Harmonisation of organic and natural cosmetics standards is now happening due to initiatives taken by leading certification groups such as BDIH, COSMEBIO, ECOCERT Greenlife, ICEA, SOIL Association and their associated certification bodies, who have been working on harmonizing their certification schemes and rules to certify to the COSMOS-standard. As a result, the application for certification to COSMOS-standard is now opened for members and licensees of the five founders through the linked certification bodies.

Cosmebio, the French-based Professional Association of Cosmetics Natural and Organic, has already adopted the COSMOS organic ‘label’ into its BIO label. By January 1,
2015, all products labelled Cosmebio must meet the requirements of the COSMOS-standard.

In Australia, certifier Australian Certified Organic is now accrediting products and raw materials with the COSMOS organic and natural standards. COSMOS organic requires that 95% of the physically processed agro-ingredients to be organically produced and follow strict environmental practices from start to finish.

Francis Blake, chair of the COSMOS-standard AISBL and policy advisor to the UK Soil Association, gave O.W.N. and outline of the COSMOS-standard initiative.

Ten years ago, the main organic and natural cosmetics organisations worldwide came together to develop a single, harmonised international standard for organic and natural cosmetics. They recognised that the cosmetics market and the industry that supplies it are both international and that both are therefore best served by a single international standard that could ensure clarity, integrity and consumer trust. They established a non-profit international association to own, manage and develop the standard, to be independent and open to all.

It was a long time in gestation, partly because of the significant differences between these organisations and their respective standards. However, all have worked in the public interest towards their important, shared vision. We were guided by five main objectives:

• promoting the use of products from organic agriculture, and respecting biodiversity;
• using natural resources responsibly;
• using processing and manufacturing that are clean and respectful of human health and the environment;
• Integrating and developing the concept of “Green Chemistry”;
• Ensuring the standard is progressive and can develop as ingredients, technology and the market develop.

Today, some 750 raw materials and ingredients are approved and 400 cosmetic products are certified, with a similar number in process. However, this is a very small proportion of the total 25,000 or so products certified under the founding organisations’ standards, so there is a long way to go.

COSMOS certified products can be identified by its universal signature under the logo of the certifier, either: COSMOS ORGANIC or COSMOS NATURAL, depending on the level of certification –the same standard applies, but with the former, there are minimum percentages of organic ingredients in the product, which must also be displayed on the pack.

For all the progress, there are still challenges in this market. Too many products carry no certification at all. Of course it’s easier for these companies – they can claim more or less what they want, can include more or less what ingredients they want and then cover the product with ‘greenwash’. This is denying consumers clear, transparent and independently verified information about what they are buying, something they get as of right with organic foods. Consumers also have a role to play in asking searching questions and making pressure to these companies into obtaining certification for their products. We are also making sure our standard is accessible to them.

Another challenge is that in these difficult times, consumers are, understandably, seeking better value and efficacy from the products they buy. We are responding by undertaking a review of the COSMOS- standard to ensure it properly addresses the needs of both companies and consumers. This process should be completed in the weeks to come.

The organic and natural cosmetics market has been growing consistently for several years and this looks set to continue. The COSMOS- standard is trying to play its part in making sure this growth reflects the aspirations and needs of consumers – for better products that are better for us and kinder to the environment. Look up: www.cosmos-standard.org.