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Natural and organic cosmetic standards are proliferating

New research finds the number of natural and organic cosmetic standards is proliferating; however prospects for a global unified standard appear low.

Organic Monitor’s new Technical Insights report critically assesses the leading international natural and organic cosmetic standards. Although standards are gaining in popularity, their adoption is mostly on a national basis. Very few standards have built a regional - let alone international - presence. Furthermore, the differences between the most popular standards in each region remain wide.

U.S. lags behind

Standards are the most widely adopted in Europe where almost two-thirds of all natural and organic cosmetic products are certified. Ecocert and BDIH are the leading standards, partly because of the high adoption rates in France and Germany, respectively. Ecocert’s popularity is partially because it has a natural and organic standard, whereas most certification agencies only propose one option.

Although various standards have been introduced in North America over the last 18 months, very few products have become certified. Organic Monitor estimates less than 5 percent of natural and organic cosmetics are certified in the region. Backed by leading natural cosmetic companies, the Natural Products Association (NPA) standard is the frontrunner. The NSF ANSI 305 ‘made with organic’ standard is expected to gain popularity once certification begins. The absence of an organic cosmetic standard however, is leading to a number of American companies to adopt the USDA NOP standard. Although designed for organic food products, it is popular with cosmetic companies that use food-grade ingredients.

Natural and organic cosmetic standards are also being introduced in other regions such as the Asia-Pacific and Latin America. The adoption rates however are exceptionally low. Many natural cosmetic companies in these regions focus on exports, making them favour European standards. The Ecocert standard has become the most popular in countries such as Japan, Malaysia and Brazil.

Regional and international initiatives

Organic Monitor also undertakes a critical review of new regional and international initiatives such as Cosmos and NaTrue.

The Cosmos standard, scheduled to be implemented in January 2010, has been developed over seven years of negotiations between leading certification agencies in Europe; its launch is expected to mark a milestone for the European natural cosmetics industry. However, its goal of becoming an eventual European standard is facing competition from NaTrue. More than 150 products have become certified by NaTrue since the standard was launched a year ago.

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