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Fair Trade Cosmetics


At this year’s HBA Global Expo, USA talked with Fair Trade USA’s director of innovation, Maya Spaull, about Fair Trade ingredients currently used in cosmetic applications, their prevalence in personal care products and the volume to which they are produced, what’s available for cosmetic formulators interested in using Fair Trade ingredients, and what Fair Trade means to Fair Trade USA.

The question: Are there enough Fair Trade ingredients being used to really make a difference? Fair Trade USA feels every purchase matters, so even if companies are producing composite products that have some Fair Trade ingredients and some not Fair Trade ingredients, the volume at which these products are product can still make an impact. Currently, there are a variety of Fair Trade ingredients suitable for cosmetic applications, mainly carrier oils—coco butter, Shea butter, coconut oil, olive oil, honey, sugar—in addition to several extracts and teas.

So how are these ingredients selected? “It’s available supply meets demand," Spaull said. Many producer groups come to Fair Trade USA, as well as companies that have product ideas and sources that they’d like to become a part of the Fair Trade system. In the next few years, Spaull hopes there will be a larger range of Fair Trade ingredients available for cosmetics use, perhaps derivates based on natural ingredients, she said.

Fair Price versus Social Premiums. “We say it’s quality products improving lives and protecting the planet," she said. The pricing model is sustainable but it’s also a social premium. “Communities receive an extra amount of money per kilo they sell that goes directly back into community development projects. … It’s about empowerment—trade, not aid," she added.

The Fair Trade program is really advantageous for cosmetic formulators. It offers a traceable supply chain that allows companies to demonstrate their social responsibility, which benefits the company, consumers and the environment.

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