How we award badges
Giki’s mission is to help people live more sustainably. Our Giki Badges app does this by awarding badges to UK supermarket products based on sustainability, health and fairness.
Our badges draw on a number of different sources such as product information, government guidelines and scientific research. Our aim is to provide easy to understand badges as well as transparency about how we award those badges so users can choose which badges are most relevant to them.
We also look to continuously improve Giki in order to help support our users in their quest to buy more sustainable and healthy products. We know we will never be perfect, but we hope that by constantly listening to our users, and improving, we’ll get better and better over time.
Review the badges below to see the rationale and methodology for how badges are awarded. Oversight of changes to our methodology, and the addition of new badges, is performed by Giki’s Advisory Board.
TOP RATED PRODUCTS
The hero badge provides a single indicator to identify the most sustainable and healthy products in the supermarket. We use a combination of our badges, and certain filters, to define hero products with the objective being that a basket of hero products will help to materially reduce overall environmental impact as well as being healthier than the average UK shopping basket. The criteria for different supermarket aisles are set out below. However, in common across all categories is that hero products cannot have a very high carbon footprint or contain palm oil which is not sustainable.
Food and drink:
Products must be awarded at least four “points”. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: organic; low carbon footprint; responsibly sourced; better packaging; healthier option; free from additives; animal welfare. A point can also be awarded if a product is a “super green” (a healthy product that is awarded only greens for sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat) and a point is taken off if a product is amber or red on both salt and sugar.
Furthermore if a product can be awarded a badge for being fair trade, sustainably fished, having no additives (drinks only) or animal welfare then this also becomes a necessary condition.
Finally certain categories cannot be hero products because there are direct substitutes available with lower environmental impact which are available at the same of lower costs. Examples include: still water and coffee capsules.
Skin and Haircare products:
Products must be awarded at least three “points”. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: green cosmetics; better packaging; no chemicals of concern; no animal testing.
Products must be awarded at least three “points”. A point is awarded if the product has any of the following badges: kinder cleaning; better packaging; no animal testing.
The benefits of organic
Why are an increasing number of people choosing organic produce when buying either in the supermarket or at local farmers’ markets? A number of reasons have been put forward including lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduced use of pesticides and lower antibiotic use. Taste is also noted by many consumers and there are further benefits such as improved local conservation. On top of this a number of studies have suggested further benefits from reduced erosion caused by wind and water, higher soil quality and reduced fertilizer usage leading to less “nitrogen leaching” (a process whereby fertilizer is washed from fields to rivers and oceans) as well as reduced GHG emissions from fertilizer production. All these factors help to offset the lower yields that organic farms often achieve due to less intensive farming methods. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture comprised about 10–12% of man-made GHG emissions in 2010 making the environmental benefits a key reason for consumers to focus on organic produce. An increasing number of consumers also simply prefer food from more sustainable production systems and want to know where their food comes from. Giki uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is organic.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organic certifier offering certification schemes across food, health & beauty and textiles. It has been a pioneer campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food since 1946 and is a charity that is able to act independently when certifying products. The Soil Association’s criteria are transparent and its logo is widely recognised and trusted by consumers across the UK. It’s environmental, social and agricultural principles underpin the practices that form the foundations of organic farming that they have established over the years.
The EU Organic Logo ensures that organic means the same for consumers and producers across the EU. EU legislation is detailed and rigorous and it is continuously reviewed whilst the “Euro Leaf” has become familiar to consumers across the UK in recent years. The certification standard ensures that organic operators are also reviewed annually. The EU’s definition of organic is refreshingly clear stating, “Put simply, organic farming is an agricultural system that seeks to provide you, the consumer, with fresh, tasty and authentic food while respecting natural life-cycle systems.” To support this the EU follows a number of objectives, principles and practices. For farmers this includes practices such as strict limits on fertilizer usage and free-range and open-air livestock raising whilst for organic processors it covers principles such as strict restrictions on which additives and processing aids can be used.
USDA is run by the US Department of Agriculture, follows a number of rules which are similar to UK bodies (no GMO, organic pesticides only) and has strict certification criteria.
A trip to the supermarket shows how hard it is to cut back on packaging, especially plastic. However, in every aisle there are options to buy less packaging or choose products where the packaging is recyclable.
