Sunday, October 1, 2023

Sephora, Credo Urge EPA to Enforce Natural and Eco Label Claims: ‘Make It Easier for Consumers’


A coalition of 39 businesses, NGOs, and investors have sent a letter urging the EPA to expand the scope of its Safer Choice eco-certification program to encompass beauty and personal care products.

Sephora, Credo, Seventh Generation, the Environmental Working Group, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are among the consignors of a letter to Dr. Michal Freedhoff, the assistant administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking to make labeling terms such as “eco-friendly,” “all-natural,” and “sustainable” more substantial.

The Safer Choice program brings together a number of interested parties to advance safety and sustainability in products; it works closely with companies to help them understand the chemical composition of their products and to select safer alternatives to chemicals that pose potential health or environmental concerns.

“We strongly support efforts to expand the successful Safer Choice and Design for the Environment (DfE) programs to other categories of products,” the letter reads.

clean kitchen
Photo courtesy Nico

But the groups say that while the FDA has the power to review substantiation records for ingredients of
concern, FDA has not published a list of recommended ingredients for formulators. “Adding beauty and personal care products into the Safer Choice program, including the expansion of the Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL), could provide an important national pathway for consumers and commercial buyers seeking to purchase safer products,” the groups say.

For consumers seeking products safer for themselves and the planet, terms such as “eco-friendly,” “all-natural,” and “sustainable” need to have more meaning, the groups say. Without substantiated claims, beauty and household products often cause confusion among consumers who are intent on making green choices. By integrating beauty and personal care products into the Safer Choice program, consumers could make more informed decisions.

“Not only would expanding Safer Choice make it easier for consumers and retailers to identify and purchase safer products, but it would also enable brands to market their products to consumers who are increasingly concerned about the safety of ingredients in beauty and personal care products, and wary of greenwashing,” reads their letter.

This call to action comes during the EPA’s public comment period, where stakeholders have been invited to share their opinions on how to broaden the program to other categories. The input garnered during this period will significantly influence the strategies and actions undertaken to widen the reach of both the Safer Choice and Design for the Environment programs.

Credo Beauty
Credo Beauty storefront | Courtesy

At present, the Safer Choice program mainly endorses formulated household cleaning items, with nearly 2,000 products obtaining the certification. This label, prominently displayed on packaging, assists consumers in quickly recognizing products that do not contain commonly used harmful substances, including PFAS, phthalates, and agents that release formaldehyde. The DfE certification guides individuals and commercial purchasers to antimicrobial goods that adhere to the health and safety benchmarks established during the pesticide registration procedure mandated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), along with other stringent criteria set by the agency.

“Everyone is searching for a silver bullet that will address all of our environmental challenges in one fell swoop, but that’s not realistic,” Chris Hobson, President and CEO of Rare Beauty Brands told Ethos via email. Rare Beauty Brands is not a consignor of the letter, but Hobson says what’s important is “that we all get started on tangible steps that get the process moving forward.”

EPA’s Safer Choice and DfE labels have begun to move the needle; a number of beauty labels, including Credo and Sephora, have steadily increased their eco offerings in recent years as consumer demand has ticked up. Retailers including Walmart, Target, and Amazon are now rewarding suppliers that meet the Safer Choice standards.  

“Our organizations believe the expansion of Safer Choice to other products, especially those with the greatest potential for human exposure, would be a ‘win-win’ for public health and the environment, consumers, and the business community,” the letter concludes.

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