Eco friendly perfume and the ethics of the plant-based ingredients
The ethical issues with toxic chemicals and animal ingredients are clear, but just because an ingredient is natural and plant-based does not necessarily mean it is going to be ethical.
Plant-based ingredients can be grown or harvested in a way that is damaging to the eco-system or the plant itself. For example, Indian Sandalwood, a much sought-after ingredient for perfume as well as other uses, was nearly harvested to extinction and is still highly endangered.
Boswellia trees, the resin of which is what is used to make frankincense are also now under similar threat.
Organic certification is a good way to ensure that the most harmful agriculture methods have not been used. Organic certification is a bit more complicated in cosmetics because not all ingredients can be certified organic as they may be synthetic or mineral-based. This means many products may use high quantities of certified organic ingredients and still not be certified organic.
The rules about marketing a non-food product as organic are also less strict so you may also find that a product that some don’t have as many organic ingredients as you might think!
Neal’s Yard Eau de Parfum Frankincense is the only product in this guide made with 100% certified organic ingredients. It is certified by the Soil Association. It received a Product Sustainability mark for this. Neal’s Yard’s other fragrances also contain significant amounts of certified organic ingredients.
The company stated: “We believe our strong commitment to organic farming is an important factor in a sustainable future. Organic quality is a priority in our supply chain, and we have been certified by the Soil Association since 1991. Currently 92% of our natural raw materials by volume are certified organic.”
Flaya states that “our entire range of fragrances contain between 80% and 92% certified organic ingredients”.
They also told us that all of their denatured alcohol and essential oils are certified by the Soil Association and that, “Where organic ingredients are unavailable, [we] only purchase ingredients which are permitted by the Non Food Certification Company (a subsidiary of the Organic Food Federation)”. Their products also received a positive Product Sustainability mark for this.
Neom Organics fragrances contained between 79%-85% certified organic ingredients.
Its website did state:
“We made the decision to use essential oils which do not have organic certification, but which are still 100% natural due to the cost of organic-certified essential oils. This would make our products unaffordable”.
While this is still far better than the many brands that contain no organic ingredients, the fact that it uses organic in its name without its products actually being certified could be misleading to some consumers. All the other products and companies in this guide are not prioritising the use of organic ingredients.
Palm oil in perfume
One of the most well-known problematic ingredients is palm oil, a crop which has caused large scale deforestation, contributed to the endangerment of many species and is associated with various workers’ rights abuses. Palm oil and derivatives of palm oil are found in large range of cosmetics, so we rate all cosmetic companies for their policies.
Palm oil free perfume:
Dolma, King’s Vegan Grooming and Flaya were the only brands that were palm oil free.
Neal’s Yard and Lush used palm oil but had robust enough policies to receive our best rating.
Some of the companies at the lower end of the table also received our best rating, including L’Oréal and Chanel, because they were both using 100% certified palm, were in the process of mapping their supply chains back to the mill and were engaging in some positive initiatives to increase the sustainability of the industry.