Beauty but at what cost?

Middle East Business (English) - - NEWS -

Face creams, lip­sticks, mas­caras ... a whole host of beauty prod­ucts can con­tain a mine­field of chem­i­cals and preser­va­tives, harm­ful to both skin and health if used in­cor­rectly. Not only can their in­gre­di­ents be harm­ful, but the ways in which the pro­duc­ers source in­gre­di­ents or test the re­sul­tant prod­ucts on an­i­mals may go against one's per­sonal ethics. Some prod­ucts are la­belled with claims of be­ing or­ganic or nat­u­ral with no real proof. What key words are in­volved with the green­wash­ing of cos­met­ics and beauty prod­ucts? How can we pro­tect our­selves? they seem. Many or­gan­i­sa­tions who pur­port to pro­duce green or or­ganic prod­ucts can sim­ply be adept at re­brand­ing and repack­ag­ing. Some, like Ahava Dead Sea cos­met­ics and prod­ucts, are pro­duced in il­le­gal Is­raeli set­tle­ments but do not ad­ver­tise this fact. In many coun­tries and re­gions there are spe­cial­ist stock­ists and on­line providers spe­cial­is­ing in all ar­eas of or­ganic prod­ucts such as skincare, makeup, body, hair and nail care prod­ucts and fra­grances (for ex­am­ple Na­tur­, and eth­i­cal­su­per­ Cer­tain blogs and web­sites, such as The Good Trade, pro­vide re­sources and ad­vice about buy­ing cru­elty free, eth­i­cal and or­ganic brands and what to look out for when shop­ping. They also en­cour­age more so­cial en­trepreneur­ship and con­scious liv­ing. Care should be taken to check out a brand's green cre­den­tials , es­pe­cially when you see the fol­low­ing key words on pack­ag­ing and mar­ket­ing:


Or­ganic prin­ci­ples could be de­scribed as hav­ing eth­i­cal aware­ness, safe­guard­ing an in­di­vid­ual's health, re­spect­ing ecol­ogy, fair trade and work­ing prac­tices, and care of the en­vi­ron­ment and those work­ing within it). Un­for­tu­nately, some com­pa­nies choose to la­bel a prod­uct as ‘or­ganic’ even if it only con­tains 1% or­ganic in­gre­di­ents or if it con­tains po­ten­tially haz­ardous sub­stances. When you see these prod­ucts, be aware that brands may still in­clude po­ten­tially harm­ful preser­va­tives or other ques­tion­able in­gre­di­ents in their prod­ucts de­spite us­ing or­gan­i­cally de­rived raw ma­te­ri­als. If an or­ganic cos­metic orig­i­nates from the US it should have the USDA Or­ganic seal; from Europe, COS­MOS (Cos­metic Or­ganic Stan­dard); and or­ganic cer­ti­fied pro­duc­ers across the MENA re­gion cer­ti­fied with SCS global and IFOAM - Or­gan­ics In­ter­na­tional.


For years, the nat­u­ral cat­e­gory has been the fastest grow­ing seg­ment of the global cos­met­ics in­dus­try, and re­ports pre­dict the mar­ket will be worth $16 bil­lion by 2020. It’s very clear that con­sumers are de­mand­ing nat­u­ral and safer

prod­ucts, so brands are rush­ing to re­spond to the de­mand. But what does it mean if you see nat­u­ral on a la­bel? Legally, noth­ing, since many coun­tries don't reg­u­late it. It may mean that all, or a cer­tain per­cent­age of a prod­uct’s in­gre­di­ents are min­eral or plant­based, rather than syn­thetic. To find out the level of a brand’s com­mit­ment to be­ing nat­u­ral, look for third-party cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that you trust.


Beauty prod­ucts that con­tain wa­ter, like sham­poo, hand soap, and lo­tion, need to con­tain some sort of preser­va­tive to pre­vent yeast, bac­te­ria, or mould from grow­ing, be­cause oth­er­wise, they would be to­tally un­safe to use.

When a com­pany claims a prod­uct is preser­va­tive-free, it could mean a few dif­fer­ent things: The prod­uct may not con­tain any wa­ter, so it wouldn’t need a preser­va­tive in the first place; or the prod­uct may be made only with an­tiox­i­dants (like to­co­pherol) or nat­u­ral preser­va­tive boost­ers (like neem oil or rose­mary oil). In a few rare cases, a brand may ask you to re­frig­er­ate the prod­uct or keep it on your shelf at room tem­per­a­ture for only a few days. Again, the term preser­va­tive-free may not mean that the prod­uct is safer for your health.


