“Transparency, education, and accountability are the pillars Credo hopes to employ with their new Brand Standards,” a company spokesperson tells Cosmetics Design. And it’s on these pillars that the company has premised its “Dirty List,” its “Label Transparency” guidelines, its new supplier “Documentation” rules, and its ingredient disclosure policy for “Fragrance.”
Credo is coordinating all these definitions and concepts because the retailer’s “mission is to change the way people think about the products and ingredients they put on their bodies,” Mia Davis, director of mission at the company, tells Cosmetics Design.
“To do this,” she says, “Credo and our 120+ brand partners must speak the same ‘clean beauty’ language. The Brand Standard offers a clear guide to restricted substances, the best manufacturing practices, and definitions of common terms used in our industry.”
A time and place for everything
Many brands and retailers are leveraging the history of industry regulations to good effect, responding to consumer safety and transparency concerns and setting their own ingredient and labeling policies. Credo was among the first stand-alone, multi-brand beauty retailers to do this.
“The beauty industry is under-regulated,” believes Davis, “and as a result, companies may use ingredients known to be harmful or which have no safety information, or chemicals that are undisclosed (as fragrances, ‘byproducts,’ trace ingredients, etc.). And of course, they can use marketing claims (e.g. ‘natural’) which could mean something or nothing. Credo wants to ensure that products are as clean as they can be, and that consumers are not led to believe that something is safer, better, or more natural than is actually is,” she tells Cosmetics Design.
Credo’s brand standards are new but the thinking behind these guidelines and polices has been in place all along. “We started Credo to create these standards,” affirms Annie Jackson, the company’s chief operating officer and co-founder.
“We have 110+ brands in our stores, with passionate founders behind them formulating with the best, safest ingredients possible,” she says. “We wanted to create a place that allowed consumers to shop them all in one place, with a standard that should be the norm in beauty, but it isn’t.”
People and ideas beyond the store
For Credo’s take on ‘safe’ and ‘natural’ beauty to reach consumers and impact the larger industry, the Brand Standards have to be seen and heard.
“We will be sharing relative content with our online community on a continual basis, starting in a couple of months- on credobeauty.com, on social channels, and we will explore more interactive info-sharing as well,” explains Davis. “Early this year, we kicked off our new series of 'Mission in Action' events where we have Credo leadership, brand partners and trusted advisors, like those on our Clean Beauty Council, get together to discuss important mission-related topics. Our Brand Standard will be a highlight of these events moving forward.”
And Credo collaborates with groups that engage the public like the EWG and others that involve industry veterans (such as the retailer's own Clean Beauty Council).
Before settling on the current standards and definitions, Davis did quite a bit of listening and research: “I brought my own experience as Head of Health and Safety for Beautycounter for five years, as well as my work as a contractor helping to create standards for other companies in beauty and wellness,” she tells Cosmetics Design.
“As soon as I joined Credo in December 2017,” says Davis, “I began interviewing and meeting with many different stakeholders: ingredient suppliers, creators of cosmetics certifications, the founders of the new trade association Natural and Organic Health & Beauty Alliance (NOHBA), experts from fragrance houses, toxicologists and chemists, and of course, brands themselves. In addition to invaluable interviews, I used the existing regulations, certifications, peer-reviewed science, and industry research to inform our Standard.”
So, what is clean beauty now?
When asked for the definitions of ‘natural’ and ‘naturally-derived’ that Credo is requiring brands to align with moving forward, Davis replied, “in short, a natural ingredient comes from natural source (not synthetic, which is made by humans), can be found in nature in the same or mostly the same chemical form as the ingredient in your product. (e.g. vegetable oils, clays, essential oils). A naturally-derived ingredient came from plant or mineral but has been processed and/or combined with other ingredients which may be synthetic (e.g. zinc oxide that is coated).”
Credo wants to “unmask” fragrance even further. “The definition of terms like ‘natural’ are consistent across ingredient functions and products,” says Davis.
“But with this new Standard…we’re requiring brands to categorize the fragrance they’re using in every product. The fragrance categories are: Unscented, Essential Oils, Certified Organic, Natural, Naturally-Derived, or Synthetic. Where applicable, brands can choose more than one category for their product (i.e. natural + naturally-derived). These category designations will appear in various places so that consumer can make informed choices.”
And she goes on to say, “We’re also incentivizing brands to fully disclose fragrance ingredients online or on packaging. If they choose not to (and we know many will choose not to), at least our customers who are looking for only natural fragrances will be able to clearly find these products.”
Synthetic fragrance ingredients “are new molecules, made a in a laboratory,” explains Davis. “The majority of synthetic constituent ingredients are from petroleum byproducts. Synthetic ‘nature-identical’ ingredients fall into this category as well.”
Running a tight ship
“The Brand Standard is a strong foundation for clean beauty ingredients and good manufacturing practices, and as such, Consumers will be able to have confidence that they’re purchasing products from brands that run a tight ship,” according to Davis. “But we will also add to to the Standard over time- this is version 1. As our industry evolves, as information on sourcing and safety come to light, Credo will add layers to the Standard.”
When asked about how Credo is ‘running its ship’ when it comes to the new standards, Jackson says, “We don’t want to collect or store thousands of pages of (often proprietary) information, so we’re not asking brands to share materials with us unless we specifically ask. But we do require that brands have documentation for any and all claims in their own files in case we need to ask for it. For example, any organic claims need to be backed by organic certification. A 100% natural claim would need to be backed by composition statements and flowcharts.”
Of course the retailer isn’t out to vet every brand in the world: “Being merchants, our job is still to have a beauty store that offers consumers something they are looking for. We start with filling a white space in our assortment,” explains Jackson. “Once we find a brand that fits that space we evaluate their ingredients/brand positioning compared to our standard, and have a consortium of Credo employees use the product for efficacy. For all new brands to Credo, they must comply with our standard now - vs Oct 2019.”
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.