The Better Packaging badge helps to find products where all of the main parts of the packaging are either widely, or locally, recyclable. This is in line with the Plastics Pact which aims to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. However, the Better Packaging badge encourages companies to move faster.
Transparency for consumers is also important for a product to be awarded the Better Packaging badge. Put simply it should be easy for consumers to decide what to do with the packaging in their hand.
However, as a result of this we are heavily dependent on manufacturers and retailers who have an important role to play by providing clear information on what to do with the packaging after use, making sure they use materials that are widely recycled and, if it has to be plastic, making sure it’s from recycled materials and recyclable. Whilst many companies have signed up to the UK’s leading On-Pack Recycling Label scheme (OPRL) a large number continue to provide limited, non-standard or confusing information. Therefore some products may not be awarded the badge due to lack of transparency and clarity for consumers even if the packaging could be recycled.
What we cannot do yet
It’s also important for us to highlight what we cannot do yet. In these situations, common sense and some additional research by our users is the way forward.
1 – Whilst packaging that is “Widely recycled “is better than check local we still include the latter. The reason is simple – we don’t know where our users are! Recyclenow can help you find out.
2 – it’s not plastic free. Many people want to go plastic free which remains a great option for cutting back on pollution and unnecessary waste. However, we have taken the approach that recyclable plastic is a good first step which is actionable and practical. Over time we hope companies will provide more widely recycled plastic and also start using more plastic from recycled materials. As they do we can keep raising the bar on better packaging.
3 – whilst we may know the type of packaging it’s very hard for us to know if there is just too much of it. The human eye remains the best technology available for this sense check!
Some additional points for people who are really into packaging:
1 – We don’t exclude a product from getting a badge if it has some very small components which are not recyclable. This includes clips, collars, caps, ribbons and labels. Over time we’d like to see these as recyclable too but, practically, this would make supermarket shopping extremely challenging!
2 – in almost all supermarket aisles there are options for more sustainable, better packaging. Although our criteria have got tougher they are still very possible for companies to achieve.
Finally a quick word on OPRL which has played a crucial role in improving UK recycling rates.
The On-pack recycling label (OPRL) gives a simple and consistent UK-wide message on both retailer and brand packaging. It is recognised by 7 in 10 consumers and is used by over 600 brands. Recyclenow gives detailed information on what can be recycled, and where.
An increasing number of people are interested in exactly where there food comes from and how it is made. This has been one of the reasons behind the huge growth of farmers’ markets in the UK as it is of particular importance for fresh produce.
The reasons behind this trend include: a belief that less transportation is better for the environment; some people prefer to support UK businesses and greater trust in UK standards.
Whether a UK made product has a lower environmental impact will depend on numerous factors including production methodology (e.g. greenhouses will typically use more energy than field grown whilst organic will encourage biodivesity and soil quality) and transportation method (with air freighting being notably high impact). However, buying local, organic in season fruit and vegetables are the best rules of thumb to follow. Eat the seasons offers useful advice on what’s in season today.
In the supermarket it can be more challenging to find local products although UK made is easier.
We look for goods that are made, farmed, baked, produced or brewer in the UK . In order to do this we use labelling information from the company supported by certifications, such as the Red Tractor UK flag, which confirm that a product comes from the UK.
We’re aware that what people really want to know is where their food, and all its ingredients come from. Unfortunately this remains close to impossible for most supermarket products as companies are unwilling, or unable, to provide that level of transparency. We continue to hope that this will change over time as more people demand it.
The UK Made badge is only awarded when we find evidence that a product is made in the UK. There is no associated negative badge.
The Responsibly Sourced badge is awarded when we can find independent certification which verifies how a product, or some of its key ingredients, have been sourced. It applies to fish, fair trade products (predominantly chocolate, tea, coffee, bananas) and products made from paper based materials (not packaging).
The Marine Conservation Society explain the need for sustainable fishing well, “Put simply…we’re in danger of running out of fish. We fish so much, some species can’t breed fast enough to replace themselves.” As a result more than 85% of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to or beyond their biological limits and are in need of management plans to restore them. This matters because fish is a source of protein for billions of people around the world, fishing is key to the economic survival of millions of people in the fishing industry and the overfishing of top predators, such as tuna, changes marine communities. Giki therefore looks for products which are being sustainably and responsible sourced. For more detailed information on exactly what fish to look for the Good Fish Guide offers a comprehensive insight into which fish to eat, when and from where.
