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ISO 16128 part 1: International standard creates “less greenwashing and more transparency”

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

ISO 16128 part 1: International standard creates “less greenwashing and more transparency”
As ISO 16128 aims to harmonise the global natural and organic space, we spoke with Dr Laurent Sousselier, Chief scientific officer, UNITIS (European Organisation of Cosmetics Ingredients Industries and Services) on its scope and impact on the industry.

Part 1 of ISO 16128, an international standard, provides guidelines on technical definitions and criteria for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients and products.
Dr Laurent Sousselier, Chief scientific officer, UNITIS, explains that it provides definitions for natural ingredients, natural mineral ingredients, organic ingredients, derived natural ingredients, derived organic ingredients, derived mineral ingredients, non-natural ingredients and four different types of water.

Industry calls
Commenting on the key drivers influencing the establishment of ISO 16128, Sousselier emphasised how multiple global standards and calls by the European Commission for regulation within the natural and organic space led to the development of ISO 16128.

Highlighting how in 2010, more than 20 different standards and labels were identified throughout the world covering natural and organic cosmetics, Sousselier stated that “this situation was extremely confusing for consumers and for manufacturers”.
This, in conjunction with The European Commission also wanting to regulate the claims in the frame of the Cosmetics European Directive (Council Directive 76/768/EEC of 1976-07-27), led Cosmetics Europe to “bring the subject to ISO for establishing a worldwide standard on which each country could regulate claims”.

New products entering the market

While “various major companies are already using the definitions of the standard and advertise on what is natural or derived natural”​, UNITIS anticipates that it will have a strong, positive and ongoing influence on the industry.
“We consider that there will be a major impact on the market with less ‘greenwashing’, more transparency and that this standard will continue to develop the natural and organic sector,”​ added Sousselier.
In terms of the ISO definitions’ influence in the future, Sousselier went on: “I believe that the current private standards and labels will adopt in the future the ISO definitions [and] can provide consumers with certified products bearing a label which can set some specific additional values or choose more stringent criteria (e.g. on preservatives).”
Manufacturers and brands will now need to refer to ISO 16128 when launching new products as “companies have to decide on which standard they will use and what they want to claim”.

What it covers

While the ISO 16128 standard does enable firms to show “a percentage of naturalness or organicness, it does not define what an organic cosmetic product is as the standard does not deal with claims, and no minimum percentage is given”.

Within the natural beauty and personal care niche, there have been concerns that guidelines are open to interpretation, and as ISO 16128 does not cover claims and percentages, companies have to be aware of how far the definition does stretch.
“The definitions, mode of calculations, the solvents that can be used are well defined,” ​Sousselier noted.
It is the “type of chemical process”​ that is “more open as long as the principles of green chemistry are used in order to facilitate innovation”,​ he emphasised.

Collaborative effort
While “it is a little early to say”​ whether the ISO 16128 has been welcomed by the industry, with “a strong involvement of trade associations: both major cosmetic companies and SMEs as well as from the SMEs manufacturing natural ingredients”,​ UNITIS hopes that it builds reliability, confidence and trust in the natural and organic cosmetics sector by defining “a common ground on a worldwide basis”.

Regulations, except for claims, nor safety are expected to be impacted, as this is out of the scope of the standard. However, Sousselier did state that “regulations can be impacted if some countries want to regulate natural and organic claims with for example a minimum percentage”.
Focusing on the potential and sizeable changes that are likely to cause existing businesses to make significant modifications to formulations, R&D or marketing, there are “no major changes expected in R&D except that the natural trend will increase the need for new ingredients to comply with ISO 16128”.

In terms of marketing, brands will need, however, to decide “when to use the ISO standard or when to use private certified labels”.

The second part of this article, exploring the newly-released ISO 16128 part 2, will be published on Wednesday 4th October 2017.

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