In today’s world, where consumers are becoming more conscious about the cosmetic products they use, the cosmetics industry has responded with a proliferation of products claiming to be “natural” or “organic”. This trend is evident: the natural and organic cosmetics sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global personal care products market having grown from less than $1 billion in the 1990s to $12.6 billion in 2021 . This surge of interest in naturals can been seen as an opportunity to increase sustainability as well as sales, but sometimes at the expense of authenticity and transparency since some brands may focus their marketing on a few natural ingredients in an otherwise conventional formula; unfairly labelling their products as “natural” when, in fact, they contain synthetic substances derived from petrochemicals. This commercial malpractice is called greenwashing.
Greenwashing has become a prevalent concern in various industries, including cosmetics. Companies using often vague or misleading language, imagery, and packaging can create the illusion that the entire product has qualified ‘green’ characteristics such as low environmental impact or naturalness in order to catch shoppers’ attention. An EU Commission study of company websites from all types of industries across the Union revealed that 42% of cases the claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under existing EU law. Moreover, in more than 50% of cases, the trader did not provide sufficient information for consumers to judge the claim’s accuracy. This misleading information leads consumer to buy products with expectations of naturalness and sustainability that might not be met.
Within existing regulatory frameworks for cosmetics, the internationally applicable NATRUE label is an established tool to tackle greenwashing by offering clear criteria for ingredients and products, and supporting trust through third-party certification to ensure cosmetic products are genuinely natural and organic whilst empowering consumer choice and informed decision-making through the presence of an indicative seal on-pack.
Understanding the NATRUE label
Pending a strict regulatory definition for natural and organic cosmetic products, NATRUE’s founding members, the pioneers and largest producers of authentic natural and organic cosmetic products in Europe, acknowledged the need for an international and independently certified standard setting rigorous and transparent label criteria to reassure consumers and assist producers. This led to the creation of the NATRUE Label in 2008, a globally recognized certification that guarantees the authenticity of natural and organic cosmetics. The NATRUE certification scheme is based on three essential pillars:
- Authenticity of Ingredients: All NATRUE certified products are made up only of 100% natural, derived natural and nature-identical substances. The label criteria ensures that products are formulated with truly natural and organic ingredients; therefore, avoiding ingredients from genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and substances such as synthetic fragrances, silicones, parabens, microplastics, and mineral oils.
The NATRUE Label is a globally recognized certification that guarantees the authenticity of natural and organic cosmetics
- Product Integrity: A third-party certification scheme evaluates the entire production process to ensure that the products maintain the verifiable elements from the label criteria including that the integrity of the natural or organic product claims are maintained. Across the life cycle of the product verifiable aspects assessed include sourcing, processing, end-of-life, and formulation to prevent any adulteration or contamination by non-compliant substances.
- Transparency: Besides the mandatory on-pack presence of the label, all certified products with the NATRUE label can be easily found on the NATRUE website database. This enables consumers to make informed choices based on accurate ingredient lists and product descriptions.
The NATRUE Standard is interpretated and developed by the NATRUE Scientific Committee, an expert group who constantly evaluate latest regulatory updates and state-of-the-art practices to apply these changes so the standard’s label criteria remain dynamic, rigorous and transparent.
The criteria apply to finished cosmetic products, raw materials and formulas. A prospective brand can use the NATRUE Label provided they comply with the label criteria as guaranteed by independent third-party certification, a process which provides transparency and reliability for their customers and ultimately consumers. For consumers the NATRUE label helps to easily identify true natural and organic cosmetics at a glance, contributing to keeping greenwashing off the shelves.
The NATRUE certification process involves a rigorous evaluation of each product seeking the label. To obtain the NATRUE label, companies must adhere to the following key steps:
- Self-evaluate the Criteria: producers, third-party manufacturers and brand owners must read the NATRUE Label criteria carefully to assess the requirements ingredients and products have to meet.
- Undergo Third-party Verification and Ingredient Assessment: Choose and contact a NATRUE Approved Certifier (NAC) to guide you through the whole certification process. NATRUE is the Standard owner, not a certifier, this is the reason why NATRUE does not certify or approve directly in order to make the whole process more independent and transparent. Certification is only carried out by independent and accredited third parties (NACs), whose are responsible for checking if the product/raw material meets the requirements set in the NATRUE Standard.
- Product Evaluation: Once the NAC has reviewed the submitted documentation to ensure compliance with NATRUE’s strict standards and made the audit (when needed), the product, formula or raw material is issued with a certificate. Certified or approved products, formulas or raw materials will be then added to NATRUE’s online database, which is publicly accessible.
NATRUE created two infographics that include all this information in an easy-to-digest way. These can be found on www.natrue.org.
The NATRUE certification process involves a rigorous evaluation of each product seeking the label
Reassurance for Consumers
The NATRUE label provides several benefits to reassure consumers about the quality of natural cosmetics they choose:
- Guaranteeing independent certification: The rigorous certification process involves independent, accredited third-party certification, assuring consumers that the labeled products are genuinely natural or organic.
- Supporting sustainable innovation and responsible consumption: The NATRUE label promotes sustainability by requiring products to use environmentally responsible practices, from ingredient sourcing to packaging, which should be kept to a minimum.
- Ensuring natural and organic ingredient clarity and Product Transparency: type of ingredients, allowed processing methods and the overall composition of each cosmetic products is established in the NATRUE Standard to guarantee that every product carrying the NATRUE Label supports the claims “natura” and “organic”.
- Protecting the environment and promoting waste reduction: NATRUE develops and promotes rigorous and demanding criteria for the formulation of natural and organic cosmetics including the integration of sustainability-focused criteria (environmental and biodiversity protection, packaging, etc.).
- Standing-up for animal welfare: NATRUE supports cruelty-free practices and ethical sourcing, aligning with the values of conscientious consumers.
In an era where consumers care about their choices, the NATRUE label stands as a symbol of quality, authenticity, and trust in the realm of natural cosmetics. By adhering to rigorous criteria and a transparent certification process, NATRUE empowers consumers to make informed choices that align with their values and preferences. When consumers are shopping, they need verifiable and reliable tools to assist their informed decision-making. This is what NATRUE provides. As the demand for natural and organic cosmetics grows, the NATRUE label remains a cornerstone of assurance for both consumers and the cosmetics industry.
Author: Mark Smith, Director of NATRUE
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