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fairtrade beauty

How kind are your favourite beauty products?

How fairly traded ingredients support people and Planet.

issue ten : the icons & iconoclasts

By Khandiz Joni

Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know I do. In fact, I’ve just had some, and it’s only 5 am (no, I am not exaggerating). Despite its bad rep in the dietary department, newer research suggests that (dark) chocolate is indeed good for us – and our skin! The central ingredient, cocoa, contains biologically active phenolic compounds. These compounds have delicious antioxidant properties that benefit our skin (by fighting off free radicals that are responsible for ageing the skin), as well as our general health and wellbeing. 

So what does chocolate have to do with beauty? More than you might realise actually. Aside from the beauty and wellbeing benefits and sharing a beloved iconic ingredient – cocoa butter – the implications of how many other of the ingredients in our natural beauty products are procured, are also akin. 

It’s also got everything to do with female empowerment, which, as we all know, is the only real way we are going to tackle climate change.

Fairtrade Fortnight – an initiative run by the Fairtrade Foundation to raise awareness about the importance of fair trade for people and Planet – kicks off later this month. It runs from 24 February until 8 March. Their 2020 “She Deserves Fairtrade” campaign is focused on chocolate. More accurately, around cocoa; and the farmers that harvest it in some of the most impoverished countries in the world. 

The UK chocolate industry is worth at least £4 billion each year. And yet the average cocoa farmer in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, where 60 per cent of all cocoa is grown, makes less than 75p a day. This is well below the extreme poverty line of around £1.40 per day

Fairtrade Foundation
Infographic from Fairtrade.org
Image via Fairtrade.org

But my beauty products don’t contain cocoa butter!

Fair enough! Not every beauty product contains cocoa butter – but there are many other ingredients (for #untaintedalternatives and mass-produced products) that are harvested for the beauty industry. I can assure you that there will be ingredients in your products that are at risk of exploiting people and the Planet. These include:

The list goes on.

Fairtrade beauty ingredients
Cocoa Beans. Image via Fair Squared
Argan Oil Morocco
Argan Oil. Image © Stephanie Newton
Shea Butter. Image via Globalshea.com

For the planet

Aside from the fact that the very people who harvest these ingredients are already living in extreme poverty, climate change is detrimentally impacting their livelihoods by affecting their yields and harvests, which have a significant knock-on effect to a whole host of human rights that cannot then be met; many of which, we here in the West take for granted.  

Fairtrade Foundation believes that “you can’t protect the planet without protecting its people first.” A fairtrade premium allows these farmers to invest in climate resilience and adaptation and ensure they are able to weather the storms – so to speak.

The Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) is another organisation that promotes and campaigns for fairly traded ingredients – but their differential is their prioritising of people and biodiversity.

But although both of these organisations represent ethical practices that are so crucial to the beauty industry, only a handful of beauty brands carry their logos.

The bottom line is that our beauty and personal care products are intrinsically connected to these pressures on the Planet and her people.

How do I know?

Believe me when I say, I know how overwhelming choosing untainted alternatives can be. Knowing which labels and logos to trust can be a minefield as there are just so many out there. And many are losing their lustre because of lax rules and regulations, not to mention that they are expensive and lots of independent brands who are committed to using ethically sourced ingredients have opted out of certification for this reason. But sometimes, these certifications can be helpful for you if you are still learning about ‘glean’ (clean and organic), sustainable or ethical beauty brands and which ones really live up to the hype.

Some of the Brands We Love for their commitment to people and planet

*While Lush doesn’t meet all of our five pillars of untainted beauty, we have included them in this list for their unwavering commitment innovation, ethics and transparency.

untainted |ˌənˈtān(t)əd| adjective
not contaminated, polluted, or tainted: the paper was untainted by age.

UNTAINTED is a directional beauty platform, pushing the boundaries of clean, sustainable beauty. We are inspired and motivated by the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi.

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