People often think that natural products are safer for them and the environment and more sustainable than man-made things, but that’s a misconception.
Everything on the planet is made of the same 90-odd chemical elements, so dividing things into “natural” and “chemical” can be seriously misleading.
Natural is not always more sustainable
The one way in which natural ingredients can have an advantage in terms of sustainability is that they are potentially renewable. But many other factors come into play here, and renewable raw materials are only an advantage if they are sustainably produced.
Man-made often performs better
On the other hand, synthetic ingredients frequently have the edge in terms of performance – that’s why they were developed – and performance is vital for sustainability. Some are simply modified versions of natural molecules re-designed to perform better.
And even natural products need to be processed
Of course, even natural raw materials need some chemical processing before they become useful ingredients – just try washing clothes with coconut oil rather than the range of cleaning ingredients it can be converted into!
So manufacturers use both natural and synthetic raw materials and ingredients, selecting whichever is best for the product in question to optimize the sustainability profile across the whole life-cycle.