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Natural Cosmetics Conference: the need for authenticity and transparency

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The more than 170 people who attended this year’s Natural Cosmetics Conference experienced two days of intensive activity brimming with impressions from the world of natural cosmetics and information on themes relevant to the industry. The scope of the programme was wide: the lectures ranged from the results of market research and trends in certification and raw materials to international company and trade concepts. Without a doubt, the combination of being located in the capital Berlin and the topics and talks offered by the programme over two days attracted considerably more professional visitors than in previous years. As well as the representatives of the classic natural cosmetics firms, decision-makers from the international cosmetics industry came to Berlin to find out about the dynamic natural cosmetics market. (Picture: Conference organiser Elfriede Dambacher from Naturkosmetik Verlag and cooperation partner Udo Funke from NürnbergMesse opening the conference on 20.9. 2011)
For the fourth time, NürnbergMesse and industry expert Elfriede Dambacher sent out invitations to attend the Natural Cosmetics Conference. The switch from Nuremberg to Berlin was obviously the right decision, as evidenced by the rise in attendance of 70 percent. But this was probably not the only reason why, in addition to the industry insiders, a host of decision-makers from the cosmetics industry also used the conference for information gathering. The composition of the conference reflected the fact that natural cosmetics have become an accepted part of the cosmetics market and that many people are searching for orientation, profiling and future concepts. The international programme and names like Horst Rechelbacher (Aveda, Intelligent Nutrients) or Yiorgos Korres pulled in the crowds, and the beauty and organic specialist press were well represented too. (Picture: Full conference room in the Ellington Hotel, for the first time the venue for the Natural Cosmetics Conference in Berlin)

Markets were changing and a lot of experimentation was going on, said Elfriede Dambacher at the beginning of the conference. She stressed that “there are many ways and various approaches, but the change in values in society is the common denominator that is continuing to benefit the natural cosmetics market.” She said that the cosmetics industry was looking for concepts for the natural cosmetics segment, and the key words were transparency, credibility and authenticity. In the course of the conference, these words kept recurring and they define the challenges faced by manufacturers, marketing and the trade in equal measure. (Picture: Elfriede Dambacher was both speaker and presenter)

Typical of new approaches is the route followed by the founder of Aveda, Horst Rechelbacher. “Stand up and connect” was the motto of his lecture. “Stand up and connect with like-minded people to get things moving” was how Roland Kohl (picture) – a long-time associate and good friend of the indisposed Rechelbacher – interpreted this idea. Joint responsibility for saving our planet should be the duty and goal of companies and all individuals – that’s the credo of this American entrepreneur. Kohl reported that more and more people were committing to quality and ethical objectives: consumer groups and self-help groups for safe and natural cosmetics are on the increase in the USA.


This is especially significant in a country where the cosmetics market regulates itself and doesn’t have to comply with any legal requirements. Kohl substantiated the point with the frightening results of the cancer report commissioned by the state that showed what far-reaching negative effects the use of chemicals can have. The report concludes that toxic materials must be avoided wherever possible. He emphasized that avoidance was possible in the case of cosmetics, and he outlined the advantages. He said that natural cosmetics were not only better for consumers and the planet but also for business. In the future, the cosmetics industry could no longer ignore natural cosmetics.

After selling his company Aveda to Estée Lauder at the end of the 1990s, with the founding of Intelligent Nutrients Rechelbacher went in a completely new direction in the cosmetics industry. He claimed his products were totally safe, even edible – a fact that Kohl demonstrated convincingly by drinking some hair spray. As well as consistently using organic ingredients, Rechelbacher advocates as much CO2-neutral production as possible, fair trade and the cradle-to-cradle principle. (Picture: Roland Kohl demonstrating Intelligent Nutrients products are totally safe by drinking hair spray)

