Treehugger’s Green Beauty Standards

Treehugger green beauty pillars

Hilary Allison / Treehugger

At Treehugger, we believe that sustainable beauty choices should be effortless, on every budget. This is why we’re empowering our readers to make informed ethical choices through analysis that takes into account the ecological, animal, human, and sustainability impact of beauty brands. 

With that goal in mind, we have established four standards by which we’ll measure the environmental impact of beauty products:

  1. Cruelty Free 
  2. Ethical
  3. Vegan
  4. Sustainable

Cruelty Free Brand Analysis

Cruelty free products and their ingredients should not be tested on animals at any point in the research, development, and pre-sales process. We research the following questions for each brand:

  • Are the products tested on animals?
  • Are the products cruelty free certified?
  • Are the products sold in places where they are legally required to be tested on animals?
  • Are the ingredients tested on animals by the suppliers? 
  • Are any of the ingredients harvested using animal labor?

Ethical Brand Analysis

Brands that claim to be cruelty free should be respectful of the communities where they operate and source their ingredients. Among other concerns, companies should be mindful of the welfare of children, observance of human rights, acknowledgment of Indigenous cultures, and recognition of local values. 

In our analysis of brands’ ethicality, we look at how they use their ingredients and how they engage with fair trade certifications. We also examine their relationships with womens’ cooperatives, charitable organizations, and their employees.

Vegan Brand Analysis

Our definition of vegan beauty includes products that do not contain animal products or animal-derived ingredients, like beeswax. 

Ingredient transparency isn’t always enough to establish whether a product is vegan or not. Some ingredients, like biotin, can be derived from either plant or animal sources. To ensure accuracy in our information, we reach out to the manufacturers directly and research their suppliers and processes.

Sustainability Analysis

The beauty industry thrives on providing consumers with unique and trendy ingredients, like rare clays or plant extracts. However, remote sourcing these ingredients, in addition to depleting local supplies, results in significant carbon emissions.

We seek out companies with sustainable ingredient sourcing because harvesting and processing these ingredients can also lead to water pollution and deforestation. The cultivation of beauty ingredients like coconuts is often more economically viable, so farmers will burn sections of forest to replace them with these crops. If pesticides are involved, the water is polluted too.

Other elements that we look for when establishing a brand’s sustainability include:

  • Conscientious Packaging: We check if brands use plastic-free packaging, and how recyclable and reusable their products and shipping materials are.
  • Energy Usage: During shipping and manufacturing, we look for brands that use renewable energy or carbon offsets.

Our Promise to You

While our main evaluation is based on what brands are doing now, we do highlight progress and improvements to encourage more sustainable ethical cosmetics.

Beauty products represent very personal choices. We pledge to go beyond the label and base our recommendations and analysis on science, in order to empower our readers to make the most environmentally conscious decisions.