In an effort to bring clarity to some of the organic certifications available for beauty products, I’ve began a three part series on why natural brand owners choose to certify their products and which organizations they choose. Last week I spoke with Juice Beauty’s founding partner, Karen Behnke. This week, I’m speaking with Sharron Pinheiro, Founder of Eve Organics Beauty, a five year old natural beauty brand.
I’ve used mineral concealers, foundations, eye shadows and lip color from Eve Organics for the past three years. The colors are beautiful, deep and rich. They work on all skin tones and stay true, even under bright lights on photo shoots. Unlike a lot of other natural brands, Eve Organics has great shades for brown skin.
They also have a popular natural skincare line.
Although she uses organic ingredients, Sharron has chosen not to certify her products with the Unites States Department of Agriculture (they certify organic foods and beauty products). Instead her company is an associate member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) and a member of Green America. She shares why she chose these organizations and what it means for her customers.
Why did you choose to become an associate member of the OTA?
When I started my company in 2007, I knew that I was entering one of the most competitive industries in the US. I needed something to set me apart from a lot of the emerging natural cosmetic and skin care companies. Even though most of my products are very high in organic content, since I was a small company with limited resources, I was not able to get my products certified organic by the USDA because of cost.After some research, I found that I could be a member of the OTA and Green America (two highly regarded membership organizations who support small business selling organic products).
According to the OTA:
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people’s lives and the environment.
OTA represents businesses across the organic supply chain and addresses all things organic, including food, fiber/textiles, personal care products, and new sectors as they develop. Over sixty percent of OTA trade members are small businesses.
So cost was a big part of why you chose this organization instead of USDA certification?
Yes. It is very expensive to have one product certified by the USDA, let alone over 200 SKUs. So, I did research and found that if I purchased ingredients that were already certified organic, I could still be classified as an organic company. And, the company must sign a Code of Ethics with each membership and renewal. We are proud to be able to display the OTA logo on our website, along with Green America (formerly “Co-op America”) for the same reasons.
It’s funny because only companies with enough extra funds to pay for certification through the USDA can be certified. And, in my experience, it is usually the small business owners who are actually MORE conscious about their product’s ingredients, yet they have a harder time being recognized as a “clean” company because of cost constraints – sad.
What was the process you went through to join (please describe the steps and any other verification process they conducted)
For the OTA, you sign a Code of Ethics and it is my understanding that they do their own type of “background check” for the business. There is a yearly renewal with re-signing of the Code. For Green America, it was much more stringent. Businesses are evaluated by a Standards Committee. It took time submitting a paper trail of proof for my products’ organic origins, but it was well worth it in the end.
Do you find that customers know what the certification means?
Unfortunately, I don’t think that most customers realize what the certification means. If we exhibit in a mostly “green” event, I do find that both the OTA and Green America memberships holds more clout. However, the mainstream customer is not aware of the OTA or Green America and their membership benefits.
Does it help with sales?
For the same reasons as the question above, I feel the OTA stamp does help with sales to “green minded” customers. But, it doesn’t really mean much yet to the general population. (We’re hoping!)
Do you think the organic certification process should be condensed to just one organization so consumers can understand the benefits of the organization and the process?
I think it would be much easier for the general population to recognize just one organization for organic certification. But, I also believe that the certification process should be affordable so that ALL businesses are able to certify and be looked at on a level playing field. Maybe costs to be certified should be on a sliding scale, just as the membership to the OTA is.
Are all of your products certified by them? If not, why don’t some products qualify?
We are certified as a company that has ethics with its organic products. We clearly state all organic content for our products and are completely transparent with all ingredients (no hidden terms, such as “fragrance”, etc.). Therefore, any of the products we state are “organic” are qualified as organic. We are also certified through Green America as an “environmentally responsible company using business enterprise as a platform for social change”. To be certified through Green America is huge in the green arenas.
Did you find the cost to join to be a fair amount or is it difficult for a small business owner?
I feel the cost to join the OTA is fair. They actually charge on a sliding scale according to your business’ sales for the prior year.
I thank Sharron Pinheiro for her time and honesty.You can purchase Eve Organics online or at these retail locations across the country.
Are you more inclined to buy from a beauty company that has organic certification? Does one organization mean more to you than another?
Next week, I’ll be speaking with the owner of Poofy Organics.