Natural and Organic Ingredients

What is Ecocert?

Ecocert was the very first certification body to develop standards for “natural” and “organic” cosmetics, they created and introduced the “natural and organic cosmetics” standard in 2003.  Ecocert is now predominantly a certifying authority widely used in Europe, it conducts inspections in over 80 countries, making it one of the largest organic certification organisations in the world.

Previously they were the only certification standard for declaration of conformity to natural raw materials. However, with the commencement of COSMOS Natural certification standard, Ecocert is now a predominantly certifying authority with the ability to provide COSMOS Natural, COSMOS Organic and other certification standards.

Ecocert Greenlife certification is provided by Ecocert for raw materials according to the international COSMOS-standard or the private Eco-cert standard which enables the labelling of natural or organic cosmetics.

On average, Ecocert certifies products that contain 99% ingredients of natural origin. Consumers are thus given transparent information on the content in natural and organic ingredients displayed on the products.

What is COSMOS Standard?

The COSMOS standard was published in 2008, commencing force in January 2010. The Standard stands for COSMetic Organic and natural Standard and was created in the best interest for the end-consumer, to have one standard to distinguish organic and natural cosmetic products. The Standard collaborates the efforts of five key European organic certification bodies: The Soil Association, BDIH, Cosmedbio, Ecocert and ICEA. Since this standard incorporates the Ecocert standard, this explains why Ecocert is now predominantly a certifying body for COSMOS.

The COSMOS Standard addresses a holistic view of products, addressing all stages of manufacturing, sourcing, marketing and overall control of cosmetic products within the industry. The COSMOS standard can be acquired by any company who strives to produce or market organic or natural cosmetics after they have undergone a thorough audit of its operations via an authorised certifying body. During the transition unless specifically date expired, all pre-existing Ecocert certifications are therefore still valid. Renewed Ecocert certification would naturally be in COSMOS Natural certification which is also certified by Ecocert, providing the raw materials successfully meet the COSMOS Natural criteria.

With a growing industry in the demand for natural and organic cosmetic products, two labels were created by the COSMOS Standard, including COSMOS Organic and COSMOS Natural. The distinction between the two must be clear to the customer.

COSMOS Natural

COSMOS natural products mainly contain ingredients from a natural origin. The product must indicate organic ingredients and those made from organic raw materials only in its INCI list. The product must not make any claim relating to organic on the front of the packaging, e.g. “Organic Shampoo”. It may indicate the percentage of organic origin ingredients by weight in the total product.

COSMOS Organic 

COSMOS Organic products must indicate on the label the percentage of organic origin ingredients by weight in a total product and must indicate the organic ingredients and those made from organic raw materials in the INCI list. They may also include the percentage of organic origin ingredients by weight in total product excluding water and mineral ingredients. The product cannot be called organic unless it is at least 95% organic.

A beauty (personal care or cosmetic) product is COSMOS Organic certified only if:

95% minimum of the plants it contains are organic

At least 20% of organic ingredients are present in the total formula (10% for rinse-off products)

Therefore, COSMOS Organic standard label claims relate to BOTH the raw materials AND specifically to the minimum 20% COSMOS Organic certified w/w % of the end formulated product. COSMOS Natural standard relates specifically to the raw material ingredients and the label claims relate to the percentage of natural raw materials in that formulation.

Recipients of COSMOS Organic certification are producers of raw materials, manufacturers, brands or any player of the cosmetics sector. Certification is according to the international COSMOS-standard or the private Ecocert standard which enables the labelling of your natural or organic cosmetics accordingly.

What is ISO 16128 Natural Standard?

The ISO 16128 standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) comprises guidelines on definitions for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients and offers a framework to determine the natural content of ingredients as well as formulations. It is an addition to existing standards of COSMOS. A harmonized definition offers natural and organic cosmetic ingredients increases transparency for manufacturers and consumers alike.

ISO 16128 is a two-part guideline that first provides definitions for natural and organic ingredients, whilst the second describes approaches to calculate the natural indices of those materials. ISO 16128 offers the industry a standardised and relatively simple way to determine the relative percentage of natural ingredient components and therefore the respective end product’s natural percentage level. 

According to ISO 16128, to receive a natural origin rating the natural part of an ingredient must be greater than 50%. This standardisation makes it easier for regulators to determine the validity of claims and enables consumers to make informed choices.

Natural & Organic Claims in Australia

Most manufacturers are utilising the Ecocert and COSMOS Natural certification in the current environment. It is widely understood that the ISO 16128 standard will increasingly play a part in the legislative aspects of “natural” label claims and it is widely understood that ISO 16128 will work in conjunction with the other standards, such as COSMOS Natural. Whatever the outcome, it is clear for any Australian manufacturers of finished end products who want to make a “natural” label claim, it is vital to have the right ingredients that can be validated as natural by either Ecocert or COSMOS Natural certification; whilst also maintaining records in accordance with the ISO 16128 standard, to validate the ingredient components and total level of natural based on w/w %.

Despite the fact that local regulatory bodies and relevant legislation have not yet formally adopted any of these specific certifications or standards, it is widely accepted amongst industry professionals that these certifications and standards will help the industry, in particular, will support claims and provide a scientific and future legislation proof methodology for making natural or organic label claims. 

For more specific detail on label claims in Australia, please refer to Ric Williams’ excellent article “Cosmetic Claims and the implications if you get it wrong”, which an abstract was published in The Science of Beauty, August 2019 issue Vol 9 No 1 and is available here on pages 45 to 59 for all Australian Society of Cosmetic Chemists members: