Being a natural brand means thinking outside ourselves. “People are starting to realize more and more the impact of their purchasing decisions,” says Sapothecary’s director of operations John Bailey. Sapothecary, a private label manufacturer based in California that provides handmade soaps based on organic, food-grade extra virgin olive oil, is pursuing USDA organic certification. While this certification is not designed for cosmetics, Bailey feels it’s going to help show the integrity of the products. His advice is to go for the strictest certification you can.
All of Sapothecary’s soaps are cold processed, meaning the oils and lye are combined at 105°F or less. The low temperature keeps the delicate ingredients from degrading, because at high temperatures, the high-quality oils can become rancid. It’s also a slower process that allows workers to give attention to the custom artisan process used to develop the products.
Sapothecary’s soaps also utilize controversial palm oil. Bailey was involved previously with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), so he knew about the negative side effects harvesting palm oil can have on the environment as well as the indigenous people and animals. He soon discovered the most serious problems came from commodity palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, where tropical forests were being cleared to make way for plantations.
So, he started looking for certified, sustainable organic sources. RAN pointed him to Agropalma in Brazil, which has a variety of fair trade and organic certifications. The company only plants palm trees on previously degraded ranch land. “Rain forest isn’t being cleared to source the palm oil and no pesticides and herbicides are used,” notes Bailey.
In addition, there was an opportunity to address social impact. Agropalma has established partnerships with the government and local communities to contribute source income and job creation in the region. Currently, the program assists 185 families of small farmers who own six to 10 hectares of palm plantation. This type of palm production has led to a significant rise in families’ income and lifestyle improvements, and socio-environmental studies have shown, within benefitted communities, the family agriculture program has improved environmental performance as a whole, including activities not directly related to palm cultivation.
Business and brand principles such as this that align the company with fair trade practices and organizations that give back allows consumers to feel good about purchasing and supporting a brand.