CGN’s Insider Report: Are You Greenwashed?

Posted September 28, 2013 by Katherine Toll in Building Your Brand

What the hell is greenwashing and why should you care?

Read on, Career Girls! We’re about to bust the lid of off the (beauty) news story of the season!

Are you being greenwashed?

I started writing about green beauty three years ago when I discovered trace amounts of toxins (like mercury and lead) might be found in my lipstick. It appears I wasn’t alone in my concern because more and more information started surfacing about the ….ahhh….hmmm…chemical compounds (?) used in beauty products. Always quick to satisfy our needs, cosmetic manufacturers responded by offering us natural or organic alternatives to (perceived) toxic formulations. It wasn’t long before ‘all natural’ and ‘organic’ skincare products started hitting the shelves and life was good again!

Oh….yeah…about that….turns out words like natural and organic are rather subjective terms. They are VERY open to interpretation based on how the manufacturer opts to define them.

Ya, sure…there’s aloe vera in the formulation….I think….that’s natural, right?

Hence, the term ‘greenwashing’ was born.

Greenwashing is a term assigned to products and brands who opted to capitalize on the green trend without actually changing much of anything, aside from the font size of  NATURAL on their label. CGN decided to go behind the scenes to get the scoop on what’s what. This week, I spoke with Richard Pietz, the Global Director of Product Development for Jurlique, an Australian skincare brand dedicated to merging nature and science. Fresh off the latest industry event, Richard clued us in to the following trends:

Trend #1 – Blurring the Lines

This trend takes advantage of our lack of standardized guidelines for delineating the difference between organic, natural, and everything else, however, Richard told us that,

Europe is paving the way for more transparency in the industry . . . within the next few years brands will need valid research data to support their green claims.

Hmmm, so that means in our current environment brands who claim this, that, or the other about their products don’t need to cough up their research (or their supplier’s research) to validate said claim?

Indeed! GOLD STAR! Move to the front of the class!

In the meantime, offers this guidance:

The term “organic,” as it appears on beauty labels, has four variations.

  1. 100% Organic: The product must contain only organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.
  2. Organic: The product must contain at least 95% organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.
  3. Made with Organic Ingredients: The product must contain at least 70% organically produced food ingredients. While the front of the product can list up to three organic ingredients or one organic food group, the label will not have the USDA Organic seal. Individual ingredients on a product’s ingredient list will be labeled as “organic”.
  4. Organic Ingredients: Products which contain less than 70% organically produced food ingredients can only include organic ingredients on its ingredients list, but these products cannot display the USDA Organic seal.

Trend #2 – Avoid the ‘nasties’

Richard advises sometimes it’s easier to avoid the ‘nasties’ (a term coined in to UK, which includes ingredients like parabens, sulfates, PEGs, etc.) He tells us,

Look for the NO label as in Jurlique’sFruit Enzyme Exfoliator, which contains NO, Parabens, Sulfates, Synthetic Fragrances, Synthetic Dyes, Petrochemicals, or Phthalates.

Trend #3 – Seek out Antioxidants

Antioxidants like Vitamin C and Grapefruit seed extract help fend off environmental aggressors that prematurely age our skin. Jurlique’s new Herbal Recovery Advanced Serum is stuffed with antioxidants, plus the youth defense concentrate serum features a proprietary active complex: Naturadiance PB18+ to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, help increase elasticity, restore radiance and increase hydration!  Now we’re talking, Richard! 

Trend #4 – ‘Green’ and ‘results’ are no longer mutually exclusive terms

We no longer need to sacrifice our powerful potions for a lackluster green alternative.  A few years ago using a green skincare product often meant we sacrificed the efficacy of our high-octane cream. Richard tells us,

As a person who understands product compoistion, there has been a huge influx of naturally derived performance based alternatives, which offer the results consumers want without the other ingredients they don’t.

I couldn’t resist asking Richard the question we all want to: What’s the most important skincare product a woman should use? He advised to start by identifying your primary concern (oiliness, lackluster skin, uneven skin tone, etc.) and pick a product that addresses that need. Then add on products as your time and budget allow, but make sure you’re using a daily sunscreen. (Ok. Admittedly, the sunscreen bit was my idea! You know how I feel about my sunscreen!)

Interested in learning more about what you’re using on your skin? Check our Jurlique’s fabulous ingredient glossary!

About the Author

Katherine Toll

Katherine (Kathi) Toll possesses more than 20 years of management and consulting experience within the retail and beauty industry. Her industry experience combined with her special brand of irreverence fuels her mission to find the ‘must-have’ beauty products for Career Girls of all ages. She aspires to remind women the airbrushed perfection of the beauty industry must be tempered with a healthy dose of humor. Kathi holds a general management certification from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, along with an undergraduate degree from Northwestern’s School of Communications.