The word green is a familiar term to everybody and used to describe many different things daily. From the iconic symbol of money, to the green on a golf course, as well as the world-wide signal symbolizing the right to proceed, the word green is used for various different and unrelated purposes.
The word green has also become a powerful concept in cosmetics, but with a much less certain definition. The truth is, green in green cosmetics or any green product is not truly known because there is no exact definition. “I think that consumers are confused about what green means because the word green has been used to mean so many things,” noted Aveda’s VP of Earth and Community Dave Rapaport. The most intuitive definition of a green cosmetic is its association with environmental friendliness and organic/natural components. However, there is no set boundary in what green truly constitutes. Are there set concentration limits? Or do green products indicate there is specific environmentally friendly packaging? How many of these environmentally-friendly features are necessary for a product to be green?
Regulatory bodies around the world have very different laws regarding cosmetic products. However, the classification for a product to be natural or environmentally-friendly has always been a grey area, as the meanings of the claims are broad. Canada’s Competition Bureau actually discourages using the words green, environmentally friendly, all natural, environmentally safe and eco from product claims, as they “do not convey a precise or specific meaning to consumers and are difficult to effectively substantiate." In Canada, the falsification of claims may result in hefty fines in addition to prison time, enforced by the Competition Bureau. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published “Guides for the use of Environmental Marketing Claims,” an extensive guideline with regards to environmental claims for products in Volume 77, No. 197 of the Federal Register. The FTC goes into great detail about various types of claims such as those concerning renewable energy, recycled content or toxicity.