Beauty Beat: Organic Labeling Debated at Summit

How to bring order to the natural beauty world is a hot topic among industry executives.

Boots the Chemists Botanics Organic items

Boots the Chemists' Botanics Organic items.

Photo By WWD Staff

PARIS — How to bring order to the natural beauty world is a hot topic among industry executives.

That subject, among others, was debated during the Natural Beauty Summit, held here recently and organized by Beyond Beauty and Organic Monitor.

Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients, for one, said the industry needs to create global unity of certification. He believes the 30-odd certification labels existing today on organic and natural beauty products might do more harm than good.

"They're beautifully designed logos, but I simply haven't found space on my packaging [for them]," he said. "If the consumer gets confused, labels will become meaningless."

"The vision should be one — it's best for consumers; it's best for manufacturers, for ease of shopping," added Mike Indursky, chief marketing and strategic officer of Burt's Bees, who is working with beauty companies in the U.S. to create common standards for cosmetics there. Their goal is to establish U.S. standards in line with Europe's, he said.

However, it looks unlikely there will be a single logo for Europe, where private certifiers have been working for four years to agree on harmonized standards for natural and organic cosmetics. While representatives of France's Ecocert, Germany's BDIH, Italy's AIAB and the U.K.'s Soil Association have set a June 2008 deadline to harmonize standards within the European Union, they do not plan to create one logo.

Instead, once the standards are agreed upon by those certifiers, they will be presented to others in the European Union. The next step is for such standards to be reviewed by the European Commission.

Once this system is in place, a company could be inspected by Ecocert and then its products would carry both Ecocert's label and that of another certification body if the company wishes.

While one manufacturer pointed out that labeling has become a business unto itself, the Soil Association argued that companies may not necessarily support a single European label.

"Businesses don't want to lose their national logo," said Helen Taylor, the Soil Association's director of marketing and corporate relations, referring to a recent outcry in the U.K. against plans for a single Europe-wide logo for organic food. She was suggesting that one label for cosmetics might meet with similar opposition.
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