Ethical sourcing is becoming the norm for natural ingredients in cosmetics

A wide range of natural ingredients are now used in cosmetic and personal care products. Vegetable oils, fats and butters are very well established, however many functional ingredients such as surfactants, emollients and thickeners are now made from natural raw materials. The trend is for operators to ethically source raw materials of natural origin.

Sustainable vegetable oils

Palm kernel oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the cosmetic industry. About 20 percent of palm oil is now produced under RSPO or related sustainability schemes. Large cosmetic companies, including Unilever and L’Oréal, have committed to sourcing only sustainable palm oil. Over 20 operators have joined Action for Sustainable Derivatives, an industry-led collaboration that encourages responsible production and sourcing of palm oil derivatives.

The number of sustainability papers and certification schemes for vegetable oils is on the rise. The Round table of sustainable coconut and coconut oil introduced its first card in 2020. A similar scheme for sustainable castor oil has been in force since 2016. Croda has recently adopted the ISCC Plus certification to demonstrate transparency and traceability in its vegetable oil supply chains.

Organic ingredients

Organic ingredients are also gaining popularity. The move is partly driven by the success of the leading COSMOS and Natrue certification schemes. Nearly 40,000 cosmetic products are now certified to these standards. Initially launched in Europe, the certification schemes have extended to Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Fair trade standards they are adopted by suppliers of raw materials of agricultural origin. Coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa, tea tree, and essential oils are some of the certified ingredients that are making their way into cosmetic and personal care products. Cosmetic companies are brandishing the Fairtrade brand on products containing these ingredients.

Some certification schemes are going through the food industry. The Vegan Society brand, initially launched in 1990 for vegan food products, now has over 24,000 certified cosmetic products. The Body Shop is one of its biggest supporters, stating that all of its products will be certified by the end of 2023.

In the United States, the Non-GMO Project Verified certification scheme is the fastest growing. Initially also introduced for food products, the scheme has been adopted by nearly 70 brands of cosmetics and personal care products. In Asia, the Halal label is becoming more and more evident. It is most popular in Indonesia, where the government introduced mandatory halal labeling for cosmetics last year.

Ecovia Intelligence predicts that the number of sustainability schemes and standards will continue to grow. The increasing use of natural raw materials puts pressure on cosmetics and ingredient companies to ethically go and follow the path of certification. Some operators will opt for organic, fair trade or sustainability schemes such as RSPO to demonstrate that they meet high environmental / social standards. Others will focus on traceability to prove their raw materials are deforestation-free, GM-free, vegan and / or halal. Whichever direction they take, ethical sourcing is becoming a fixture in the cosmetics industry.

Ecovia Intelligence will hold a seminar on ethical sourcing at in-cosmetics Global (5-7 April, Paris) and 11-22 April (virtual). Register here.

Leave a Comment