As Target becomes the latest US retailer to commit to providing consumers with more information than ever on the health and environmental impact of the cosmetics they use, it could potentially mean that some in the industry will have to step up their sustainable efforts to avoid being left on the shelf.
The retailer stated that it has introduced the program as a way of pushing for “industry-wide clarity around what really makes a product sustainable" - an important element in a time where Datamonitor reveals that many Americans are skeptical of the claims of cosmetics companies.
Transparency is rapidly becoming a more important subject - particularly since research from 2010 reveals that 30% of Americans are concerned about the credibility of natural and organic claims made by cosmetics companies.
At the recent Sustainable Cosmetics Summit in Paris, Chris Kilham, sustainability advisor for Naturex, discussed the advantages of companies developing a common standard for sustainability, arguing that the proliferation of some claiming to be environmentally friendly according to different standards was "confusing" to customers.
He commented: "If everyone, even none-sustainable companies, are calling themselves 'green' or 'sustainable' then we are sending the wrong message, confusing people, and ultimately the customer will become disillusioned over the concept."
However; leading industry giants such as J&J and Procter and Gamble are making great measures for greater transparency such as Johnson & Johnson's efforts to submit sustainable information from 98% of their facilities.
Target's new initiative will require the suppliers of its 7,500 personal care products to provide detailed information on their ingredients in order to continue to be sold in Target’s retail outlets. This information will be released to consumers, along with a ranking on a 100-point scale to inform them about the possible health and environmental implications of their products.
In an interview with news website SFGate, Helen Bulwik, a partner at Newport Board Group, a national business advisory organization based in the US, commented on Target's decision: “It’s really coming down to the fact that the consumer is aware and is demanding it.”
“The retailer is aware and demanding it. At some point, hopefully the government will follow suit, but the fact is no one can really wait for that.”