VEGA News Item

Doubts, Definitions, and Distractions - 21/12/2010

Breed Bothersome Beauty Benefit

1.  If an estimate that the average woman absorbs about 2kg of chemicals through her skin every year in the course of applying products is to be believed, “choosing our skincare should be something we make an informed choice about” warns “The Great Organic Scam” in the Times (15/12/10). A bewildering array of beauty products that claim to be organic, natural, plant-based, or botanical carry “organic” labelling that is “no more than a canny marketing ruse:” there are “plenty of supposedly organic ranges that contain a little as 1% organic ingredients, because there are no laws that stipulate how organic a product must be before it is labelled as such.

2.  The article advises those wanting a truly organic beauty product to look for a certification. The main UK organic certifiers are the Soil Association, Organic Farmers and Growers and the Biodynamic Agricultural Association. To qualify for a Soil Association certification and be labelled organic, a product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If the product contains more than 70% organic ingredients, it can still be certified by the Soil Association, but the company must state clearly on the packaging exactly what proportion of the ingredients is organic.

3.  The international standard in the Cosmetic Organic Standard (COSMOS) certifies more than 24,000 products sold in more than 40 countries worldwide. To qualify for Cosmos organic certification 95% of a product's agro-ingredients and 20% of the entire product must be organic. Products must also meet environmental standards for packaging and manufacturing, and use approved “green chemistry” processes when modifying ingredients; and, of course, the word “organic” must be understood unequivocally.

4.  The success of Beauty Without Cruelty in thrusting cruelty-free cosmetics and toiletries, as well as clothing and footwear, into the market has prompted advances in another freedom – the range of free-froms in foods in organic, free range fair-trade, wheat-free and other categories that British (and many other) customers can indulge their choices, even at times of deep recession and possibly with multiple inhibitions, to a crash in which the divided alternative market will disintegrate. This would be an appalling blow if blatant commercialism and self-serving politics undermined all the gains made in convincing our altruistic supporters of the significance of our campaign to convince foodies and canny customers of the cogency of the “Stern Message” to cut down on purchases and consumption of “meat and dairy” and of all the consequences where 5th quarter by-products and co-products contribute to sustain abuses, some traditional and others even novel and maintained on specious environmental matters.

5.  The Christmassacre, more than any other, offers opportunities for demonstration and implementation – to the point of outright boycotts – of exhibitions and exercise of this practicable self-discipline and self-control, and consumer power, overriding taunts of nannying from flabby detractors in the press and politics and public relations executives and the Bankers of Belize (who increasingly comprise an evil caucus of opposition and decadence). This requires a consistent expression of implementation in corporate purchasing: for instance, the RSPCA supported splendidly the advances in Beauty Without Cruelty long before Body Shop, with commendable commercial enterprise, developed the principles to the point where supermarkets jostled to establish cruelty-free to the point where standards were being set internationally and appreciated by scientists wrestling with the challenges of experimentation on animals, especially for “frivolous” purposes and with unduly cautious application of the “precautionary principles.” In particular, these choices were within the reach of rich and poor.

6.  We hope that “our” campaigners look at the soaps offered in hotels, government offices, places of entertainment, and other public occasions are labelled and described with assurances to satisfy or consternate this potentially stimulating customer power for good. What about that tallowate or palm oil among the ingredients of the soaps in use in the toilets of public and council and government offices, for example?

7.  So, we address ourselves to the Times article, which seems to be some form of advertorial for Davina Peace’s “creation” of a “luxury body care range,” to approbation from the Soil Association, “precisely because of the problem of misleading labels.” In explanation Davina Peace states: “As a consumer I found it so hard to see what was organic and natural and what was an overclaim. I wanted to be as transparent and clear as possible, yet still deliver results.”

8.  Describing “the great organic scam” the newspaper's Carolyne Asonne credits Davina Peace with pioneering a “clinically proven line-smoothing organic active ingredients that are printed in English rather than in Latin in a big font on the packaging; it’s the small print big.” And, “even the bottles are ecofriendly.” It’s commendable, but surely naïve for Davina Peace to be “horrified” to discover that most beauty packaging wasn’t recyclable…. "When you use a pump or a foil bottle or lid it goes to landfill. Individual parts may be recyclable but if assembled they can’t always be broken down!!" Davina Peace is “available at Harrods or davinapeace.com” and she mentions challenges that many better-informed organizations are tackling, including “some Soil Association approved organic brands on sale in Harrods.”

9.  Her List comprises

Waitrose, Tesco, and Boots all have own-brand organic products 
Neils Yard Remedies
Essential Care
Lucy Russell
Purity Organic Skincare
10.  But let’s be rudely organic and ask if Harrods toilet rolls, for staff and customers, aren’t bog-standard, no different from what are available to purchasers, wholesale and retail, and to environmentalists who should tackle the well-known challenges to eco-friendlies with the demotic concerns that are all too easily flushed away in the copious effluents from Knightsbridge’s hotels and department stores; as well as from the journos of the opinionated Times.
11. If Harrods, for instance, can deal with all of Davina Peace’s questions to her satisfaction and pass muster in the opinion of a well-informed and independent specialist, she should vaunt the firm’s example and its cogency to retailers at all levels, as well as alerting campaigners likely to benefit in the fields where they might have special competence and collorative influence, among whom we would number ourselves.

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