German Consumer Association highlights problem of greenwashing in cosmetics

By Katie Nichol

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Germany

Many cosmetics and personal care products on the German market wrongfully claim to be natural or organic, according to a study carried out by the regional Consumer Association in Hamburg, Germany.

The Association analysed 20 products, listing their ingredients and highlighting those which are not permitted in natural cosmetics in accordance with NaTrue criteria.

The NaTrue label is an international label for natural cosmetics which provides guidance for consumers and manufacturers using criteria based on the recommendations of the council of Europe.

NaTrue general secretary, Julie Tyrrell, told CosmeticsDesign-Europe that although she was unaware the German Consumer Association was carrying out the study, and so did not know the basis on which products were selected for analysis, it was very positive that the NaTrue label had been taken as a reference point.

The greenwashing problem

She added that the fact almost all German newspapers had picked up on the findings underlined the issue of greenwashing in cosmetics.

“This really highlights the fact that there is a major problem” ​she said. “Consumers are not educated about what natural or organic really means as there is no common reference point due to an absence of regulations. There are a lot of misleading claims out there,” ​she added.

Amongst the products analysed, the Schwarzkopf and Henkel brand topped the list as the worst ‘offender’, with its Poly Pallet natural hair dye shown to contain a long list of chemical compounds.

Tyrell said that to see the Body Shop amongst the list of greenwashers really got her attention as “historically, the Body Shop has been seen as a pioneer of natural.”

Need for a common reference point

She underlined the fact that formulators as well as consumers need a reference point for natural and organic criteria as they cannot be expected to formulate to different standards.

“We hope that through our label we are offering long awaited guidance,”​ she said. “It is a label that consumers can trust, it provides guidance for formulators and reduces administrative burdens and costs – a key point as natural and organic companies are small,” ​she said.

The dedicated website for the NaTrue label offers a database of products which carry the label, which allows products to be searched by category, country or brand. NaTrue is launching a similar ingredients database next year, according to Tyrell.

Call for clearer provisions in EU directive

In its anti-greenwashing statement, the Hamburg Consumer Association called for clear provisions for natural and organic cosmetics to be included in the EU Cosmetics Directive as quickly as possible and for adherence to those provisions to be controlled by independent bodies.

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