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Are Personal Care Products Labeled "Green" Really Environmentally-Friendly?

Posted Oct 22 2008 4:37pm

ScienceDaily (May 13, 2008) — From soaps to body lotions to shampoos, consumers are increasingly drawn to personal care products that are labeled "green" or environmentally-friendly, a fast-growing market that chalks-up an estimated $4 billion in sales per year worldwide. Despite the hype over these products, there's growing confusion by consumers and manufacturers alike over what it really means to be labeled as "green," according to an article scheduled for publication in Chemical & Engineering News.

TO READ ALL the marketing hype, it would seem that the personal care products industry is rushing to label as natural, organic, or sustainable just about every new product coming onto the market.

In part, that is because toiletries and cosmetics carrying a "sustainable" or "natural" moniker are flying off the shelves, according to Gillian S. Morris, chemicals and materials director of consulting firm Kline & Co. Worldwide, manufacturers' sales of natural products are growing at an average annual rate of 15%, three times faster than the overall market, she says.

However, just what manufacturers mean when they tout their products as natural, organic, or sustainable is anything but clear, Morris notes. And that has opened up an opportunity for industry groups and certification bodies to offer various seals of approval that ingredient makers and formulators can use to authenticate their claims.

Written by C&EN Senior Correspondent Marc Reisch, the cover story points out that there's no universal consensus over what is green, organic, or sustainable. To the detriment of consumers, manufacturers sometimes produce misleading labels in an effort to cash-in on the hype, the article notes. Some manufacturers have even begun to certify their products as green under a variety of different standards and criteria or using different certifying bodies.

But change may be around the corner. Some groups in the U.S. and abroad are now working on establishing clearer standards for personal care products. Notes Reisch: "Unless ingredient makers and formulators sort out their differences, the subject of what is natural, organic, and sustainable may have to be sorted out in a court of law."
Source - Science Daily

Journal reference:
Seeking Sustainability. Chemical & Engineering News. May 12, 2008. [ link ]

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