Third party verification strengthens companies’ ethical claims says study

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Third party verification is needed to back up claims of ethically sourced ingredients, agreed industry and NGOs at a sourcing conference in Munich.

However, how this should be communicated to consumers remains a contentious issue as many question the wisdom of yet another label.

At the Sourcing with Respect conference, organised by the Union for Ethical BioTrade, results from a consumer survey performed by Ipsos were presented.

According to the survey, which is part of the annual Ethical BioTrade Barometer, consumers would favour cosmetics from companies that take action to improve the ethical sourcing of ingredients whilst using biodiversity friendly practices.

However, trust in the industry is low and over three quarters of respondents said they would have more faith in claims made by cosmetic companies on this topic if they were verified by a third party.

These thoughts were echoed by Juan Marco Alvarez from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who also spoke at the conference.

For Alvarez, who is the director of Economic and Environmental Governance at the IUCN, private companies have an important role to play in conservation and economic development through trade in biodiversity-based products.

However, it is not enough for these companies to say they are sourcing their ingredients ethically and sustainably; they must have third party certification otherwise it will look like green washing, he maintained.

AUDIO: To hear more from Juan Marco Alvarez on this topic, click here​.

Becoming a member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade is one way companies can communicate their will to take action in this area, with the union acting as a type of third party certification body, argued Alvarez.

But the Union for Ethical BioTrade does not have a label that can be used on products.

“We have a logo that members may use to show their membership to the Union on promotion materials and website. But, this logo cannot be used on a product,” e​xplained executive director of the Union Rik Kutsch Lojenga.

Due to the sheer number of labels out there, the Union wanted to offer a different approach, he said.

In addition, the no label approach reflects the Union’s company-wide rather than product-wide approach.

“Not having a label is an innovative approach, and many still have problems in imagining how membership to a Union can be used as market differentiator,”​ he said.

However, he pointed out that the barometer results illustrated that consumers are looking for an independently verified company not necessarily a label.

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