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Cosmetics Ingredients
The material selection platform
Cosmetics Ingredients

Cosmetics Sustainability Claims - Green or Grey?

Dr. Theresa Callaghan – Jun 12, 2019

Green Cosmetic ClaimsISO14201 (2016) — “The concepts involved in sustainability are highly complex and still under study. At this time there are no definitive methods for measuring sustainability or confirming its accomplishment. Therefore, no claim of achieving sustainability shall be made.” 

The foundation of any cosmetic product and its brand is its ability to effectively communicate with the consumer, extolling product virtues and benefits, without lying and misleading them.

In recent years the global cosmetic market has seen very rapid growth in sales of “natural” and “organic” personal care products. With the ever-expanding number of products and brands appearing in the market, they are often accompanied by a lack of transparency in terms of claimed “sustainability” resulting in a confused and “greenwashed” consumer.

With growing consumer demands for sustainable products of natural/organic origin and a global push from the UN to protect the planet and its resources, clearer labeling concerning the production and sourcing of such cosmetic products has become not only paramount but an expected “norm”.

Let's discuss the challenges surrounding so-called green and sustainable claims...

What are Cosmetic Claims?

For cosmetic products, a claim is:

 − A statement that is used in advertising a product, and
 − That addresses positive aspects of the products performance as well as the benefit to be gained from using that product

Selling a product with negative claims and attributes clearly has no consumer benefit!

Yet, we can still ask the question further - what actually is a claim? Here in the EU, according to the Cosmetics Directive, they are defined as:

“…text, names, trademarks, pictures and figurative or other signs that convey explicitly or implicitly
product characteristics or functions in the labeling, making available on the market and advertising of cosmetic products”

In other words, whatever the consumer observes, perceives or feels when interacting with a cosmetic product, can be described as a “claim”.

Furthermore, claims are marketing tools that are essential to help end-users choose a product; foster competition; and promote innovation. We make them solely to make money, and to achieve these monetary gain products need to meet consumers real needs and expectations, whilst being compliant with regulatory requirements.

Claims Made on Cosmetics

Lack of Compliance and Common Pitfalls

When trying (or not) to comply with claims requirements, brands/products always seem to lack integrity and credibility. that is, they either tell lies or just fill “space” with airy-fairy nonsense that has no bearing on the purpose of the product.

Common “claims” pitfalls are:

 − Lack of Evidence
 − Vagueness
 − Irrelevant
 − Not Truthful
 − False Labeling
 − Misleading
 − Opaque rather than Transparent

It is still shocking that brands still want to make drug-like claims, and many claims are consumer irrelevant highlighting a clear lack of consumer insight (which is so important in claims development). Some brands still pursue trying to extrapolate “data” into claims, and most brands are still fixated on copy-pasting supplier information into their claims.

Furthermore, product development - be they marketing or other - suffer from Limpet Syndrome, whereby they are so fixated on a claim at the start of their development process, that it is impossible (nearly) to extract them from it. Developers still have the bad habit of starting with their claim (rather than a claim concept) and then trying to justify the claim. It’s rather like trying to put a square peg in a round hole.

Another issue is the very poor communication the industry provides to consumers. Whilst, the industry does well communicating business-to-business, communicating to the consumer falls short of expectations. More often than not is reactive (slow) rather than proactive. This is a concern since many consumers end up relying on fake news — gospels according to the tabloids or internet “noise”. The consequence is distrust.

Key steps in any claim development process are:

 − Consumer insight
 − Product purpose
 − Claim development strategy
 − Body of evidence, and
 − Communication

If the developer cannot get these processes right, it does not matter what the trendy claim might be, they may well fail in the overall compliance.

 » Continue reading to learn the facts that need to be considered while making a 'green' claim and an enormous demand for global harmonized standard for the same! 

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