Natural Beauty Summit tackles certification fragmentation

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: National organic program, Horst rechelbacher, David bronner

A lively discussion panel focusing on the fragmented state of the
natural and organic personal care certification process in North
America was one of the highlights of the Natural Beauty Summit
America conference.

Held in New York last month, the event attracted a full house, with those attending mainly being from management, sales and marketing backgrounds. The conference was split up into four main sessions over two days and a one-day workshop. As expected, the highlight of the agenda was the Standards & Regulatory Issues session, which took place on the afternoon of the first day of the conference, May 15. Certification gets heated​ The session was chaired by Mike Indursky, chief marketing and strategy officer for Burt's Bees, who steered the panel through six separate presentations giving quite different perspectives on the issue. Representing the fact that, unlike in Europe, the naturals certification process has evolved in a rather haphazard manner, presentations focused on the USDA regulatory process, contrasted by private labels that have been set up by industry representatives. The presentations were kicked off by Farah Ahmed, assistant general counsel for the CTFA who explained how the USDA certification process is evolving and how the organization is helping to forge a link between industry and the regulation. Backing this direction, David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap was next to speak, explaining the reasons why he had chosen to pursue the USDA National Organic program for his products and why he thought it offers a true organic standard. Independent certification proliferates ​ Other presentations focused on independent and private certification programs, which, the consensus seemed to indicate had evolved from a lack of a cohesive program responsive to all manufacturers needs. Reflecting this point, Jody Villecco, quality standards co-ordinator for Whole Food Markets gave a presentation about introducing a certification standard for retailers. On top of this Joe Smillie gave a presentation about the NSF standard for consumer goods and Gay Timmons, chair of OASIS, gave a presentation about the specifics of this standard, created for the health and beauty industry. Is the certification process self-serving?​ However, when it came to the panel discussion, Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda and Intelligent Nutrients, and chair for the conference's first session on Sustainability, chose to challenge the panel on the fact that they were contributing to the fragmentation of the certification process and consumer confusion. The panel discussion became heated, with Rechelbacher accusing the panel representatives of being self-serving and panel members defending themselves by explaining that the development of the market in the US had made private certification necessary. The following day Rechelbacher apologized for his comments made during the panel discussion, but still stressed that he wanted to see greater regulatory harmonization. This week, the conference organizers, Beyond Beauty Paris and Organic Monitor, confirmed that over 250 delegates, comprising 15 nationalities had attended the conference. A delegate survey conducted at the conference also confirmed that 98 percent of the attendees considered the talks were of a high or very high quality, while 76 percent thought it was a good idea to divide the program up into morning and afternoon sessions spread over three days.

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