ORGANIC, NATURAL, FAIRTRADE, KOSHER …There are so many different certification systems in the personal care industry that it can be hard to tell the differences and benefits between each. Claire Garvey BSc, UK-based Technical Innovations Chemist at Stephenson Group sheds some light on the importance of certification and accreditation in soap making – and how it can influence the products you make and the benefits you can claim.
What is Certification and Accreditation?
Globally, different regulations are deployed by different countries to protect the consumer by ensuring safe ingredients and finished products. Certification and Accreditation are written assurances from an independent third party showing that the methodology, traceability, production process and overall products that a company makes and sells, conform to the standards set out by each of the different certifying or accreditation bodies. In some cases, certification can bring opportunities for the protection of local resources and communities.
Why is Certification and Accreditation Important in the Personal Care Industry?
Cosmetic Regulations provide consumers with confidence in the safety of the products they are using. All products for sale to the public should have been subject to a ‘Cosmetic Product Safety Report’, which looks all aspects of the product; including the:
- Materials used
- Microbial safety
- Use requirements
The regulations are ultimately looking to achieve a goal to protect human safety, by controlling the raw materials used in the products. This means that in some instances, certain raw materials will be permitted for use in some product types, but not in others, and the usage levels for some materials may be limited. So to answer the question, “yes”, regulation is very important. Without these regulations, we would be unable to control the safety of the products we put on our bodies.
Is There a Difference Between ‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’?
‘Natural’ refers to the ingredients derived from such materials as plants, minerals, vegetables or algae.
‘Organic’ refers to the process undertaken to produce the product i.e. a vegetable/plant grown without fertilisers or genetically modified ingredients, and processed without manmade chemicals.Some non-organic materials are permitted in organically certified products providing they have been assessed by the organic body.
Different Types of Certification
RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, recognised worldwide)
If you’ve heard of palm oil you’ve probably heard about its negative impact on the environment and wildlife. But it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. Did you know there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ palm oil?
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has one main goal: to manage the use and traceability of sustainable (‘good’) palm oil in products across a wide variety of industries.
Palm oil is derived from the Oil Palm Tree, which grows primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil is found in a surprising amount of products - around 50% of what you buy and consume such as cookies and ice cream – and in 70% of cosmetics products like lipsticks, soaps, and face creams. At Stephenson Personal Care, we’re proud to be part of the RSPO, raising awareness that ‘good’ palm oil should be the norm.
Halal (Recognised Worldwide)
Halal certification is already well-established in the food industry. In cosmetics products, it ensures that materials used conform to the strict rules of Islamic Sharia Laws. It was started in June 2010 as the Halal Cosmetics Standard (MS 2200: 2008) by the Malaysian government.
The Muslim population is one of the fastest growing consumer groups in the world, and the Halal cosmetics label is designed for Muslim consumers, who make up 20% of the world’s population. However, concerns about animal-derived ingredients such as gelatine and collagen in cosmetic products are fuelling demand from non-Muslim consumers for Halal certified products, who perceive Halal to be more ethical
Like natural / organic standards, the Halal standard has a permitted and prohibited set of ingredients. The list of cosmetic products prohibited under the Islamic law (Sharia) includes:
- Pork or pork by-products
- Animals that are dead or dying prior to slaughter
- Blood and blood by-products
- Carnivorous animals
- Birds of prey
- Land animals without external ears
Possibly problematic cosmetic ingredients include: allantoin, ambergris, collagen, elastin, ethanol, gelatine, tallow and tallow derivatives.
Kosher (Recognised Worldwide)
This certification verifies that the ingredients, production process, and/or food-service process complies with the standards of kashrut (Jewish dietary law) as stipulated in the Shulchan Arukh, the benchmark of religious Jewish law.
For many consumers, the Kosher symbol on a label represents more than a product that conforms to rigorous religious standards. It is valued as an independent verification mark of quality, purity and integrity.
Among the numerous laws that form part of kashrut are the prohibitions on the consumption of unclean animals (such as pork, shellfish (both Mollusca and Crustacea) and most insects, with the exception of certain species of kosher locusts), mixtures of meat and milk, and the commandment to slaughter mammals and birds according to a process known as shechita. There are also laws regarding agricultural produce that might impact on the suitability of food for consumption.
Fairtrade (recognised worldwide, Stephenson Group Limited is accredited to FLO cert)
Fairtrade certification follows ISO 17065 guidelines. Fairtrade creates fairer partnerships throughout the supply chain. It means better deals for producers and workers which can be used to invest in local infrastructure, healthcare or social projects. It gives consumers a direct way to help reduce poverty around the world.
How you can benefit from using Fairtrade certified products and ingredients:
- It shows you care about good working conditions, fair prices and the environment.
- It helps create new levels of openness and transparency all along a supply chain.
- It encourages more fairness in your day-to-day operations.
- It allows easier access to international markets – because the Fairtrade logo is so widely known and respected.
There are several organic certifying bodies:
- Soil Association (UK)
- Ecocert (Europe)
- Cosmos (Europe including UK, this will replace Soil and Ecocert from 2017)USDA NOP (United States Department of Agriculture National Organic Program - USA)
Each Organic certifying body assess the same information on materials. For example, whether a product is GMO free, as well as reviewing the production standards and traceability along the supply chain.
The difference between each certifying body is how they calculate the organic percentage of a product. For example, some include ‘water’ in their calculations; yet some discount the water.
Therefore, one product which has been certified by four different organic bodies can have four different organic percentages, dependent on their calculation method. A product can be certified as either being ‘Organic’ or ‘Made with organic ingredients’ depending on the organic percentage calculated of each certifying body.
Does the Term ‘Natural’ Need to be Regulated in the Future?
Yes. Presently, there is very little understanding of the meaning of ‘natural’, and in some cases, the word may be incorrectly used as a marketing claim on personal care products. This often happens if just one of the materials contained within a product is natural; however, this does not mean that the whole product is natural. This also happens if one supply chain is natural, yet this does not mean that all suppliers of that material are natural - because some may use synthetic processing aids.
Without regulation of this word, consumers will be relying on the pack wording of the product they purchase, as security that the product actually is natural. This can be very misleading if not all the ingredients or supply chain is ‘natural’.
In today’s challenging climate of sustainability and saving the environment, certification is a very powerful tool in building trust with consumers. For Organic products, it builds confidence that the products they buy contain materials that are organically produced and have not been subject to any unsuitable processing.
The benefit of accreditation is to appeal to your customers and gain their confidence in the products they are purchasing. However, simply stating that a product is ‘made using organic ingredients’ is not enough in today’s market where people demand traceability; this does not give the customer any assurance that the products used are truly from organic origin.
So, when you’re sourcing ingredients for your soap making, look for suppliers who have been certified by a reputable body, as this demonstrates that the supplier has been assessed and the materials they make/supply are compliant with that accreditation. Using ingredients that are certified provides a unique selling point for your products and helps to increase your customers’ trust in your products.
Ideal for the craft market, because it requires little in the way of specialist equipment, customers typically need only to add colour and fragrance to achieve fantastic finished soap bars.