To determine whether a product is truly sustainable or not, you need to look at its entire lifecycle. That means from the sourcing of raw materials and the manufacturing process to use and finally, its ultimate disposal.
For example, personal care products may contain substances hazardous to human health, including those known to cause cancer, genetic mutations and reproductive damage. GECA’s standard ensures that personal care products are safe for the end-user and the workers who manufactured them.
One of the key selling points for many personal care products is how they look and smell. However, fragrances may trigger allergic reactions, asthma, headaches and respiratory irritation. And colourants may contain compounds harmful to human health. Therefore it’s critical that they adhere to international codes of practice.
Palm oil and palm kernel oil are common ingredients in conventional personal care products. However, irresponsible palm oil farming can lead to deforestation, habitat loss for threatened species, poor air quality, and threats to the rights of local communities. Therefore, palm oil and palm kernel oil must be sustainably-sourced.
The discharge of phosphorus compounds can damage freshwater and coastal ecosystems by introducing too many minerals and nutrients, leading to algal blooms. Therefore, products must not be manufactured using phosphorus compounds under our standard.
Another critical environmental impact comes from microbeads. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic, often smaller than 1 millimetre, added to personal care products, including rinse-off cosmetics, for exfoliant or abrasive properties. Microbeads can be used in products such as facial scrubs, body washes and even toothpaste, where the tiny pieces of plastic end up down the sink and into our waterways.
According to the NSW EPA, “microbeads have the potential to cause harm in the environment and to human health due to their composition, ability to attract toxins and to transfer up the food chain.” Despite a voluntary industry phase-out of plastic microbeads in 2016, these products are still available in the marketplace.
Personal care companies sometimes make misleading claims or state their products are ‘natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘cruelty-free’ without any proof. GECA requires robust evidence to substantiate any claims made.
The standard sets requirements that aim to provide a benefit by:
• preventing the use of harmful ingredients such as carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins
• limiting emissions of volatile organic compounds
• placing restrictions on fragrances and irritants
• limiting substances harmful to aquatic environments, including phosphorus and microbeads
• supporting sustainably sourced palm oil and palm kernel oil
• encouraging recovery, reuse, recycling and responsible disposal of materials and packaging
• ensuring workers and suppliers through the supply chain can expect fair pay, equal opportunity, and a safe working environment
The scope of this standard applies to the following categories of personal care products:
• Liquid and Solid Soaps, including facial washes
• Shaving Creams and Foams
• Facial Toners
• Moisturisers, including facial creams
• Deodorants, including non-aerosol sprays, sticks and roll-ons
• Nail Polish and Removers
• Tanning Lotions
• Perfumes and Cologne
• Insect Repellents
• Oral Hygiene Products
• Hair Shampoos and Conditioners
• Hair Treatments and Styling Products
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