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Yes, the natural cosmetic industry needs a trade association

Yes, the natural cosmetic industry needs a trade association

The good, the bad, the borderline offensive, the borderline promotional. I love article comments in their many guises because it means that people are reading and engaging. Your comments make our articles relevant. So, despite its blatant sarcasm, a comment on my recent article announcing the introduction of the Natural and Organic Cosmetic Alliance (NOCA) seemed worth addressing a bit more, raising some valuable questions: Why does the natural products industry need another trade association? Why does any industry need a trade association? And would I look good in a hat made of foil?

Here’s the comment (unfortunately veiled by anonymity):

Well, well ... yet another trade group and oversight body coalescing. It was just  a matter of time. Next week, I'll be forming a consumer organization to lobby or non-GMO, gluten-free gasoline and motor oils. Bring the tin foil, Virginia - let me show you how to make a hat!

I must admit the announcement of another trade association, even among some circles in the natural products industry, can prompt similar another trade association eye rolls. But to me, NOCA is a prime example of an association that fills a real gap, a need for a body that organizes and supports a growing industry in one of its most important times in history. 

While cosmetic companies certainly have a level of involvement in the Natural Products Association and the Organic Trade Association, the cosmetic industry faces unique challenges and opportunities that would benefit from more focused unity, representation and activism.

4 reasons this trade association makes sense 

One particular example is cosmetic legislation.  Congress met on it for the first time in more than 30 years this year, but the one cosmetic industry-represented bill was put forth by the Personal Care Products Council, which largely represents conventional powerhouses. That’s when Rebecca Hamilton, director of product development for W.S. Badger Co. saw the need for a task force, which is folding into the trade association. Though growing, the natural and organic cosmetic industry is still small. To have any voice in legislation, companies must join together.

The organic issue is another area where the cosmetic industry needs unique attention. Unlike with the food industry, where strict regulations demand at least somewhat transparent labeling, the unregulated cosmetic industry has to work toward retail standards or best practices.  The association is a great place to highlight wins and create protocol.

Plus, in order for the natural cosmetics category to grow, consumers must understand why to choose nontoxic personal care, and trust the category. Lack of education and awareness has been to blame for the consumer skepticism that taints the category. Beyond not understanding the benefits of choosing natural personal care, mainly, people don’t trust that natural and organic products are truly natural and organic—rightfully so, because many aren’t.

Other people don’t think natural personal care products work. While the quality and efficacy of natural beauty products has certainly improved dramatically, some issues still present barriers, such as finding affordable and functional preservatives and surfactants, and finding green chemistry solutions that can produce salon-quality products and procedures. Yet another purpose of this association is to come together to support formulation improvements and innovations—and to communicate these things to consumers. 

Well, well, anonymous … it’s not yet another; it’s in fact the first trade group dedicated to natural and organic personal care. But you’re right, it was a matter of time, and that’s because it’s a much-needed resource for an important—and growing—industry facing a critical time.

Good luck with your non-GMO, gluten-free gasoline and motor oils consumer organization. Unfortunately, I think it may be just a tad too niche.

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