by KAYTI CHRISTIAN

During a recent trip to Target, I found myself in the personal care section (as one does), and I couldn’t believe how many “clean” and “ethical” beauty products were on the shelves. From vegan hair dye to organic makeup—it was as if the big-box store had suddenly turned into a responsible marketplace.

Yet, upon closer inspection, I noticed a lot of the labels weren’t exactly transparent. While the products were advertised to include “organic ingredients” or boasted “recycled packaging,” there wasn’t much more information than that. Without specifics or certifications, it was impossible to decipher whether a brand was truly sustainable or simply “greenwashing”—a practice in which companies advertise themselves as more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

Yet, upon closer inspection, I noticed a lot of the labels weren’t exactly transparent. While the products were advertised to include “organic ingredients” or boasted “recycled packaging,” there wasn’t much more information than that. Without specifics or certifications, it was impossible to decipher whether a brand was truly sustainable or simply “greenwashing”—a practice in which companies advertise themselves as more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

Part of the problem is that there is no regulatory definition or universally agreed-upon standard for these claims, explains Cara Bondi, VP of Product Development and Regulatory at Ursa Major Skincare, a certified B Corp. “For example, sustainability may mean biodegradability and plant-derived ingredients to one company, but responsibly sourced palm oil and recyclable packaging to another.”

This is where sustainability and ethics certifications from third-party organizations can be helpful.

“Third-party verification is necessary to build trust with customers, but also to build a baseline for the industry,” explains Mike Cangi, Co-Founder of United By Blue, a sustainable outdoor apparel brand and certified B Corp. “There are […] so many components to sustainability and social good that it’s really easy to spin anything and greenwash things […] but third-party verification helps build confidence with the customer.”

“Rather than having to navigate all of the individual definitions of sustainability and ethics, certifications are managed by a neutral third party and hold everything to the same standard,” Bondi adds.

While certifications aren’t a fool-proof solution, and they present their own set of challenges—third parties set their own standards, including how they choose to vet and audit brands—certifications can be an extremely helpful starting point, and they can help sift out the most obvious greenwashers.

According to Danielle Jezienicki, Director of Sustainability at Grove Collaborative, a certified B Corp offering natural household and personal care products, “Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their choices in products can impact them and the world around them.”

And “in an age where purpose-driven brands are taking center stage in the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry, […] consumers deserve to be provided with the relevant information that helps them make the healthiest choices for their families and the environment. Certifications are essential to this mission,” says Jezienicki.

For more visit https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/sustainable-certifications-and-standards

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