Where did it come from?
Back in 2002, the five main organisations involved in organic and natural cosmetics standards came together at Biofach (the international organic trade fair in Nuremberg) and agreed to cooperate over developing a single, harmonised standard. This was a bold decision, as they were very different organisations with very different standards that were in competition with each other. However, they recognised it was in the best interests of both the industry and consumers to have a single, international standard for organic and natural cosmetics. Only this would ensure a level playing field and efficient operation for companies, clarity and confidence for consumers, coupled with effective progress towards sustainable development.
Over the next eight years, they worked hard to develop a harmonised standard that was both innovative and progressive, that met their common objectives and also reconciled their differences.
After a public consultation in 2008, the COSMOS-standard was finally published, coming into force in January 2010.
PLEASE NOTE that you will find different language versions of the COSMOS-standard on this website which we have provided to assist companies around the world. However, the English language version is the official version – the others are for information only and we cannot guarantee that they are completely accurate. Therefore if in doubt, please check the English language version.
What does it contain?
The COSMOS-standard applies to cosmetic products that are marketed as organic or natural. Its guiding principles are to:
- promote the use of products from organic agriculture, and respect biodiversity;
- use natural resources responsibly, and respect the environment;
- use processing and manufacturing that are clean and respectful of human health and the environment;
- integrate and develop the concept of “Green Chemistry”.
The Standard covers all aspects of the sourcing, manufacture, marketing and control of cosmetic products in 12 chapters.
- Origin and processing of ingredients – describes five categories, their origin requirements and how they may or may not be treated:
- Water – must comply with hygienic standards;
- Minerals and ingredients of mineral origin – must be of natural origin and may be modified with simple chemical reactions;
- Physically processed agro-ingredients – may be plant, animal or microbial origin but no GMOs, no critically endangered species, only products of (not a part of) animals;
- Chemically processed agro-ingredients – same as above, and the chemical treatments must respect the principles of Green Chemistry with the resulting ingredients complying with strict limitations of toxicity and biodegradability;
- Other ingredients – a very limited list of preservatives and some other ingredients and petrochemical moieties are temporarily allowed and are reviewed on a regular basis, taking into account availability of acceptable alternatives.
Annexes at the end of the Standard give further details of the precise ingredients, treatments, chemical reactions, etc. that may be used.
- Composition of total product – including how to calculate the organic content of complex ingredients (eg water based and other composite ingredients) and how much organic content is required in products under organic certification (specific percentage limits for physically processed agro-ingredients, chemically processed agro-ingredients, and the total product).
- Storage, manufacturing and packaging – to ensure adequate cleanliness, hygiene and traceability throughout all processes, and to ensure that packaging respects the environment.
- Environmental management – details the requirements for care of the environment throughout the manufacturing process, and managing, minimising and recycling waste.
- Labelling and communication – defines comprehensive requirements for clear product labelling and company advertising, to ensure all necessary information for consumers and no misleading claims.
- Inspection, certification and control – the requirements for all products, their ingredients and their manufacturing to be certified by a competent body, authorised by independent accreditation. The process is repeated annually to ensure on-going compliance.
The COSMOS-standard documents
Besides the Standard itself, the scheme’s formal documents also include:
- The Control Manual (how the control system operates);
- The Labelling Rules (how to use the COSMOS labels);
- The Technical Guide (additional interpretation and explanation).
Who can use the Standard?
The COSMOS-standard can be used by any company or manufacturer that wishes to produce and market organic or natural cosmetics to the highest standards, demonstrating their integrity and probity. To do this, they must apply to an authorised certification body which will conduct a thorough audit of their operation to ensure all the requirements of the Standard are met.
The Standard can also be used by authorised certification bodies to offer certification to their clients. To do this, they must apply to the COSMOS-standard AISBL, a process that involves joining as an associate member, and also applying to their nominated accreditation body to be accredited for the scopes they want to certify.
How the Standard is set
The Standard is owned by the COSMOS-standard AISBL and its elected Board is responsible for maintaining and updating it. The Board follows an open process and will announce when it undertakes a review, together with a timetable for public consultation, generally allowing two rounds, first to gather initial comments and proposals for amendments, then to comment on the amendments that it draws up.
The Board is assisted by a Technical Committee, consisting of technical specialists appointed by the Board, generally from the member organisations, though they join as individuals, not as representatives of a company or other interest. Their role is to recommend appropriate interpretations on technical questions that emerge, and identify standards issues that need to considered with recommendations for addressing them.