New Australian Personal Care Products Certification

A new personal care products certification program in Australia says it seeks to help consumers sort out green from greenwashed.

For the eco-conscious consumer, navigating through the piles of “green” personal care products can be a bit of a nightmare as some make claims that at best are slightly exaggerated or at worst, downright misleading.

The new environmental standard by Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA) includes among the criteria a limit to the amount of volatile organic compounds in products, a ban on carcinogens, nanoparticles and sensitisers; guidelines to minimise waste, maximise environmentally friendly packaging and to verify any environmental claims.

The full standard can be viewed here (PDF) – they cover body lotion, deodorants, hair sprays, hand sanitisers, insect repellent, shampoos, soaps and shaving foams. I have a few reservations about the standards, but I’m naturally suspicious of 3rd party “green” certifications given the number of them that are quite simply crap.

Still, the GECA standards appear to provide a substantial level of assurance to consumers that the products they are purchasing bearing the certification have an appreciable degree of environmental street cred.

One of the related concerns I have with some of these programs is the cost for small business to participate. It can be really difficult for a mom & pop setup to gain certifications with a high consumer awareness level; even though their product may be the greenest of them all.

GECA mentions a $700 application fee and then $750 a year licensing fee which seem reasonable; however, an important set of fees not detailed are those associated with the actual audit, which GECA says vary depending on the type and number of products and site visit costs. These fees are negotiated directly with the auditor and I have no idea how much these would be.

Anyway, GECA is not-for-profit, independent, and states it is the only Australian member of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN), which has been around for nearly 20 years.