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What Do Ethical and Sustainable Meant to Today's Beauty Consumer?

By: Imogen Matthews
Posted: December 12, 2008

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However, few beauty companies are moving quickly to address consumers’ growing questions on sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. “The production facilities of some natural manufacturers have shifted to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, but so far, very few companies are doing this,” says Mellage. “Some marketers are looking to source their ingredients via more renewable and environmentally friendly methods.” The brands she cites includes The Body Shop, Dr Hauschka, L’Occitane, Aveda, Weleda, Lavera and Primavera.

Is it Fairly Traded?

It was Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who first introduced “community trade ingredients” to global personal care by setting up local projects with Third World communities to purchase ingredients, such as Brazil nut oil and shea butter. Today, the company is owned by L’Oréal and adheres to the brand’s original principles by sourcing approximately 25 natural ingredients from community trade projects. For example, its makeup range includes marula oil, and affords Namibian women, who produce the oil, the opportunity to earn an above-average price for the oil. The Body Shop can also claim to use the world’s first fair trade aloe vera sourced from Guatemala, which is used in its skin and body care range. Proceeds from the purchase of this ingredient is funding the source community’s efforts to provide local schools with the latest educational resources.

Organic Monitor’s* Fair Trade Cosmetics & Ingredients report reveals that France is the largest market for fair trade personal care products. The report states that the naturals and organics market has been concentrated in Europe, but North America is catching up quickly. However, the number of fair trade certified ingredients is limited, which could hamper growth of fair trade beauty products.

Ticking the Green Box

Weleda is one of the forerunners of natural and ethically sourced personal care products, with a company history dating back to the early 1920s. The company developed from the work of Rudolph Steiner and Ita Wegman, who explored how man’s soul and spiritual nature relates to the health and function of the physical body. Today, 50% of Weleda’s fair trade partners currently employ biodynamic methods, and the company is working toward a target of 100%. Where wild ingredients are required, ethical sourcing is assured. When some crops have to be outsourced to fair trade farmers, all must produce ingredients of pharmaceutical quality.

U.K. organic skin care brand Organic Apoteke* takes an integrative approach, believing that beauty does not have to come at the expense of health, the environment or lives of animals. Its touchstone is “first do no harm,” one of the principal precepts all medical students are taught. For Organic Apoteke, this means testing raw ingredients for heavy metals and environmental toxins, minimizing impact on the environment by using recycled paper and sustainable energy for its manufacturing plant, supporting organic farming and testing products on human volunteers.