Not all chem­i­cals are the enemy. In fact, all sub­stances are con­sid­ered chem­i­cals: even wa­ter! So, this term can be mis­lead­ing due to the lack of reg­u­la­tion. In­stead of look­ing for prod­ucts that are chem­i­cal-free, go for prod­ucts with­out toxic, harm­ful, or ques­tion­able chem­i­cals, and make sure to do your own re­search.

Case study:

One ex­am­ple of­ten quoted in busi­ness ethics classes is that of The Body Shop. Es­tab­lished in the UK in 1976 by the late Dame Anita Rod­dick, the com­pany pi­o­neered the man­u­fac­tur­ing and sell­ing of cos­met­ics that had "not been tested on an­i­mals" and which used "only nat­u­ral in­gre­di­ents". Its many slo­gans in­cluded "in­spired by na­ture". Whilst there were some bumps along the way in­clud­ing a highly crit­i­cal ex­posé ar­ti­cle (2006) , its sourc­ing and use of palm oil (2009), and prob­lems for sup­pli­ers and fran­chisees, it ac­tu­ally cam­paigned

Look at la­bels, not pack­ag­ing

Some of the most bla­tant ex­am­ples of green­wash­ing use pack­ag­ing to con­vey that a food is green. The pack­ag­ing may be, well, green! It may have pic­tures of the planet, or wheat fields, or may show farm­ers in the fields. It will look dif­fer­ent than reg­u­lar food pack­ages, which are of­ten in bright, pri­mary colours. Re­mem­ber that pack­ag­ing like this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean the in­gre­di­ents are all nat­u­ral. Food mar­keters — even the ones em­ployed by health food com­pa­nies, sadly — have be­come very adept at get­ting con­sumers to make con­nec­tions be­tween the ap­pear­ance and the re­al­ity. It’s just not nec­es­sar­ily there. The so­lu­tion is to read the la­bels. In some coun­tries, food has to con­tain all the in­gre­di­ents on its la­bel. Make for and helped many of the causes it held dear - hu­man and an­i­mal rights, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and an­i­mal pro­tec­tion. The Body Shop was sold in 2006 to France's L'Oréal to the cha­grin of many of its long-time sup­port­ers who crit­i­cised L'Oreal for its an­i­mal test­ing. It has re­cently been sold to Brazil's Natura Cos­méti­cos (sum­mer 2017). the la­bel your friend. It will tell you whether your veg­etable stock for soup is made of hy­dro­genated pow­der or ac­tu­ally real veg­eta­bles.

Be­ware en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly slo­gans

An­other ploy, used in both pack­ag­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing, is to use slo­gans that im­ply en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly prod­ucts. They may say “good for the earth” or “for your good health.” They’re de­signed to get sales from green-con­scious con­sumers. This form of green­wash­ing can hap­pen with no ap­par­ent fi­nan­cial penalty. They aren’t, af­ter all, say­ing their prod­ucts are green, sus­tain­able or healthy. They’re just strongly im­ply­ing it. The so­lu­tion is to be­come more con­scious of how mis­lead­ing this kind of slo­gan can be. Re­mem­ber: a slo­gan is not proof.

Look for proof

So, what is proof? There are le­git­i­mate cer­ti­fi­ca­tions for en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and healthy food. Or­ganic foods usu­ally re­quire cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in many coun­tries around the globe. Con­sumers should be wary of la­bels they can­not re­search.

Be aware of the va­ri­ety of green prac­tices

When a prod­uct is la­belled or cer­ti­fied as be­ing "green" it can re­fer to a very wide spec­trum of prac­tices. Does it mean healthy, un­pro­cessed food? Does it mean sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices? Sus­tain­able prac­tices in man­u­fac­tur­ing? Does it mean com­mit­ments to min­i­mal pack­ag­ing, or elim­i­nat­ing cru­elty to an­i­mals? The num­ber of ques­tions in­di­cates the wide va­ri­ety of green prac­tices. A com­pany, then, can say it’s green in one area, but may not be in an­other. A healthy food grower, for ex­am­ple, may use pack­ag­ing washed with harm­ful chem­i­cals. The so­lu­tion here is to be­come ac­quainted with la­bels, cer­ti­fiers, and com­pa­nies in the nat­u­ral food sec­tor. Some prac­tice green meth­ods through­out the process. Oth­ers con­cen­trate only on man­u­fac­tur­ing, or only on or­ganic farm­ing. If you’re in­ter­ested in eat­ing green, find the prod­ucts and com­pa­nies that fit your needs and match your ethics. In ad­di­tion, some com­pa­nies mak­ing green claims are ac­tu­ally sig­nif­i­cantly harm­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. To link in with our ar­ti­cle about Palm Oil, in 2008, the Malaysia Palm Oil Coun­cil pro­duced a green ad­ver­tise­ment claim­ing; “Its trees give life and help our planet breathe, and give home to hun­dreds of species of flora and fauna. Malaysia Palm Oil. A gift from na­ture, a gift for life.” How­ever, crit­ics pointed out that palm oil plan­ta­tions are linked to rain­for­est species ex­tinc­tion, habi­tat loss, pol­lu­tion from slash and burn meth­ods, and de­struc­tion of flood buf­fer zones. (Dahl, 2010).

