Is New Organic Beauty Label Green or Greenwash?

Magnifying glass

Photo credit: Getty Images

Is the fledgling Organic And Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS), which dubs itself the first organic standard for the U.S. beauty and personal-care market, completely "bogus"? The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) sure thinks so.

In a March 14 press release, the Finland, Minn. advocacy group derides the label, which has the support of 30 founding members—including Aveda (owned by Estée Lauder), Earth Mama Angel Baby, Nature's Baby, Perfect Organics, and Suki—for allowing a product to be labeled as "organic" even if it contains hydrogenated and sulfated cleansing ingredients made from conventional, pesticide-ridden agricultural materials. But it gets uglier.
Products have to have at least 85 percent certified-organic content to qualify for the OASIS seal. Plus, non-organic ingredients included in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified organic products can only be substituted if they're not available in organic form.

OCA has a different spin on the 85 percent qualification, saying that "'organic' water extracts and aloe vera will greenwash conventional synthetic cleansing ingredients and preservatives since the water content of water/ detergent based personal care products like bodywashes and shampoos represents around 85 percent of the product."

The organization continues to say:

The OASIS standard is not merely useless but deliberately misleading to organic consumers looking for a reliable indicator of true "organic" product integrity in personal care.

Even OASIS's claim of getting there first isn't beyond OCA's reproach. "In actuality, the USDA National Organic Program has been certifying personal care products for over four years," OCA says. "This year, in particular, marks a watershed, because in 2008 there are more genuinely organic products on the market, bearing the USDA Organic seal on the front label than ever before." ::Organic Consumers Association