Certification Roundup: All About the Cosmos Standard

Richard Block

Nov 22, 2021 · 3 min read

Certification Roundup: All About the Cosmos Standard

Many Cosmetics Creators take great care to use natural and organic ingredients in their formulations. They do everything they can to limit their products’ impact on the environment, and they want to communicate that to shoppers in a way that’s trusted and recognizable. One solution: certification under the Cosmos standard.

The Cosmos standard is a set of guidelines for Cosmetic Creators to follow regarding organic, natural, sustainable ingredients and processes. More than 26,000 products and 17,000 ingredients and raw materials, in more than 70 countries, have been authorized to display one of the trademarked Cosmos signatures on their packaging.

Companies do not need to meet the Cosmos standard to legally sell cosmetic products, but a Beauty Brand that passes the Cosmos accreditation process is permitted to display the appropriate certification icon. If consumers see the Cosmos icon, they can be confident that the product contained inside is made with certified organic or natural ingredients.

Cosmos certification (click link for full standard document) applies to all aspects of the sourcing, manufacture, marketing, and control of cosmetic ingredients.

According to the Cosmos website, the certification program is centered around four main principles:

  • Promoting the use of products from organic agriculture, and respecting biodiversity.
  • Using natural resources responsibly, and respecting the environment.
  • Using processing and manufacturing that are clean and respectful of human health and the environment.
  • Integrating and developing the concept of “green chemistry.”

Green chemistry,” per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.” In other words: it’s right there in the name.

Sections 6 to 11 of the standard are key. These sections set guidelines for:

  • Origin and processing of ingredients
  • Composition of total product
  • Storage, manufacturing, and packaging
  • Environmental management
  • Labeling and communication
  • Inspection, certification, and control

The Cosmos standard is overseen by a Brussels-based nonprofit organization, whose board and team are advised by specialist committees. This organization works with 10 certifying bodies around the world, which examine all of the aspects listed above during the certification process. Most of these bodies work internationally through local auditors or national offices. This means Cosmetic Creators have several options when selecting a body to work with.

Certification for Products

Cosmos certification_goldn *Photo by Erol Ahmed *

There are two certifications offered by Cosmos for cosmetic products: Cosmos Organic and Cosmos Natural.

  • Cosmos Organic products conform to the Cosmos standard, and also contain minimum amounts of organic ingredients.
  • Cosmos Natural products also conform to the standard, but do not meet the minimum organic ingredient requirements.

Certification for Ingredients

In addition to the Organic and Natural designations for products, Cosmos also certifies raw ingredients. There are two certifications available for ingredients:

  • Cosmos Certified status is for physically and chemically processed agricultural ingredients with organic content that meet the Cosmos standard.
  • Cosmos Approved is for non-organic raw materials that are approved for use in Cosmos-certified products.

Cost & Timing for Certification

Cosmos assesses several fees that go toward administering the program. These include:

  • Licence fees—applicable only to clients. Fees are paid for each finished product that is certified; the license fee gives a company the right to use the Cosmos Organic and Cosmos Natural branding on the label. Licence fees are charged or covered on behalf of Cosmos by the certification body or the association.
  • Registration fees—applicable only to clients. Registration fees are paid on all Cosmos finished products, Cosmos certified ingredients and Cosmos-approved raw materials. In exchange, Cosmos registers and publishes the products and ingredients in its website’s databases. Registration fees are charged on behalf of Cosmos by whichever certification body that audits the client.
  • Membership fees—applicable only to members and applicants. Cosmos charges its members annual membership fees, and applicants also pay one-off application fees for review of their eligibility. Membership is mandatory for Cosmos-authorized certification bodies.
  • Certification fees – applicable only to certification bodies. Cosmos charges all authorized certification bodies annual certification fees for access to the Cosmos standard. Each applicant certification body pays a one-off authorization fee for the assessment of its application.

A brand considering Cosmos certification should contact Cosmos for an up-to-date statement of required fees, to find out about any additional costs that might need to be paid, and to get a better idea of how much extra time and resources might be needed to support the process.

As for timing, this can vary. According to the Cosmos website: “The process of achieving certification can take several months, depending on the complexity of products and manufacturing processes.” This involves inspections and audits of the brand’s facilities and practices as well as those of the manufacturing partner, if an external manufacturer is being used.

Brands should ask Cosmos for more detailed information on the timeline. Also, if a manufacturing partner is being used, the brand can ask them if they’ve gone through certification before, and what kind of support they can provide during the review process.

What’s Next, and How Do I Apply?

In 2022, following a review, Cosmos will issue a new version of its standard.

Cosmos is continuously accepting applications from Cosmetic Creators and ingredient manufacturers. To apply, contact the certification body of your choice directly. The process includes at least one audit visit. How long the process takes depends on how complex the applicant’s operations are.

For more information on the Cosmos standard, visit cosmos-standard.org.

Written by

Richard Block

Richard Block is an editorial jack-of-all-trades at Goldn

Connect with Richard Block on LinkedIn.

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