Natural, Organic Beauty Industry “Divided” by Many Certifications, Says Organic Monitor

March 18, 2011

Global markets have become increasingly “divided” by certification type, says Organic Monitor.

As more regional and international certification programs for natural and organic personal care products develop, global markets have become increasingly “divided” by certification type, says Organic Monitor. For instance, while the adoption rate of natural and organic cosmetic standards is highest in Europe, the region is also the most fragmented in terms of the variety of seals and logos used.

The use of a particular standard is typically largely confined to one country or region, the report says. For instance, the Soil Association standard is mostly used by UK companies, ICEA almost entirely by Italian companies, Cosmebio mostly by French companies, and BDIG predominantly in Germany. Natrue, another successful standard covering nearly 1400 products, is mostly used by German-speaking countries. Organic Monitor says that Ecocert has the most international coverage and has become the recognized organic logo in countries such as Greece, Denmark, Latvia, Brazil, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Australia.

The Organic Monitor report comes on the heels of the new Cosmos certification program, finally being activated in Europe. In development for eight years, the program was developed by five major European standards companies with the aim to serve as a major unifying international global standard. While the program expects to begin certifying its first products this year, the program has been criticized for its long development time during which other certifications have sprung up in the market, creating further competition and dividing industry.

“A major critique of the new Cosmos standard is that it will not replace or unify the plethora of existing symbols and logos,” Organic Monitor says, which also criticizes the program for its lack of a logo, which Organic Monitor says “weakens” its position.

In the United States, competition between natural standards is heating up, thanks to the announcement that Natrue and NSF International are developing their own standard. Thus far, the Natural Products Association’s (NPA) standard has been the leader. In March, NPA announced it had granted its 600th NPA Natural certification seal for personal care and home care products. Both programs would compete with the USDA’s National Organic Program organic standard.

The use of certification programs has become increasingly active in the Asian and Latin America markets as well, says Organic Monitor. For now, those markets are largely using international programs; however, it’s possible that local programs may arise.

Government bodies also play an important role in the use of standards. Organic Monitor points to Taiwan, where the government recently criticized noncertified organic cosmetics for not adhering to the country’s national organic standard. Likewise, in Brazil, the government is looking at extending its national organic food standard to cosmetics.

“As major certification agencies are engrossed in battles in Europe and North America, new standards are emerging in other regions,” Organic Monitor reports. “The proliferation in seals and logos, especially at the national level, could widen divisions in an already fragmented natural cosmetics industry. As this happens, it will be consumers who will be losers, as they question why one certified product is more ‘organic’ than the other.”