The Green Zone

 

Consumers are increasingly aware of the benefits of sustainable living. They are willing to spend more on green products, and this increased demand has resulted in a flood of new natural- and organic-labeled brands and products on the market. The unfortunate truth, however, is that for many of these products, sustainability stops at the 100 percent recyclable, biodegradable, raffia-tied packaging. And skincare products are no exception.

So how does today’s conscientious consumer learn to differentiate? And why does it matter? It matters because products that claim to be “natural” or “organic” are often produced via non-natural processes and can include a multitude of synthetic ingredients, harsh preservatives, and ingredients with a negative environmental impact. It matters because true sustainability begins at the source. Too often, ingredients in green-labeled products originate at industrial farms that rely on unsustainable methods to produce massive crop yields. Industrial farming also displaces traditional farming communities whose time-honored methods and expertise are then lost to history. And it matters because our health, and the health of our planet, relies on the safety, purity, and accountability of the products we put on our skin and into the environment.

 

How Does Certification Help?

Third-party certification is the key to separating companies that are genuinely sustainable from those that merely talk the talk. It provides the industry and consumers with a common language. It ensures minimum standards and requirements. Ultimately, certification provides transparency, giving consumers the confidence they need to make informed choices about the products they buy.

Not all certifications are equal, and a basic understanding of the predominant organizations—and the criteria they use—is important to discerning what’s behind the label. Here’s a brief introduction to eight major international organizations whose standards apply to the skincare industry:

 

USDA NOP

Type: 100% Organic, Organic, and Made with Organic

Country of Origin: U.S.

Business Type: Government

Website: www.ams.usda.gov

 

USDA NOP is a food standard for organic and made-with-organic ingredients. “100% Organic” must contain only organically produced ingredients. “Organic” must contain at least 95 percent. “Made with Organic” must contain at least 70 percent. Limited amounts of synthetics are allowed in the “Organic” and “Made with Organic” standard. It excludes water and salt in calculation of organic content.

 

NATRUE

Type: Natural, Organic, and Natural
with Organic Portion

Country of Origin: Belgium

Business Type: Non-Profit

Website: www.natrue.org

 

NATRUE is a cosmetic standard that requires 100 percent certified pure natural and derived natural (natural origin), plus some limited nature-identical* as a baseline for entry as “Natural Cosmetics.” “Organic Cosmetics” guarantees at least 95 percent of the natural ingredients stem from controlled organic production. “Natural with Organic Portion” guarantees at least 70 percent of the natural ingredients stem from organic production. It excludes water and salt in calculation of natural and organic content. NATRUE has an equivalency agreement/recognition with NSF/ANSI 305.

 

Soil Association

Type: Organic and Made with Organic

Country of Origin: U.K.

Business Type: Non-Profit

Website: www.soilassociation.org

 

Soil Association is a standard for organic and made-with-organic ingredients. “Organic” must contain at least 95 percent of organically produced ingredients. “Made with Organic” must contain at least 70 percent of organic ingredients. Limited amounts of synthetic preservatives and ingredients are allowed. It excludes water in calculation of organic content.

 

BDIH

Type: Natural

Country of Origin: Germany

Business Type: For Profit. Membership Required.

Website: www.bdih.org

 

BDIH requires 100 percent natural origin/nature identical* to gain the “Natural” standard. It does not have a standard for organic certification.

 

NSF/ANSI 305

Type: Contains Organic

Country of Origin: U.S.

Business Type: Non-Profit

Website: www.nsf.org,
www.ansi.org,
www.qai-inc.com

 

NSF/ANSI 305 standard requires 70 percent of organic ingredients to comply with the “Contains Organic” standard. Limited amounts of synthetics are allowed. It excludes water and salt in calculation of organic content.

 

COSMOS

Type: Organic and Natural

Country of Origin: Belgium

Business Type: Non-Profit

Website: www.cosmos-standard.org

 

COSMOS is a cosmetic standard for organic and natural ingredients. “Organic” must contain at least 95 percent of organically produced ingredients. “Natural” may contain natural/organic ingredients but does not allow active marketing of organic content. Limited synthetics are allowed in the “Organic” and “Natural” standard for some product types. It excludes minerals in calculation of organic content.

 

NPA

Type: Natural

Country of Origin: USA

Business Type: Non-Profit. Membership Required.

Website: www.npainfo.org

 

NPA requires a minimum of 95 percent natural origin for the “Natural” standard. Limited amounts of synthetics are allowed. Does not have a standard for organic certification.

 

EcoCert

Type: Natural and Natural/Organic

Country of Origin: France

Business Type: For Profit

Website: www.ecocert.com

EcoCert requires a minimum of 95 percent natural origin as a baseline entry and a minimum of 5 percent organic content for the “Natural” standard and a minimum of 10 percent organic content for the “Natural/Organic” standard. Up to 5 percent of ingredients can be synthetic. Limited synthetic preservatives are allowed. Water can be included in the calculation of organic content.

 

The Beauty of Sustainability

It is an economic reality that most businesses will raise their standards only when their customer base is at stake. As awareness of the benefits of organic products and the importance of sustainability continues to grow, consumers are placing more pressure on green-marketed companies to support their claims. Certification is playing an increasingly vital role in holding those companies accountable, separating the wheat, so to speak, from the chaff.

Already, we’re experiencing a shift in focus toward more sustainable production. Much as the food community has embraced the farm-to-table movement, the best of the authentically green skincare companies are creating natural and organic products that can be traced—ingredient by ingredient—to traditional farming communities that nurture the land rather than exploit it.

To attain a truly sustainable future, we must continue to hold green skincare companies accountable for the ingredients they use and the products they create. By backing our demands with our dollars, supporting those companies who do deliver on their natural and organic claims, we are investing in our own wellbeing and that of our planet.—Mark Wuttke

 

@bio: Mark Wuttke heads the Wuttke Group, LLC, a business development consultancy specializing in natural, organic, and sustainable spa and boutique retail with an emphasis on the luxury market. He and his colleagues have assisted more than 15 natural and organic brands in their quest to attain and sustain authenticity. He works closely with LOHAS, the Green Spa Network, and the Natural Beauty Summit in the U.S. and Europe. He is also an international speaker and an author.

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