As I mentioned in the last blog, for brands that voluntarily opt to certify their cosmetics as organic, there are now many different certifications to choose from. But for consumers, this makes life pretty complicated because all certifiers have their own symbol or logo for consumers to identify and remember! So about 7 years ago several certifiers decided to create a pan-European standard (called Cosmos). It was an attempt to make things easier for organic health & beauty fans, as well as to pave the way for a standard that could be enforced by EU law. Did it work?
Well Cosmos was finally launched in 2011 after many years of negotiations between the Soil Association (UK), Ecocert and Cosmebio (France), BDIH (Germany) and ICEA (Italy). In terms of quality, the final standard was pretty good. It sits somewhere between Ecocert’s and the Soil Association’s original standards, with the additional requirement that organic functional ingredients like detergents and emulsifiers - which are not currently available in organic quality - should be introduced within a certain timeframe.
Jolly good. Well not exactly. It’s hard to get different European organisations to agree on things and the Cosmos standard took so long to get on its feet that some major German / Swiss natural beauty brands got impatient and decided to create ...yet another standard. This new standard, NaTrue, launched ca. 2009 is backed among others by Weleda and Dr Hauschka. In the media it has set itself up as a critic of and rival to Cosmos which isn’t terribly constructive. NaTrue and Cosmos standards are actually pretty similar, although with NaTrue, the difference between natural and organic cosmetics has become very blurred since they dropped the 3-star rating system for fully organic products.
The other problem is that on labels, Cosmos appears as a word next to the certifier’s (e.g. Soil Association or Ecocert) symbol and not as a unique symbol in its own right. So it hasn’t really eradicated the problem of multiple logos.
Cosmos also hasn’t replaced national standards like the Soil Association and some brands like Essential Care continue to certify to the Soil Association’s original standards. (We prefer them because these are still stricter than the Cosmos standard.)
But the overriding issue is that different symbols and logos wouldn’t matter if organic certification was mandatory rather than voluntary. Yet the EU Commission doesn’t seem to be very interested in enshrining any standards for organic cosmetics into law. Some countries (like France and Denmark) have taken it into their own hands and introduced regulation at a national level. What about the UK? Well the Organic Trade Board (OTB) is campaigning for regulation, but it’s really tough to get the government to listen...