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Is globalization the future of organic cosmetics?

Is globalization the future of organic cosmetics?

If organic personal care supply chains were a notoriously overplayed ‘90s song, they would be Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” sourcing organic ingredients from wherever they are, both near… and now far.

NSF International recently announced that its organic personal care standard, NSF/ANSI 305 Made with Organic Ingredients, will allow certified products to include ingredients certified under EU organic standards. This change has potential to clear up confusion about international beauty standards but also raises the issue of local vs. organic in the personal care world, a topic that has developed in the food industry for years. 

In a press release, Jane Wilson, standards director of NSF International, said: “NSF/ANSI 305 opens up new growth opportunities for personal care companies whose products contain organic ingredients and speaks to the globalization of the cosmetic supply chain.”

Globalization of the cosmetic supply chain particularly struck me, as I’ve noticed a movement toward localization of the cosmetic supply chain, companies increasingly working with nearby farmers and other suppliers to help ensure the purity of products.

Then again, if we’re going to talk purity, the EU has arguably been way ahead of the U.S. with cosmetics regulations, and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics acknowledged the need to work more closely with EU standards in its Compact for Safe Cosmetics—one of the requirements being companies must comply with the EU Cosmetics Directive. It also makes sense that NSF would want to work with Europe more closely on its organic standard, because it paired with European NaTrue on its in-progress natural standard.

The future of organic cosmetic standards

Still, I was curious whether NSF truly believes globalization is the future of cosmetic industry supply chains. And when I spoke with Wilson following NSF’s announcement, she emphasized a different reason for this change. A committee of suppliers, consultants, manufacturers and consumer representatives made this decision primarily based on demand from European companies sourcing organic European ingredients and wanting to get the NSF certification—as opposed American companies broadening their supply chains. Wilson acknowledged that sourcing locally is often more sustainable and why many manufacturers going for the NSF/ANSI 305 continue to do this. 

Regardless, this adjustment would technically allow American companies to source European organic ingredients. My take is that just like with sustainable food systems, we need to realize that local and organic are not synonymous. And because both local and organic are still relatively new in the cosmetics world, and consumers are still confused about labels, it’s important to simplify for consumers. NSF's adjustment has potential to do this. Many European companies have been leading the way with sustainable and organic cosmetics, so it only makes sense that American consumers can now recognize that on store shelves—as opposed to trying to decipher another unfamiliar label. 

As for my purchasing decisions, I guess I’m much like our friend from north of the border. As long as I know my cosmetics were made with safe and sustainable ingredients, my heart will go on regardless of their origin. 

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