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An Oasis in the Land of Confusion

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: May 1, 2008, from the May 2008 issue of GCI Magazine.
Back to the May issue.

At the Personal Care Products Council’s 2008 annual meeting, National Media analysts Alex Castallonos and Bruce Haynes noted that consumers receive disorienting information regarding personal care products from a range of sources, and this information is rarely pro-industry. In this environment, more than 70% of natural product consumers believe that it is important to do business with environmentally responsible companies, according to a recent study conducted by Mambo Sprouts Marketing. This same group also says it will pay up to 20% more for green products. In this context, personal care and beauty products boasting organic compliance have been growing by about 15% annually. Yet confusion with the definition and standards of “organic” abounds, particularly in the personal care and cosmetic category—a dangerous scenario for the industry.

Since 1991, Ecocert (www.ecocert.com) has conducted organic certification in more than 80 countries for a range of fragranced products, including perfumes, detergents and cosmetics. Ecocert demands that a product contain at least 10% organic content to qualify for labeling. In the United States, where no official organic certification exists for the personal care and cosmetic categories, some companies have informally adhered to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (USDA-NOP; www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm).

“The USDA’s food standards were never designed for [the personal care and cosmetic] industry, and its strict guidelines limit even certain types of ‘green chemistry’ and pose significant challenges for those seeking to create certified organic products,” says Oasis founding member Tim Kapsner, senior research scientist, Aveda.

Oasis (oasisseal.org), which stands for Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards, is a new industry-led organic labeling effort that addresses the standards gap which exists around the globe while providing wiggle room for formulators as green chemistry evolves. As of press time, Oasis is backed by 30 brand owners, fragrance houses and ingredient suppliers—including Estée Lauder, L’Oréal, Cognis and Oh, Oh Organic. New members will be added on an ongoing basis.