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The Truth About ‘Green’ Cosmetics


LONDON—The question on many natural and organic brand’s minds is: “Who’s the greenest of them all?" Well, according to Organic Monitor’s Natural Cosmetics Brand Assessment report, the reality is very different from perception. In the report, a chartered chemist analyzed the ingredient composition of cosmetic products of more than 50 brands that make natural and/or organic claims. The brands were given naturalness ratings according to their ingredient composition. Certified-organic brands scored highest (9-10), followed by pure natural cosmetics (4-7), semi-natural cosmetics (3), naturally inspired cosmetics (2) to conventional cosmetics (1).

The results? Not surprising, many brands making natural/organic claims had ratings at the low end of the spectrum. Some were brandishing their skin care products as organic just because the formulations contained organic essential oils. Others were putting organic-certification logos on product packaging because one major ingredient was certified. Most were making natural claims just because some ingredients were natural.

Consumers are becoming lost in a maze of marketing claims and false labels. One way to clear up consumer confusion is certification. By adopting natural and organic cosmetic standards, formulators have a clear list of permitted/prohibited ingredients and processes. Certification also builds consumer trust, giving a guarantee to consumers that products conform to some recognized standards. However, Organic Monitor believes certification is only part of the answer; marketing and distribution also play an important role.

Pure natural and organic brands have realized overstating natural/organic ingredients and making unsubstantiated marketing claims only adds to consumer distrust. A growing number of brands are moving away from such claims and marketing their products as “authentic" and “sustainable." Others are focusing on their brands long history and origins, implying they have not just jumped on the “natural bandwagon."

With consumer trust vital to success in the natural arena, concept stores are becoming fashionable. Leading brands—including Melvita, Neal's Yard Remedies and Weleda—are investing in concept stores. Apart from the benefits of interfacing direct with customers, the stores provide an ideal forum to educate consumers on their brand ethos, origins and product range.

Many years ago, The Body Shop set the standard in using concept stores as a platform for social activism. By focusing on marketing and distribution, Organic Monitor states the pioneering brands should now take the lead. Taking the right steps and clearing up the consumer confusion, only then can the natural and organic cosmetics story have a fairy-tale ending.

Marketing and distribution innovations are a major theme of the upcoming Sustainable Cosmetics Summit, taking place in Paris, Nov. 28 to 30, 2011.As well as giving key findings of the Natural Cosmetics Brand Assessment study, the summit has a dedicated session on marketing and distribution. Topics include taking the direct route (concept stores), mainstream distribution, targeting the spa channel, retailers’ perspectives and reaching the green consumer.

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