A wide range of natural ingredients are now used in cosmetic and personal care products. Vegetable oils, fats, and butters are highly established, however many functional ingredients like surfactants, emollients, and thickeners are now made from natural raw materials. The trend is for operators to ethically source raw materials of natural origin.

Sustainable vegetable oils

Palm kernel oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the cosmetics industry. About 20 percent of palm oil is now produced according to RSPO or related sustainability schemes. Large cosmetic firms, including Unilever and L’Oréal, have committed to source only sustainable palm oil. Over 20 operators have joined the Action for Sustainable Derivatives, an industry-led collaboration that encourages responsible production and sourcing of palm oil derivatives.

The number of sustainability charters and certification schemes for vegetable oils is increasing. The Sustainable Coconut & Coconut Oil Roundtable introduced its first charter in 2020. A similar scheme for sustainable castor been oil has been in place since 2016. Croda recently adopted the ISCC Plus certification to show transparency and traceability in its vegetable oil supply chains.

Organic ingredients

Organic ingredients are also gaining popularity. The move is partly driven by the success of the leading certification schemes COSMOS and Natrue. Almost 40,000 cosmetic products are now certified according to these standards. Initially launched in Europe, the certification schemes have expanded to the Asia-Pacific and the Americas.

Fair trade standards are being adopted by suppliers of agricultural-based raw materials. Coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa, tea tree and essential oils are some of the certified ingredients making their way into cosmetic & personal care products. Cosmetic companies are brandishing the Fairtrade mark on products containing such ingredients.

Some certification schemes are crossing over from the food industry. The Vegan Society trademark, initially launched in 1990 for vegan food products, now has over 24,000 certified cosmetic products. The Body Shop is one of its largest backers, declaring all its products will be certified by the end of 2023.

In the USA, the Non-GMO Project Verified certification scheme is the fastest growing. Also initially introduced for food products, the scheme has been adopted by almost 70 cosmetic & personal care brands. In Asia, the Halal label is becoming increasingly evident. It is most popular in Indonesia where the government introduced mandatory halal labelling for cosmetics last year.

Ecovia Intelligence expects the number of sustainability schemes and standards to continue to grow. The increasing use of natural raw materials puts pressure on cosmetic & ingredient firms to ethically source and take the certification route. Some operators will opt for organic, fair trade, or sustainability schemes like RSPO to prove they meet high environmental / social standards. Others will focus on traceability to show their raw materials are deforestation-free, GM-free, vegan, and / or halal. Whichever direction they take, ethical sourcing is becoming a permanent fixture in the cosmetics industry.

Ecovia Intelligence will give a seminar on ethical sourcing at in-cosmetics Global (5-7th April, Paris) and 11-22 April (virtual). Register here.