“The cosmetic industry is in the perception business. The environmental industry is in the reality business,” said Bob Lilienfeld, editor of the Use Less Stuff Report. “It’s perception versus reality.” Understanding how commitment to sustainability can be communicated as part of the overall quality commitment is key.
The personal care and cosmetic market is one of the leading categories making green claims on products. The products in the cosmetics industry are intimate, causing consumers to have a heightened sensitivity and awareness of products that are going to be safe for their use, but consumers also expect results. However, most claims are based on a single attribute, usually raw material sourcing (organic or natural) or the lack of animal testing. Green Seal developed specific standards for the personal care industry with rigorous criteria that comprehensively address the lifecyle impact of a product—from manufacturing through packaging disposal. The GS-50 standard provides a tool for companies to improve the sustainability of their products and to earn certification and a way for consumers to know that their personal care products are safer for their families and the environment, while delivering the performance they expect.
The standard comes in response to the FTC’s finalization of its “Green Guides,” which provides marketers guidelines for labeling and promoting their sustainable products. Basically, the FTC was looking to do away with greenwashing, whereby companies and industries awarded themselves certification. The new guidelines call for transparency and urges certification from independent third party sources such as Green Seal.
Green Seal’s mission as a nonprofit is to increase sustainability in products and services. “We write the standards, but if the market doesn’t pick them up because it can’t make a decent product by following them, companies won’t get their products certified and we won’t have achieved our mission,” said Linda Chipperfield, Green Seal’s vice president of marketing and communications.
Green Seal spent a lot of time researching the impact of packaging and the ripple effect once it’s exposed in order to develop the GS-50 standard and conducts audits to provide independent confirmation that criteria are being met.
It’s all for a very specific reason: consumer confidence. “If the consumers do not have certainty that the product that they are buying is indeed going to enhance not only protection of the environment but the health and safety of themselves and their family, they are not going to buy it,” said Chipperfield.