A harmonised definition for NOC does not currently exist despite many industry discussions, and as there is no official regulatory definition there has been a proliferation of private standards providing certifiable definitions, but with increasing numbers it could be at risk of creating confusion.
That is why the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) tabled draft guidelines with the industry with the aim of creating harmonised technical criteria encouraging innovation, allowing for claims substantiation, and being useful to the industry at large.
However, Natrue has raised issues concerning these guidelines relating to transparency, as the standards are only accessible through purchase; classification of ingredients, as the amount of natural or organic raw materials used can vary; and substantiation of claims, as in Natrue’s opinion, there needs to be more information on this.
“We at Natrue believe that the ISO 16128 guidelines, as currently written, are expected to be weaker than existing private European standard definitions of NOCs, to whom thousands of consumers have signed-up based on trust and confidence,” says a company statement.
“These guidelines may lead to consumer confusion rather than clarity, even potential mistrust – and this without fundamental consideration of consumer expectations.”
The ISO guidelines were drafted in 2010 for NOC products with the conventional cosmetic industry, and at the time, the long established Geneva-based body explained that with increased interest in NOC products, but no clear guidelines, the market was in danger of becoming fragmented.
Mojdeh R Tabari, secretary of the ISO cosmetics technical committee responsible for the developing standard said: “What exactly constitutes a ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ cosmetic ingredient or product is being interpreted differently by cosmetic ingredient and product manufacturers and by other stakeholders, such as certification organisations.”
Tabari added that as a response to this fragmented market “with no clear rules and a lack of international coherence on the technical basis, a highly credible, transparent and scientifically sound set of technical definitions and criteria for natural and organic cosmetic products is required.”
So, ISO set about developing a global standard on the technical definitions and criteria for ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ ingredients and products, which once approved, could bring some order to the current international confusion surrounding such certification schemes.
The ISO guidelines for NOC ingredients and products, 16128, were produced by the Cosmetics Working Group at ISO (ISO/217 WG4), and consist of two parts which can be found now online: Definitions (16128-1) and Criteria (16128-2).
Natrue also joined the draft guideline process as a ‘liaison representative’ and has said that in principle everyone involved, both the industry and consumers, could benefit from the ISO guidelines.
It does however state that in practice this could be different as unlike existing standards for natural and organic cosmetics, ISO 16128, in its current state, “does not include criteria for determining when a product can, or cannot, be classified as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.”
Another problem it presents is that the ISO logo is not permitted for use, and, at present, ISO 16128 provides no guidance for when a cosmetic product can be considered ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.
“In this instance, the consumer is potentially left only a with claim to natural/organic content, based upon criteria calculations from 16128-2, without the added value of transparency to understand of what this claim means and how the value was calculated,” says Natrue.