To: Jason "Pure, Natural & Organic"; Avalon "Organics"; Nature's Gate "Organics"; Kiss My Face "Obsessively Organic"; Juice "Organics", Giovanni "Organic Cosmetics"; Head "Organics"; Desert Essence "Organics"; Ikove "Organic"; Stella McCartney CARE “100% Organic”; Ecocert; Estee Lauder; OASIS
From: Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director, Organic Consumers Association and David Bronner, President, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps
Re: Contract Cover Note on Organic Misbranding and Labeling in Personal Care
Over the past five years, the OCA, Dr. Bronner’s, various other authentic natural/organic companies, and “in-the-know” organic consumers, have been disheartened by what various companies and brands in the “natural” personal care industry have done to the organic movement, engaging in misleading organic branding and label call-outs, on products that were not natural in the first place, let alone organic.
Through the “Coming Clean” campaign, the OCA and supporting companies like Dr. Bronner’s tried for years to clean the situation up through various educational and advocacy efforts, engaging in the OTA’s PCTF and subsequent NSF ANSI process, and other efforts short of litigation. After five years of frustration, we have created the only situation we realize will effectively incentivize the necessary changes, and are fully prepared to litigate and publicize each step of such litigation. However, we look forward to resolving this situation short of actual litigation, and will publicly celebrate and move forward with any and all parties who agree contractually to the straightforward terms in the attached contract.
Our intention remains to clean the situation up, and not to drag culprit brands through the mud longer than necessary. In the spirit of resolving this before Earth Day without litigation, we are sharing the attached survey, performed at great cost and in strict accordance with the most rigorous standards of professional survey research, in the hopes that this helps clarify that litigation is not an alternative that should be pursued. If we were only preparing for litigation, of course, we would normally not share this information with the potential defendants. But this is as honest a signal as we can send that we are confident in prevailing should we be forced to litigate.
As is obvious regardless, but illustrated at great expense in the attached survey, organic branding and label call-outs on personal care products is understood by reasonable organic consumers to mean that the main cleansing and moisturizing ingredients of a personal care product are made with organic, not conventional, agricultural material, free of petroleum compounds. As also can be seen, a USDA certified “Made with Organic Oils” claim on liquid soaps and bodywashes, which ensures cleansing ingredients are made with organic material with no petrochemical compounds or preservatives, is perceived as equivalent or weaker than other organic branding and label call-outs in the market. Such a certified claim is recognized as the “most organic” less than 20% of the time by likely organic personal care consumers, yet currently is the only claim on a major natural brand (Dr. Bronner’s) in the market where actual main cleansing ingredients are made from organic not conventional material. The misleading organic noise created by culprit companies’ branding and labeling practices, is interfering with organic consumers ability to distinguish personal care whose main ingredients are in fact made with certified organic, not conventional or petrochemical, material.
Another fact proved by the survey, is that “Organics” branded on a product is understood by consumers to be a stronger organic product claim than a certified “Made with Organic” claim, and thus such branding must be restricted only to products that at least meet and make “Made with Organic” claims per the attached contract.
The survey illustrates other key obvious facts, that hydrogenation and sulfation along with synthetic preservation, are not processes that consumers accept for ingredients included in products labeled as being “Organic”-- even where organic not conventional agricultural material is involved. Insofar as such processes and preservation are involved in a personal care product, only a more limited “Made with Organic [up to three specified ingredients]” or “__% Organic” product claim can be justified. An outright “Organic” product claim, such as “Organic Lotion”, should be reserved only for products certified to meet the USDA National Organic Program standards for O95 products, which ensures no hydrogenation, no sulfation and no synthetic preservation-- basic core expectations of consumers of personal care products labeled outright as being “Organic.” The mainstream cosmetic industry is indulging in arrogant disregard and scorn for organic consumers, to attempt to justify outright “Organic” claims for products merely meeting the permissive and inadequate OASIS standard, formed with no organic consumer group input, with its allowances for hydrogenation, sulfation and synthetic preservation.
Note that Dr. Bronner’s classic bar and liquid soap products, are certified to make “Made with Organic” and not “Organic” claims, but do not have sulfated or hydrogenated ingredients, nor synthetic preservatives. Nonetheless, the OCA and Dr. Bronner’s are willing to accept such ingredients under the terms in the attached contract, for “Made with Organic” claims on personal care products, as long as there is a structure and incentive for appropriate use of organic material. Acceptable processes and preservation in the emerging U.S. NSF 305 standard for “Made with Organic” personal care, can be referenced now in the German “Natural” BDIH guidelines with virtually identical allowances, and such allowances are specified in the attached contract.
We are supportive of applying a certifiable “volume credit” program as described in the contract, such as the Forest Stewardship Council has implemented in its sustainable forestry and products program for certain large-scale wood and paper product processors who cannot segregate dedicated certified versus uncertified inputs without prohibitive cost, to the production of certified fatty alcohols and certain surfactants made from them. Fatty alcohol production as described in our Cease and Desist letters, requires extremely high pressure hydrogenation, and thus capital and scale-intensive continuous operations. Cognis, a primary manufacturer of fatty alcohols and plant-based surfactants made from them, has expressed interest in such a program. Their relevant production processes do not involve petrochemical compounds except as catalysts or reaction intermediates recovered and not present in the final ingredients, and thus are acceptable to the OCA and Dr. Bronner’s for use in products labeled as “Made with Organic” ingredients, as long as the organic material is used in a system that creates appropriate incentives for such use through a “volume credit” program, in those circumstances in which dedicated and segregated certified runs are not feasible. We believe such a program is win-win, enabling industry to efficiently utilize organic feedstocks in the near-term, and increasing certified organic acreage of the relevant feedstock materials (coconut, palm and corn).
Finally, the contract addresses Ecocert’s deceptive practice of counting regular water as “organic” content in personal care products when used as an extracting medium for organic botanicals. Organic water extracts may contribute organic content equal to at most the total original volatile/soluble “juice” content of the starting botanical material. The petrochemical compounds Ecocert permits in surfactants is also unacceptable, as is its lack of enforcement of its own labeling regulations prohibiting “Organic” and “100% Organic” claims on products that are not in fact 100% Organic.
We look forward to your responses and moving forward constructively.