How To Be A Sustainable Personal Care Business

Submitted by Mary Meade on
Photo by Kristina Balić on Unsplash

Green businesses adopt principles, policies, and practices that improve the quality of life for its customers, employees, communities, and planet. But just because a business claims it is “green” doesn’t mean it upholds the standards of social responsibility and sustainability. So how can you determine what is in fact a sustainable business, or how can your business achieve that high standard?

That’s where third-party certifications come in. A third-party certification serves to verify a business’s claims against their independently developed criterion. Such certifications reduce conflicts of interest and provide accountability to a business’s claims. Studies show that customers look for such things from businesses and are willing to pay more for high-quality products with safety and sustainability standards.

Green America's Green Business Certification is the leading trust mark for true green business practices. Our program recognizes businesses that excel in social and environmental responsibility, and the businesses found in our Green Pages directory have met or exceeded our certification standards to become leaders in the green economy.

The Green Business Network at Green America recommends businesses consider both environmental and social justice issues when making decisions. To earn our certification, businesses must meet both standards of social and environmental responsibility. If you are interested in becoming a green business, we’ve highlighted a few important steps—and if you’ve reached these steps, check out the full requirements of our Body and Personal Care standard. You may be ready to apply.

Environmental Responsibility 

"Green" or sustainable businesses make planet health a core part of their mission. The following steps are ways your personal care business can account for environmental responsibility in its operations.

Use clean ingredients.

No matter what your specialty, all body and personal care businesses must use the best possible ingredients in your products and services. This means we require your business to refrain from the following: chemicals containing “sulfate” or “sulfosuccinate,” parabens or paraben preservatives, petroleum variations, synthetic alcohols, fragrances, or dyes, and phthalates. If your business sells sunscreen, we prefer mineral ingredients. Bonus points if it is certified reef-safe. See a more detailed list of chemicals we do not accept at our Body and Personal Care standard.

Additionally, we do not accept businesses that use nanotechnology (particles below 100 nanometers) in their products. There is not enough research on nanotechnology to demonstrate their safety, therefore we use the Precautionary Principle—the principle that a product with disputed or unknown effects should be resisted—until further research is complete.

Treat animals safely and humanely.

If animals are in your supply chain, they must be treated humanely, and your business must be transparent with this treatment. Many of our certified members use vegan ingredients and while we prefer this, we will not refuse a business that uses animal-derived ingredients—such as lanolin, honey, milk, and beeswax—if you can prove these animals were treated humanely. We require all businesses to refrain from animal testing. Acquiring the Leaping Bunny cruelty-free certification is another way to demonstrate your commitment to humane animal treatment.

Operate a green facility.

Not only do we analyze the steps in your supply chain, we are also interested in your business’s operational and administrative fronts. Our definition of a green office or facility includes reusing resources, recyclability, and maximum water and energy efficiency. We require this from body and personal care businesses.

Additionally, we love to see businesses maximize recycling and recyclable packaging as well as opportunities for refills or reusing containers.

Social Responsibility

Triple bottom line businesses are not only kind to the planet, but kind to people—hence, social responsibility. The following points are a handful of ways your business can be an ethical one.

Friendly to sensitive skin and different skin types.

Body and personal care businesses must be attuned to the variations in skin, hair, and body types and sensitivities. Since these can be so wide-ranging, we only require businesses to refrain from chlorine bleaching, scent with only natural essential oils and use organic cotton balls, swabs, and tampons.

Uphold transparency.

While we value integrity at all points in the supply chain, transparency in your ingredients promotes trust between you and your customers. We expect a full list of ingredients on your products. This includes where they are sold and online marketplaces.

We love to see businesses source their ingredients locally whenever possible. However, if your ingredients must be shipped from elsewhere—such as shea butter, olive oil, sugar, and certain essential oils—we prefer to see a Fair Trade label. While this is not a requirement, it helps demonstrate to the certification board and to your customers that you are dedicated to social responsibility.

Why Certify?

In a sea of businesses claiming to be “conscious" or "natural," it’s hard for the average consumer to weed out the green from the greenwashed. Third-party certifications demonstrate that your business has withstood the vetting of an outside body and come out as a truly socially and environmentally responsible business. With certification, your customers will know your business has the credentials to back up claims of environmental and social responsibility.

While these requirements are comprehensive, they are not definite. We love seeing businesses exceed these standards and take steps beyond certification to be even greener. In addition, our certification analyzes business practices and not individual products. We believe a sustainable future is also an ethical one and ensure the businesses that earn our certification reflect that.

If you have met these criteria, you can view the full requirements for personal care businesses at our Body and Personal Care certification standard and begin the process of becoming a member and official sustainable business.

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