Global natural and organic cosmetic standards: ISO the solution?

Hopes are riding high in parts of the global natural and organic cosmetics sect0r that the upcoming ISO standard will bring clarity on the subject of standards. Others fear it could muddy the water still further. Here, Amarjit Sahota explains why there is still no simple solution to a standards conundrum.

I am currently in New Zealand where I gave a workshop on natural & organic personal care products. Some of the many questions I received during the workshop were about standards … ‘As a New Zealand natural brand, what standard should I adopt?’ ‘What will help me in export markets?’ ‘Is COSMOS or Natrue the answer?’ ‘What about the upcoming ISO standard … should we wait for that?’

I have been asked such questions for over 10 years now, and as I said yesterday: there are no simple solutions to the standards conundrum. On one hand, the number of standards is rising … we currently have over 30 standards for natural and organic personal care products. Until recently, NaTrue was the only standard with a regional presence. COSMOS is now building a significant presence, as it has unified the standards of Soil Association, Ecocert, CosmeBio, ICEA and Eco-Garantie. However, both Natrue and COSMOS do not have a significant presence outside Europe.

” …  both Natrue and COSMOS do not have a significant presence outside Europe. And this is why there is so much anticipation about ISO 16128″

And this is why there is so much anticipation about ISO 16128: the technical definition and criteria for natural and organic cosmetics. Scheduled to be finalised and introduced later this year, some hope this will be the global standard the industry has been calling out for. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is well-established and respected. It will also have international reach, unlike the existing standards.

There are concerns however that ISO 16128 sets a low bar for natural and organic cosmetics. Some argue the standard lacks the rigour and stringency of existing standards in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific. Indeed, a weak ISO standard could ‘muddy the water’ further, adding to the confusion in the marketplace.

Will ISO be the international standard for the natural and organic cosmetics industry? Judge for yourself by attending the standards roundtable at Natural & Organic Products Europe on Monday 3rd April, at 110pm. I will be hosting a roundtable that comprises representatives from Natrue, COSMOS and ISO. I hope to see you there!

Seminar details:

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About the Author

Amarjit Sahota

International organic and sustainability authority

Amarjit Sahota is the founder and president of Ecovia Intelligence (formerly Organic Monitor), a London-based specialist research, consulting & training firm that specialises on global sustainable product industries. He regularly presents at international events and is frequently quoted in the international media, including The Financial Times, The Independent, Forbes, Fortune, BBC World Service, The Economist, Food Chemical News, The Straits Times, South China Morning Post, CNBC News, Nordic Business Report and Asian Business.

Articles by Amarjit Sahota
Amarjit Sahota
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