criteria include amongst others biodegradability and the usage of sensitising substances or PCR material. The criteria are derived from an initial analysis carried out to define possible aspects of a sustainable HHC product. The analysis is based on the life cycle of a HHC product, of its interaction with the environment and the consumer as well as its economic viability. The analysis presented in the dissertation shows, among other results, that plant‐based ingredients are not necessarily more sustainable than petro‐chemical ones. Also, green brands currently can’t make full use of economies of scale as they are establishing themselves in the HHC sector. Finally, a noticeable gap in communication between company and consumer can be observed. The results suggest that green products are still just focusing on environmental aspects. However, other important aspects such as new insights from life cycle analyses, aspects concerning carbon footprint and consumer communication are still unconsidered although they would help to make a more considerable sustainable change.