We use cosmetics and hygiene products each day; when brushing our teeth, lotioning ourselves, showering and in many more situations. "Modern" cosmetic products cause lots of environmental damages. Today many cosmetic products claim to be "organic" or "sustainable" in order to profit from the increasing interest of customers in these topics, but this is too often misleading. Luckily, there are some characteristics, labels and standards that help you to identify more sustainable cosmetic products.
Why are cosmetics relevant for the discussion about sustainable consumption? Today's cosmetic and hygiene products cause high damages to the environment. According to a report of Greenpeace (2017), cosmetic products often use micro plastic particles as well as microplastics in form of solid or liquid synthetic polymeres, which later end up in the oceans, the soil and finally in our water and food. They cause major damages to our ecosystem, the food chain and our own health. Greenpeace also denounce the lack of information about the environmental impact of those ingredients (Greenpeace 2017). And this is only one critical issue about cosmetics.
The apparent solution to this problem for us customers is to buy sustainable cosmetics, isn't it? Unfortunately, it is not that easy.
Utopia, a German online magazine on sustainable consumption, warns its community to be cautious with sustainability claims on cosmetic products. (Utopia GmbH, 2018) Also, Cosmetics Europe, the European Trade Association for the cosmetics, toiletry and perfumery industry, is concerned with the topic and published the Good Sustainability Practice (GSP) in the Cosmetics Industry in 2012. The association states: "The entire cosmetics supply chain, from the initial sourcing of raw materials through to consumer use and disposal can have an impact on sustainability." (Cosmetics Europe, 2012, p. 3)
So, what can you look for, when you want to consume sustainable cosmetics? Look for the following aspects:
- controlled natural and organic cosmetics standards (e.g. BDIH Standard, Cosmos Standard, NaTrue Label, Demeter, Ecocert)
- sustainability company standard labels for non-food businesses (e.g. NCS Standard, CSE Standard)
- products without animal testing, cruelty-free products (e.g. Human Cosmetics Standard with Leaping Bunny Label, European Vegan Label)
- products without genetic engineering, GM-free products
- products without micro-plastic
- products without synthetic aromas, synthetic colors or silicones
- plastic-free, compostable or reusable packaging
Other aspects that promote sustainability in the cosmetics industry, but are mostly not visible to the customers are:
- low-energy production of ingredients
- use of green energy for production
- use of side or waste products as raw materials
- ethical and sustainable sourcing of raw materials
- ensuring of human rights, fair payment and working conditions
We will explain some of these standards and specific sustainability aspects in more detail in further blog articles.
Cosmetics Europe (2012). Good Sustainability Practice (GSP) in the Cosmetics Industry. Retrieved from https://www.cosmeticseurope.eu/files/4214/6521/4452/GSP_Brochure.pdf.
Greenpeace e.V. (2017). Vom Waschbecken ins Meer - Zu den Umweltfolgen von Mikrokunststoffen in Kosmetik- und Körperpflegeprodukten. Retrieved from https://www.greenpeace.de/sites/www.greenpeace.de/files/publications/s02031-greenpeace-report-plastik-kosmetik-oekotox-21070522.pdf.
Utopia GmbH (2018). Kosmetik. Retrieved from https://utopia.de/kosmetik/. (German)