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Laurence Mulon

Organic, sustainable or Fair Trade. Which certification best suits cosmetic ingredients?

Today, cosmetic ingredients must not only be efficient, they should also be produced paying attention to environmental protection, economic and social conditions, etc. Labels and certifications have thus multiplied to guarantee the reliability of these claims.

Natural or organic cosmetics

As for certification and labels, only national or private standards existed in Europe until very recently. Since 2011, the COSMOS standard provides common requirements for the certification by six European organisations (BDIH, AIAB, SOIL, EcoCert, Cosmebio, EcoGarantie). It deals with both finished products and their raw materials. There are also many standards outside Europe, whether in the USA, India or Korea, and each one has their own interpretation of what a natural or organic cosmetic product is.

That is why, the ISO technical committee in charge of cosmetics (TC 217) has been attempting to provide a common definition of these concepts since 2009. The new standard ISO 16128, which should give the first universal definitions of an organic or natural cosmetic product, is meant to be finalised by the end of 2014 and published in the first quarter of 2015. However, this standard will not deal with claims.

Fair trade certifications

As far as fair trade certifications are concerned, the global leader is a label managed by Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO). In Europe, there are different labels for cosmetic products: EcoCert Equitable, Fair for Life, Fairtrade International (Max Havelaar), Forest Garden Products, Naturland Fair, and WFTO.

Sustainable development and biodiversity

In terms of sustainable development, various tools are here to help organisations highlight their efforts in this field. Companies can indeed get certified to standards ISO 14000 for environmental protection, and OHSAS 18001 regarding social issues. The ISO has also made a tool available to companies – standard ISO 26000 – in relation to corporate social responsibility.

There is no label specific to cosmetic products in this field. Therefore brands are quite free to communicate as they wish. Some of them emphasize their ecodesign approach to packaging, such as Pierre Fabre, and others like L’Oréal stress their commitment in social responsibility.

A growing number of companies have been communicating for a few years on their undertakings regarding biodiversity, in particular through their adhesion to the UEBT, the Union for Ethical Bio Trade, such as Beraca.

Regarding biodiversity protection, let’s mention Dr Ranil Senanayake’s approach: it has lain at the core of analog forestry since 1982, and materialized through the creation of the FOREST GARDEN PRODUCTS label and, in 1995, that of the IAFN (International Analog Forestry Network), a global movement rehabilitating ecosystems destroyed by pollution, single-crop farming, intensive farming, or deforestation.

The multiplication of certifications and labels goes hand in hand with that of initiatives aiming to adapt to the radical changes in customers’ expectations. People need to make meaningful commitments, and cosmetic ingredients represent a top priority.

Standards and labels are technical and visual solutions which help companies contribute to providing guarantees on technical and complex issues in a simple way. To me, these solutions are only meaningful if they are associated with responsible and ethical communication. A user guide on jobs in the field of communication has been available in standard ISO 26000 since June 2012. When can we expect the responsible communication label to be created?

Laurence Mulon

© 2014 - Brazil Beauty News -

about Laurence Mulon

Founder of consulting firm Mulon Conseil, Laurence is a passionate of the world of natural substances.

Her philosophy:
- To protect the original qualities of the product during the manufacturing process.
- To integrate projects within a sustainable development strategy.

The company’s methodology is based on cooperation between the consultant and the staff of the organization it works for.


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