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Fair-trade in Beauty: Certification and Case Studies

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: November 9, 2009, from the November 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The Fairtrade Foundation maintains that there is enormous potential for fair-trade beauty products. A recent survey by Globescan revealed that 31% of U.K. consumers said they are interested in purchasing cosmetics carrying a fair-trade mark. “Our research shows that nearly half of U.K. consumers are ethically active, with high expectations of corporate responsibility and 77% believe independent certification is the best way to verify a product’s ethical claims,” says Harriet Lamb, executive director of the Fairtrade Foundation As many beauty products are mainly water-based, the Fairtrade Foundation has set minimum threshold levels to give farmers the greatest opportunity and to open up fair-trade labeling to more than half the total beauty market. This permits a wide range of products to be formulated containing fair-trade ingredients and their derivatives, including best-selling volume lines and products that can only contain small amounts of natural ingredients.

There are two conditions for fair-trade labeling:

  • all ingredients in the product that can be, must be fair-trade certified; and
  • companies must have a trading partnership plan in place outlining how they will additionally support producers to develop their businesses and communities.

Going forward, there is a market opportunity within the beauty industry for producers of existing fair-trade certified ingredients such as honey, sugar and shea butter; and derivatives of certified ingredients such as cocoa butter, brazil nut oil and sesame seed oil—plus potential for new ingredients, including beeswax and coconut oil. And this potential, judging by the market success and consumer desire for natural and organic products, is good. By opening the beauty market of fair-trade labeling, the number of fair-trade labeled products on the market will increase and reaching consumers who are keen to lead a fair-trade lifestyle.

Imogen Matthews is a consultant to In-cosmetics. For more information, contact