Authenticity, transparency and credibility were important words in the speech given by Yiorgos Korres, the owner of the Greek cult brand Korres. “All companies express their knowledge and convictions in their products,” he said at the beginning of his talk. His special concern was to combine knowledge of the power of herbs with fair cooperation with both farmers and research. In his view, it was no longer enough to imitate grandmother’s recipes, and instead research had an important role to play. Customers were searching for safe products with high quality and corporate social responsibility, but effectiveness was high on their agenda too. Korres creates transparency by means of a full declaration of the contents on the packaging, thus giving the consumer complete freedom of choice. The majority of the products in the Korres range are not certified natural cosmetics. Nevertheless, positioning as natural cosmetics, behind which stands a company with credibility, is sufficient. Only the Materia Herba line is certified by Ecocert. (Picture: Company personality Yiorgos Korres)

The lecture by Dr. Peter Schaumberger (picture) addressed credibility and transparency in the form of certification systems and traceability. He is the managing director of the worldwide Swiss certification organisation IMO. According to the Otto Group trend study, more and more people are interested in ethical consumption: 72 % of people interviewed stated that ethical criteria have become a definite factor in their purchasing decisions; 91% trusted test organisations and non-governmental organisations, whereas only 15 % put their trust in politicians. Today’s consumers decide what they regard as important when they go shopping: at the top of the list for 92 % are decent working conditions; 89 % consider environmentally friendly production is important; and for 73 % organic agriculture is shown to be a criterion. Today, many companies are keen to cultivate their eco-image, although frequently they don a green mantle without any justification by fulfilling one criterion – for example, they use a single certified organic raw material while leaving the whole production chain as it always was. Schaumberger pointed out emphatically that this does not equate to a sustainable company policy. Certification meant comprehensive transparency in all ecological and social aspects, which was precisely what consumers were looking for today. At IMO, a web-based analysis centre brings together the results of checks, product testing and traceability and ensures the greatest possible safety.


The same line was taken by Mark Wuttke from the consulting firm Wuttke Group that has specialized in sustainability relating to the marketing of luxury and spa products. He said that authenticity was a huge challenge, especially in the natural cosmetics market in the United States, where there was much confusion and greenwashing. Wuttke said that the requirements in five key areas had to be credibly fulfilled if consumer confidence was not to be undermined: 1. certification by an independent organization; 2. independent studies of a product’s effectiveness; 3. monitoring safety and toxicity; 4. sustainability criteria; and 5. social responsibility also had to be taken into account. In this respect, the networking of consumers and the pioneering role played by some companies were important in the USA. He called for honesty and transparency from the field to the shelves in the store. (Picture: Mark Wuttke: customers must not feel they’ve had the wool pulled over their eyes)

The example of best practice in this area also comes from America: the chain Whole Foods Market has developed a quality standard for natural cosmetics to give customers greater clarity and safety and to put a stop to greenwashing. Inés Hermida (picture), the Whole Body coordinator in Britain, presented the concept at the Natural Cosmetics Conference. After lengthy preparation and many discussions with the suppliers of natural cosmetics, the Whole Food Premium Bodycare Quality Standard came into force in 2010. The period until June 2011 was a transition phase in which the manufacturers could adapt their recipes or packaging. As Hermida reported, the firms had hardly any problem in implementing the guidelines. New products that firms want to have included in the Whole Body range must comply with the standard. The common certification logos for natural cosmetics are also accepted. In the autumn of 2011, more guidelines for packaging will come into force.

18 programme items meant two very busy days, but there was nevertheless time for discussions and the exchange of ideas. This aspect of the conference was much appreciated, and participants took full advantage of it. Vassilios C. Ioannidis from the Munich firm District Two, that among other things markets the Greek brand Korres, said: “The 2011 conference gets the rating “very good”. Our team, and above all Yiorgos Korres himself, have appreciated in particular the international character of this event. We consider special networking and the opportunity to communicate very important and good reasons to come again next year.” The date of the next Natural Cosmetics Conference has already been fixed: 25 – 26 September 2012 in Berlin. (Picture: Participants exchanging ideas and experiences in the breaks)


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