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Too many ethical labels on cosmetic products

The number of ethical labelling schemes is proliferating in the cosmetics industry. According to Organic Monitor, there are now over 30 symbols and labels that represent natural and organic cosmetic standards. Ecocert and NaTrue have gained most international traction, with the Ecocert logo now present on over 12,000 cosmetic products. Growing consumer demand for eco-labelled products is behind this trend, however Organic Monitor questions the long term implications.

Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe 2014

Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe 2014

According to the market research firm, adoption rates of natural and organic cosmetic standards vary considerably between regions. Western Europe has the highest adoption rate where almost 3% of all cosmetics are now certified. Certification is also gaining popularity in North America, however the market share remains below 1% in all other regions. Adoption rates are especially low in Asia, where mostly imported products are certified.

Many eco-labels have migrated from food products to cosmetics. Fairtrade, the Vegan Society and Vegetarian labels are becoming popular in parts of Europe. The Rainforest Alliance seal is also now approved for use on cosmetic products. Other labels represent some environmental or ethical aspects. In Scandinavia, the Nordic Swan and EU Eco-flower are well-established, representing cosmetic products with low environmental impacts. Cruelty-Free logos, such as the Leaping Bunny, are also commonly used by ethical cosmetic brands in Europe and North America.

The Halal label is possibly the most prospective. Unlike other labels, it appeals to religious beliefs - and not environmental / ethical concerns - of consumers. With 1.5 billion Muslim consumers, it is getting increasing interest from brands.

Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe 2014

Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe 2014

However, as most labels are adopted on a national basis with little harmonisation between the growing myriad of standards, Organic Monitor says it leads to a proliferation in labels, logos and symbols that may leads to consumer confusion. A wider question is: how many ‘badges of honour’ does a truly ethical product need?

Organic Monitor will discuss the future direction of ethical labels in the upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit Europe, which will take place at the Paris Marriott Champs-Elysées on 21-23rd October. On this occasion, representatives from leading certification agencies and labelling schemes - including Ecocert, NaTrue, ICEA, Soil Association, COSMOS, CosmeBio, ISO, Halal Certification, Nordic Swan, EU Eco-Flower, Cruelty-Free and Vegan Society - will give an update on the growing myriad of ethical labelling schemes for cosmetics and personal care products.

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