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Cosmos certification may have come too late, critics say

By Simon Pitman , 12-Jun-2009
Last updated on 12-Jun-2009 at 12:33 GMT

The arrival of the Cosmos organic and natural certification may have come too late for it to be a globally recognised standard, critics are claiming.

The Cosmos certification standard was announced at the beginning of this week, after six years of painstaking deliberation to ensure that it would cover all aspects of the natural personal care segment.

But according to industry market research company Organic Monitor, the very fact that it is has taken this long to come to fruition means that other certification bodies, particularly in the US, have already had time to establish themselves.

“Cosmos is losing impetus because of its lengthy gestation period. A number of new initiatives, introduced in the last 18 months, are gaining momentum and could outpace Cosmos,” Organic Monitor said in an official statement.

Cosmos certification launch has seen long delays

Cosmos is due to be launched in September of this year, after its mooted spring launch was delayed over public consultations and finalising details for the standard.

However, the delays have added up and in the meantime the European industry group NaTrue launched a standard in May 2008, and started certifying at the end of the year with the involvement of some of the biggest players in Europe.

But perhaps the biggest lost opportunity for Cosmos has been in the massive US naturals market where NaTrue has already signed an equivalency agreement with the National Science Foundation (NSF), facilitating access to the US market for companies with NaTrue certification. An agreement between NaTrue and Natural Products Association (NPA) is under discussion.

Certification has proliferated in the US

The last couple of years have been busy ones in the world of natural certification Stateside, where only two years ago there were no official standards at all for natural personal care players.

The NPA was also launched in May of 2008 and now boasts over 200 certified products, while the National Science Foundation NSF standard is also tipped by Organic Monitor to gain in popularity in the US.

Likewise, other geographical regions have responded to the lack of a cohesive international certification process, particularly in Latin America and Asia-Pacific, where a number of other private standards have emerged.

Too many standards means confusion

Organic Monitor says that because of this a lot of companies have been left confused by the different standards, with uncertainty over which is the best standard to adopt and what the differences are.

Francis Blake, standards and technical director at the Soil Association, another leading player in the certification process, says that these kind of dilemmas all point to the need for an internationally-recognised certification.

“My view is that we recognize the industry is international and therefore the processing of cosmetics does not change if you cross a border,” Blake said. “The logic is simple, we need an international standard.”

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