Fairtrade: beyond certification

By Leah Armstrong

- Last updated on GMT

It is now possible for cosmetics companies to achieve Fairtrade certification for natural products that use ethically sourced ingredients. However, many brands are now going beyond certification, developing independent ethical standards to attract a more socially aware consumer.

Some of the main bodies of certification include Transfair USA and the Fairtrade Foundation UK, which fall under the umbrella organisation of the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation (FLO). However, this body has come under criticism from industry figures for being too narrow in its certification of root ingredients.

Cocoa butter, shea butter and olive oil and other traditional food sources such as this have been the main components of FLO’s certification scheme.

Many brands such as Lush have gained certification through Fairtrade Foundation UK, set up last year. Lush’s Fairtrade Foot Lotion uses Fairtrade Cocoa butter.

However, Karen Huxley, a spokesperson for the company, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that showing their customers the Fairtrade symbol on its products was simply not enough. A fuller and more extreme commitment to ethical standards is required.

Beyond certification

She said that certification was important as a means of “showing our customers that we support the motives of Fairtrade and the Fairtrade Foundation. However, we also use our purchasing power to help support worthy causes and groups sometimes outside the certification process on issues we feel are close to our hearts​”.

This includes a commitment to the removal of palm oil from Lush soaps and purchasing extra virgin coconut oil from an independent community project in Indonesia.

Beauty brand Weleda is another company to have gone beyond the remit of certification in order to appease a more ethically aware consumer. It also helps to train and educate small farmers, assisting them in converting more farms into biodynamic or organic ones.

Difficulty of acheiving Fairtrade certification

Whilst a strong reason for this establishment of independent ethical strategies is a reaction to the ‘extreme ethical’ market trend in cosmetics, it may also be a result of the difficulty many brands have in achieving certification for their ingredients.

Sahota told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that whilst the cosmetics industry is geared up for ethical change, certification bodies are still not established in many European countries, such as Italy or Germany.

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