Should your products be organically certified?

There was an excellent write-up of a debate between two cosmetic industry experts about the value of having your products certified by one of the natural standards companies.  Beauty blogger and cosmetic chemist Colin Sanders squared off with Amarjit Sahota the director of Organic Monitor about the topic of organic certification.  If you are marketing in the natural or organic space it’s worth reading to see what those gentlemen think.  cosmetic organic standards

The basic arguments were that Colin thought the standards are just a marketing exercise and don’t really help sell products while Amarjit thought certification gives a legitimacy to brands that they can’t get otherwise.

Here is my perspective on the topic.  I’ll look at both the pros and cons of cosmetic organic certification.

Why you should get certified

It appeals to consumers - There is a significant segment of the population that will see certification as a good reason to specifically buy a product.  If you are marketing to those consumers your certification will definitely help you sell more product.

It’s a way to stand out among competition - Right now few of your competitors are getting certified.  If you do, you’ll have that point of differentiation in your marketing material which can help sell more product.  Of course, this will be short lived because if you do start doing well your competition can just get certified and take that advantage away from you.

It gives you clear guidelines - One of the most challenging things about green formulating is knowing what ingredients are ok to use and which ones aren’t.  Following a certification program lets you know exactly what you can and cannot use.

It may be adopted by government agencies - While these standards are not accepted by governments around the world there is definitely a push to get them adopted.  If you already are certified you’ll be ahead of your competition if (or when) this type of certification becomes mandatory.

Why you shouldn’t get certified

Consumers don’t know what it means - If your consumer doesn’t know what the certification symbol means it’s not going to do much for your sales.  At the moment these certification groups have not done enough marketing to make consumers away they exist.

It costs money - This type of certification is not free and can represent a significant cost, especially if you are a small brand.  If you have to decide between spending money on certification or spending it on other marketing, you’ll be better off going with other marketing.

It restricts your formulating - For the cosmetic formulator this is the biggest problem.  These certification programs tell you exactly what compounds you can and cannot use.  They will be the ones who dictate your formulations and your ability to create new products.  This will make it much harder to create products that perform as well or better than your competition.

You give up control of your formulas - Ultimately, when you follow a certification program you give up control of your formulation efforts.  Someone else restricts what you can use so all of your future products will be limited to what some other company tells you you can make.  Do you want to restrict yourself in this way?  Do you want to limit your ability to innovate?  You also open yourself up to yearly inspections which isn’t desirable to most companies.

So should you get organically certified?

Only you can answer this question for yourself and your company.  If your consumer is someone who is impressed by organic certification and it makes them buy more of your product, then you absolutely should get certified.  However, if your consumer is like most people and has no clue what certification means or why it matters to them, you’re better off following your own natural standards and claiming that your products are natural / organic.  It’s really only a question you can answer.


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