Not green­washed - just un­eth­i­cal and il­le­gal

One ex­am­ple of un­eth­i­cal pro­duce in our re­gion would be those de­scribed as "set­tle­ment prod­ucts" - prod­ucts that are grown il­le­gally by Is­raeli set­tlers on Pales­tinian land. In Septem­ber 2017, the UN's Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sioner, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hus­sein, sent let­ters to 150 com­pa­nies in Is­rael and around the world, warn­ing them that they are about to be added to a data­base of com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness in Is­raeli set­tle­ments in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. Coun­tries im­pli­cated in­cluded Ger­many, South Korea, Nor­way, US and - and Is­rael. The Pales­tinian-led global Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment, Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paign seems to be gath­er­ing pace. Just as South African prod­ucts were black­listed in the 1980s, Is­raeli prod­ucts - es­pe­cially those from il­le­gal set­tle­ments - are be­ing shunned by both con­sumers and po­ten­tial in­vestors. By un­der­tak­ing co­or­di­nated cam­paigns, they are see­ing ma­jor suc­cesses. Is­rael's fruits and veg­eta­bles are some of its ma­jor ex­ports - hit­ting this will have a di­rect im­pact. Is­raeli firms af­fected by the boy­cott in­clude So­daSteam, Ahava Dead Sea prod­ucts, and Sabra Hum­mus - who pro­vide di­rect fi­nan­cial sup­port to the Is­raeli De­fense Forces (part of a joint ven­ture with Pep­siCo). Global firms that are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing di­vest­ment and neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity due to their in­volve­ment in Is­rael in­clude Cater­pil­lar, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and G4S. Sig­nif­i­cant "wins" in­clude Ve­o­lia (trans­port/trams) and Or­ange (tele­coms) sell­ing up and leav­ing Is­rael al­to­gether and G4S lost Bill Gates as an in­vestor.

Mid­dle East Or­ganic & Nat­u­ral Prod­ucts Expo:

Your op­por­tu­nity to re­search green and or­ganic pro­duc­ers in MENA For the past 14 years, ex­hibitors and vis­i­tors at the Mid­dle East Or­ganic & Nat­u­ral Prod­uct Expo have done busi­ness, launched new prod­ucts and found new op­por­tu­ni­ties. The event pro­vides in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies from dif­fer­ent sec­tors with ac­cess to a dy­namic and ex­pand­ing mar­ket of or­ganic and nat­u­ral prod­ucts. The or­ganic food sec­tor has seen growth with in­creas­ing num­ber of or­ganic farms and higher de­mand for or­ganic and nat­u­ral pro­duce even in the med­i­cal and cos­metic sec­tor. As aware­ness about the or­ganic life­style and al­ready high pur­chas­ing power in­creases, it can safely be as­sumed that this trend will only in­crease. The grad­ual shift in con­sumers' pref­er­ence for or­ganic food and prod­ucts in the re­gion has made this sec­tor in­te­gral. De­mand for or­ganic foods is on the rise as con­sumers are in­creas­ingly plac­ing more value on prod­ucts that are good for their health and the en­vi­ron­ment. For in­stance, sales of or­ganic pack­aged food in the Mid­dle East and North Africa is in­creas­ing, in part, prompted by ex-pat con­sumers. How­ever, at present, the sec­tor is only val­ued at $110 mil­lion com­pared to ma­ture mar­kets like the US and Europe, where or­ganic food is worth bil­lions. The Mid­dle East Or­ganic & Nat­u­ral Prod­uct Expo Dubai is be­ing held dur­ing 11 De­cem­ber 2017 at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion & Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre, Dubai, United Arab Emi­rates. The event is or­gan­ised un­der the pa­tron­age of UAE Min­istry of Cli­mate Change & En­vi­ron­ment, Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture Saudi Ara­bia, Nat­u­ral Prod­ucts As­so­ci­a­tion New Zealand, IFOAM - Or­gan­ics In­ter­na­tional, Emi­rates Stan­dard­iza­tion & Metrol­ogy Au­thor­ity (ESMA), Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Abu Dhabi Food Con­trol Au­thor­ity (ADFCA) and other lead­ing na­tional and in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions.

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