Greenwashing; when organic isn't always organic

Greenwashing; when organic isn't always organic

27th Apr 2017

Left: Boots Beautiful hair moisturise & natural shampoo with added organic organ oil came top of the Soil Association's 'name and shame' chart (click to enlarge), scoring 19/25 with five thumbs-down marks against it.

Next with 14/25 and four thumbs-down was Coola's Makeup setting spray green tea & aloe.

Unlike organic food, which must adhere to strict EU regulations to call itself organic, there are no legal standards in place for manufacturers of beauty products.

This means that many beauty brands casually use the terms ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ on their product labelling, a description that appeals to a great many consumers but is confusing and misleading them at the same time.

The Soil Association’s recent market report showed that sales of organic health and beauty products are booming right now, with an increase of more than 20 per cent in 2016.

The market is worth about £61.2m in the UK. But because technically it’s not illegal to describe almost any beauty product as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, even if there are virtually no ingredients in the product that fit that description, consumers are being misled into buying inferior products.

The Soil Association has ‘named and shamed’ eight cosmetics brands that it believes are culprits of what it calls ‘greenwashing’ in a report that you can download here: The Soil Association – Come Clean About Beauty

We agree with the Soil Association that misleading consumers this way is completely unacceptable. The companies accused of misleading consumers through labelling on specific products include trusted household names like: Boots, Rituals, Dr Organic, The Organic Pharmacy, Korres, Aloe Pura, Faith In Nature and COOLA.

Consumers could lose trust in organic brands

The Soil Association asked consumers how they felt about the way organic and natural beauty products were marketed, and unsurprisingly, 76 per cent said that they feel misled by some labelling on beauty products.

The independent survey also found that 72 per cent of consumers felt they would lose trust in a beauty brand if they knew the brand had made misleading claims about their products or ingredients being organic.

Soil Association Policy Director Peter Melchett believes that this study is just the tip of the iceberg. He said;

“The labels on products we encountered were littered with confusing terms. Our consumer research shows that it is very difficult for consumers to know they are making the right choice when doing their shopping.”

Organic standards are in place to encourage brands to use ingredients that are organic, sustainable and biodegradable in their beauty products, so it’s no surprise that most people said they felt misled when they were told that products claiming to be ‘organic’ in fact contained ingredients that weren’t permitted in a real, certified organic beauty product.

The brands carrying out this ‘greenwashing’ of their product ranges are exploiting the trust and reassurance that many people are looking for when they buy a product labelled ‘organic’ instead of one without that description.

Most people (74 per cent) thought that if they chose a product which stated ‘organic’ on the label, it should be free from ‘nasties’ but the research shows that it’s not always the case after all.

If you want to make sure that your beauty products haven’t been ‘greenwashed’, look for a genuine logo which proves the product has been independently certified, like COSMOS or the Soil Association, Natrue and NSF-ANSI.

These organisations all have strict criteria for beauty products. Botanicals was one of the first skincare producers to be accredited by the Soil Association. Which is why we're proud to display their logo on all our labels.