I just returned from The Natural Beauty Summit. Despite what the name suggests, this is not a meeting of natural beauties – in most cases. The Natural Beauty Summit is an annual meeting of the leaders of the Natural Cosmetics Industry and a platform to exchange ideas that further the cause of natural products. A lot of what is discussed at this meeting will directly affect consumers (you!) in the coming months and years, so I find it appropriate to update you on some of the issues we are currently struggling with.
The main problem that all the “real” natural brands, such as us, are struggling with is how to differentiate ourselves from the “pretend” natural brands. Unlike the term “organic”, the term “natural” is not protected. So conceivably a company could produce a product that is completely made of petrochemicals, put a minute amount of any natural substance in it, print a nice green leaf or some flowers on the packaging and call it “natural”. Check your local drugstore shelves. This happens all the time. To protect ourselves from such abuse, the natural manufacturers have come together to create a set of strict rules and certification processes. Products that fulfill these requirements will carry a seal, and the idea is that the consumer will recognize products that carry this seal as legitimately natural products.
So much for the theory. As to be expected, it is not easy to find common ground among all the brands and stakeholders involved. Some brands, like us, push for stricter standards, others are interested to have a broader definition of what “natural” means. The situation is complicated even further by regional interests: Just as these new standards are evolving in the US, new standards are coming from Europe that also have the ambition to be recognized internationally.
The result is that there will be a number of natural standards on the market that could potentially confuse consumers more than help them. Believe me, this is just as confusing for us as it is for you. As a manufacturer, we have to decide which of these standards we will support. If it is a strict standard, we can differentiate ourselves better from brands of lesser quality. The downside is that by definition, a stricter standard will not be as widespread and therefore not be as recognizable to consumers. If we follow a very lenient standard, the number of brands that will be able to achieve this standard will be so big, that we will put ourselves on the same level as brands with much lower quality standards.
Weleda is therefore actively working on a convergence of these standards. What exactly the end result of this will be, nobody can say for sure yet. As an international brand, we are very interested in having one global standard that is recognized everywhere. This week’s summit has shown that we are on the right track. The most likely dominant standard in Europe (NaTrue) is working on mutual recognition with some of the new standards here in North America (NSF, NPA). We are hoping to have our first products certified by both NaTrue and NSF within the next months. You can always check on this website for the seals (http://usa.weleda.com/cultivating-beauty/our-standards.aspx) you should be looking for when buying natural products, so you can be sure that you are buying a truly natural product and are not taken for a ride by a company that is just trying to cash in on the natural hype.