I am scheduling this post to appear just as I start speaking at the ScanCos conference in Stockholm on the subject of Organic Standards For Personal Care – Are They Relevant In A World That Is Getting Hotter And More Crowded? I am talking to an audience of cosmetic scientists and other industry professionals so I can assume that they know all about organic accreditation schemes for personal care and cosmetic products. A lot of consumers on the other hand are not so much confused as totally oblivious to the existence of such standards.
Only a minority of UK consumers are swayed by organic labels with specific signs on them. Only 13% said they often used products with the Soil Association logo on when Defra did a survey in 2011. Only 28% even claimed to be familiar with the logo. The Soil Association is the oldest environmental group that does this kind of thing, dating back to 1946. Other schemes are even further behind in public awareness. Defra didn’t ask the question, but it is safe to assume that not many of the public are aware that the Soil Association has a standard that organic growers have to follow to be entitled to use their logo on their produce. Even fewer realise that there is also a scheme that personal care producers can follow that allows them to use the Soil Association logo as well. Lots of people like natural products – at least in principle – without knowing anything about this sort of thing.
I am far from convinced that they really offer anything much to either the consumer or the planet. Organic food is questionable enough, though it is possible to make a case for it being potentially healthier. You can’t too demanding about how much evidence you need to persuade you, but there is at least some. And organic food tastes much the same as the conventional alternative, and nowadays isn’t hugely more expensive. So all you stand to lose is a bit of cash. If it turns out to be healthier in the end, you made a reasonable bet.
The evidence for organic personal care being healthier to use doesn’t exist. But unlike organic food, there is a really distinct difference in the performance of organically certified personal care products. They aren’t as good as conventional ones.
This doesn’t necessarily matter to the purchaser. If they are public spirited enough, they might well take the view that they are prepared to make sacrifices in how well their personal care products work for the sake of the planet. The trouble is there isn’t really any good case that organic personal care is any better for the planet either.
That is, in very short summary, what I plan to say. As I am on the same bill as some people who are very much in favour of organic standards for personal care there may be a lively debate. If I survive and make it back to the UK I’ll bring you up to date on how I got on.