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What Do Ethical and Sustainable Mean to Today's Beauty Consumer?

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: December 10, 2008, from the December 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.

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It was Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who first introduced “community trade ingredients” to global personal care by setting up local projects with Third World communities to purchase ingredients, such as Brazil nut oil and shea butter. Today, the company is owned by L’Oréal and adheres to the brand’s original principles by sourcing approximately 25 natural ingredients from community trade projects. For example, its makeup range includes marula oil, and affords Namibian women, who produce the oil, the opportunity to earn an above-average price for the oil. The Body Shop can also claim to use the world’s first fair trade aloe vera sourced from Guatemala, which is used in its skin and body care range. Proceeds from the purchase of this ingredient is funding the source community’s efforts to provide local schools with the latest educational resources.

Organic Monitor’s* Fair Trade Cosmetics & Ingredients report reveals that France is the largest market for fair trade personal care products. The report states that the naturals and organics market has been concentrated in Europe, but North America is catching up quickly. However, the number of fair trade certified ingredients is limited, which could hamper growth of fair trade beauty products.

Ticking the Green Box

Weleda is one of the forerunners of natural and ethically sourced personal care products, with a company history dating back to the early 1920s. The company developed from the work of Rudolph Steiner and Ita Wegman, who explored how man’s soul and spiritual nature relates to the health and function of the physical body. Today, 50% of Weleda’s fair trade partners currently employ biodynamic methods, and the company is working toward a target of 100%. Where wild ingredients are required, ethical sourcing is assured. When some crops have to be outsourced to fair trade farmers, all must produce ingredients of pharmaceutical quality.

U.K. organic skin care brand Organic Apoteke* takes an integrative approach, believing that beauty does not have to come at the expense of health, the environment or lives of animals. Its touchstone is “first do no harm,” one of the principal precepts all medical students are taught. For Organic Apoteke, this means testing raw ingredients for heavy metals and environmental toxins, minimizing impact on the environment by using recycled paper and sustainable energy for its manufacturing plant, supporting organic farming and testing products on human volunteers.

Nude, a U.K. natural skin care brand, strives to make responsible decisions to reduce materials, pollution and waste. Much of its packaging is made from recycled and corn-biodegradable materials, and the company is working to make 100% of its packaging from post-consumer recycled or biodegradable materials. In terms of formulations, some, but not all, ingredients are organic, fair trade and community traded.