Vegetarian and Vegan Certifications for Green Beauty Products

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If you are reading your labels trying to keep animal-derived products out of your green beauty routine, look for these four certifications dedicated to examining the ingredients in a range of consumer products: The Vegan Society's Vegan label; Vegan Action's Certified Vegan label; and two certifications from The Vegetarian Society—vegetarian and vegan.

The Vegan Society

The U.K.-based Vegan Society takes credit for the word "vegan," which was coined by one of its founding members in 1944. The organization's Vegan Trademark has been around since 1990, and applies to more than 56,000 products worldwide, including cosmetics and personal care products, clothing, food, beverages and snacks, household cleaning products, and more.

Certification Criteria

The Vegan Society has a team of dedicated officers who work with manufacturers and suppliers to certify products according to the Vegan Society trademark's standards:

  • No animal ingredients: The product and its ingredients must not involve animal products, by-products, or derivatives at any point during manufacturing and development.
  • No animal testing: The product must not involve animal testing by the company, on its behalf, or by third parties.
  • Limited use and clear labeling of GMOs: No animal genes or animal-derived substances should be used in the development or production of GMOS in products seeking certification. Any GMO ingredients must also be clearly labeled.
  • Hygiene and cross-contamination mitigation: Vegan dishes must be prepared separately from non-vegan offerings. Strict cleaning protocols must be observed for shared surfaces and utensils to avoid cross-contamination.

The Vegan Society Trademark certification must be renewed every year.

Key Definitions

The Vegan Society uses the word "animal" to refer to the entire animal kingdom, which "includes all vertebrates and all multicellular invertebrates." Animal can mean a species or an individual, and usually means non-human animals.

How to Identify Vegan Society Certified Products

Look for the Vegan Society logo, which consists of the word vegan, capitalized, and a stylized drawing of a flower. You can also browse the organization's database of trademarked products by brand name.

The Vegan Society logo is registered for use in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Vegan Action

Vegan Action is U.S.-based and has certified over 10,000 products from over 1,000 companies.

The certification is administered by the Vegan Awareness Foundation (officially named Vegan Action), a registered nonprofit organization "dedicated to educating the public about veganism and assisting vegan-friendly businesses," according to the group's website.

Applications for the Certified Vegan logo go through a verification process with Vegan Action. All information required is provided by the manufacturer and its suppliers.

To apply for certification, the company must pay a $100 non-refundable application fee. In addition, an annual licensing fee is required for the use of the Certified Vegan logo; the amount is determined based on the company's annual revenue.

Certified Vegan logo

Courtesy of Vegan.org

Certification Criteria

In order to receive the Vegan Certification, products must adhere to the following criteria:

  • No animal products: The list of banned ingredients includes "meat, fish, fowl, animal by-products (including silk or dyes from insects), eggs or egg products, milk or milk products, honey or honey bee products, or be clarified or finished with any animal products." Animal materials such as "leather, fur, silk, feathers, down, bone, horn, shell, wool, cashmere, shearling, angora, animal skin, suede, or mohair" are also forbidden,
  • No animal testing: According to the standards, "products must not have involved animal testing of ingredients or finished products by the supplier, producer, manufacturer, or independent party for any type of research whatsoever."
  • No animal GMOs: "Products may not contain any animal-derived GMOs or animal-derived genes used to manufacture ingredients or finished product."
  • Supplier verification: In order to be certified, the company must "provide supplier verification that animal products were not used in the manufacturing of ingredients."

In accordance with these standards, sweeteners may not be processed using bone char, which is a common filtration process used to whiten cane sugar, and liquids may not be "filtered, defoamed, or clarified with animal products."

Additionally, the Vegan Awareness Foundation must approve the company's steps to prevent cross-contamination from non-vegan products.

Key Definitions

The "no animal products" rule does not extend to what soil amendments like fertilizers or farming practices are used to grow food when it's reviewed for certification.

Likewise, the certification does not take into consideration the agricultural practices or the impact that the areas where food is grown may have on animal habitats (like palm oil, which is sometimes grown on land that was once rainforest inhabited by wildlife).

How to Identify Vegan Action Certified Products

Look for the "Certified Vegan" logo on product packaging. It's used on products owned by companies located in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and U.S. territories—but products from those companies may be distributed to other countries, so you might see the logo outside these areas.

The organization's Certified Vegan database is also available online and can be searched by product name or category.

The Vegetarian Society

The Vegetarian Society was formed in 1847 with the goal of promoting vegetarianism in the United Kingdom. Today, the organization's mission is "to inspire, inform, and enable people to be vegetarian."

Although its primary area of interest is vegetarianism, the society also has a vegan certification—so there are two different certifications and logos.

The Vegetarian Society certifies food, drink, alcoholic drinks, cosmetics and beauty products, household and cleaning products, health products, baby products, pet foods, restaurants, pubs, and more.

Vegetarian Society vegan certified logo

Courtesy of The Vegetarian Society

Certification Criteria

To certify products as either vegan or vegetarian, the organization performs an independent review of ingredients and production methods: "We check your ingredient lists and specification sheets, and if they meet our criteria (once you have paid the licence fee) you can display the relevant trademark," according to The Vegetarian Society's trademark process instructions.

If a company wants to be certified but doesn't meet the organization's criteria, it can assist in bringing the product up to the organization's standards.

To earn the Vegetarian Society Approved vegetarian trademark, a product must meet the following criteria:

  • Free from any ingredient resulting from slaughter
  • Only free-range eggs are used
  • No cross-contamination during production
  • GMO-free
  • No animal testing carried out or commissioned

The Vegetarian Society's Approved Vegan trademark has the following requirements:

  • Free from animal-derived ingredients
  • No cross-contamination during production
  • GMO-free
  • No animal testing carried out or commissioned

How to Identify Vegetarian Society Certified Products

Look for the Vegetarian Society Approved or Vegetarian Society Vegan Approved logo on product packaging or in the window of restaurants (or on their menus). You can also search the organization's database by product name or category.