Marine Stewardship council (MSC)
In order to ascertain whether a fish has been caught sustainably we use labelling information to find out whether the fish has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent non-profit organisation that has become the de facto leader in sustainable fishing with its blue label well recognised by consumers in the UK. The MSC criteria are transparent and based on three principles: sustainable fish stocks; minimising environmental impact and effective management. A fishery that is certified is also subject to an annual audit. The MSC is a member of the ISEAL alliance.
Aquatic Stewardship Council (ASC)
In order to ascertain whether a fish has been farmed sustainably we use labelling information to find out whether the fish has been certified by the Aquatic Stewardship Council. Using the ASC label alongside the MSC label Giki ensures that both fish caught in the wild and aquaculture fish are covered. Not only does aquaculture now cover 50% of the world’s edible fish production it is also an efficient converter of feed to high quality food and has a lower carbon footprint than some other animal production systems. The Aquatic Stewardship Council is an independent, non-profit, organisation, whose aim is to promote both environmental sustainability and social responsibility in the aquaculture supply chain. The ASC label recognises and rewards responsible aquaculture and is both transparent and rigorous with 150 performance indicators which cover areas including: protection of the surrounding ecosystems and biodiversity; stringent controls for the use of antibiotics; reduced usage of pesticides and chemicals; best practices that combat the spread of illness and parasites between farmed fish and wild fish and regulation of where farms can be sited to protect vulnerable nature areas. The ASC also ensures that the social rights and safety of those who work on the farms and live in the local communities are safeguarded. The ASC is a member of the ISEAL Alliance.
Fair trade is a global movement based on the principles of achieving better trading conditions for farmers in developing countries whilst also promoting sustainable farming. Fair trade is therefore underpinned by consumers’ preferences that farmers should be paid a fair price and also a belief that this should further benefit sustainable development and reduce inequality. Since the 1980s, with the advent of fair trade labels, it has been an increasingly common sight in supermarkets with a focus on products such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, fresh fruit and chocolate.
Giki therefore looks for products which are produced in a way that supports the principles of the fair trade movement such as those with a Fairtrade certification.
This is done through the Fairtrade Foundation, a UK charity and member of Fairtrade International, who are responsible for licensing the use of the Fairtrade mark on products. Certification is based on four common principles that cover development (economic, social and environmental) as well as a prohibition on the use of forced and child labour. Importantly Fairtrade certification also means that producers receive a minimum price and a premium which they can use, as they see fit, to improve their social, economic and environmental conditions. The certification process is transparent, Fairtrade is a member of the ISEAL alliance and the Fairtrade mark is one of the most widely recognised by consumers both in the UK and around the world. Therefore in order to ascertain whether a product supports the fair trade principles we use labelling information to find out whether it has a Fairtrade label.
Rainforest Alliance (merged with UTZ in 2018)
UTZ is a Dutch non-governmental organisation (NGO) started in the 1990s with a focus on coffee. It is now the world’s largest sustainable coffee certifier and the 2018 merger with Rainforest Alliance further increased its coverage. Rainforest Alliance certification is transparent and rigorous following code of conduct and chain of custody guidelines and the Rainforest Alliance label is well know around Europe, although perhaps less so in the UK, and is a member of the ISEAL alliance. Rainforest Alliance primarily covers coffee, tea and cocoa. Although Rainforest Alliance does not have a fair trade price they do focus on “how farms are managed, with certification being awarded to farms that meet the comprehensive standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Standard, which encompasses all three pillars of sustainability—social, economic, and environmental—and empowers farmers with the knowledge and skills to negotiate for themselves in the global marketplace”.
Forests not only have an important role to play in mitigating climate change but they are also home to much of the world’s biodiversity. Deforestation may not only lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions during the clearing process, and the loss of important habitats, but it also removes the future potential for forests to soak up carbon dioxide. Therefore in order to ascertain whether a product is made from (as opposed to packaged in) materials that come from responsibly managed forests we use labelling information to find out whether it has a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification.
Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) follows a set of 10 principles which ensure that natural forests are conserved, endangered species and their habitats are protected and that forest workers and forest-dependent communities are respected. They also have a chain of custody certification which ensure forest products can be fully tracked from the forest to the end user. The FSC has seen broad consumer acceptance and follows transparent certification policies as well as being an independent, not-for-profit, organisation. FSC is a member of the ISEAL alliance.
Low carbon footprint
Around 13% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from agriculture. The largest source of GHG emissions within agriculture is “enteric fermentation” (otherwise known as cow belches) and emissions generated during the application of synthetic fertilizers which is also the fastest growing area. The agricultural process (as opposed getting the product from the farm to the consumer’s kitchen) is the largest contributor and within this different categories have widely different average GHG emissions.
As a result the choice of what we eat can have a large impact on our overall carbon footprint. Someone who eats low quantities of meat for example could have a dietary carbon footprint 35% lower than a high meat eater. A vegetarian might be 50% lower. However, it should also be noted that despite this people can further reduce their footprint by buying local and seasonal produce. Airfreighting significantly increases carbon footprint and it is also the case that processed food is likely to have a higher carbon footprint than unprocessed.
So to reduce the carbon footprint of a diet follow these three steps:
- Eat meat less often, especially red meat
- Buy local, seasonal product where possible
- Eat less processed food
Giki therefore groups product categories into low, medium, high and very high carbon footprints. This is based academic studies including Poore and Nemecek, WRAP and other major carbon footprint studies from around the world .
We link the food categories mentioned in the academic meta studies through Foodex which, in turn, is mapped to supermarket categories. This allows us to link academic studies to actual products since all products must belong to a category.
This estimation process would be greatly enchanced by product level carbon footprint data. However, at present only an extremely small number of products have this information available so category footprinting remains the most practical approach.
As well as category level footprint estimation we also check products for certain ingredients. For example any product containing beef (a very high carbon footprint ingredient) cannot be a low or medium carbon footprint. Similarly we analyse the data for products which are placed in categories where the estimation process needs refinement. For example some plant based milks may be categorised as milk.
Sustainable Palm Oil
Sustainable palm oil overview
In some regions palm oil plantations have caused widespread deforestation which is a key contributor to climate change. These forests are also home to protected species and places of great natural biodiversity with the resulting habitat loss leading some species, such as orangutans, to the edge of extinction. Lack of consultation with local communities about what happens to their land and worker rights are also a risk on some palm oil plantations.
The Sustainable Palm Oil badge is awarded to companies who have a time bound commitment to 100% sustainable palm oil from their physical supply chain and who are already able to report strong progress on the amount of sustainable palm oil that they use.
Why is sustainable palm oil important?
Palm oil is used in many common products sold in the supermarket including margarine, ice cream, confectionery, biscuits, soap and cosmetics. Not only is palm oil a very high yielding crop (i.e. it is very efficient for farmers to grow) but it also has important properties such as being good for cooking at high heat, a creamy texture, no smell (so useful as an extra ingredient for cooking) and it’s a natural preservative. This explains why it is so common in the goods we buy.
However, unsustainable palm oil leads to a number of serious issues.
- Large scale deforestation. Palm trees thrive in humid conditions with Malaysia and Indonesia accounting for much of the global palm oil production and in these countries 50% of deforestation is due to palm oil. Indeed 18.7m hectares is used for industrial palm oil and 25m for smallholders. That’s the same size as the United Kingdom. Twice.
- Loss of habitat for endangered species. Orangutans are on the IUCN Red List and the number of Borneo orangutans has declined by 25% in the last decade. At this rate they will be extinct in our lifetime and only 14,600 are left. Many more species are at risk. Rainforest destruction caused by palm oil plantations threatens 190 species on the ICUN Red list.
- Climate change. Tropical forests and peatland are cleared for palm oil plantations but Indonesian forests are incredible stores of carbon dioxide. So much so that they store more carbon per acre than the Amazon. Peatlands can hold 18-28 times as much carbon as the forest above them and these are often also cleared for unsustainable palm oil plantations. As a result of this tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of global warming pollution In fact, largely because of palm oil related deforestation, this makes Indonesia the world’s third largest emitter of global warming pollution as a result. Only China and the USA emit more.
- Social impact. Lack of consultation with local communities about what happens to their land and worker rights are also a risk on some palm oil plantations. A report from Friends of the Earth found that palm oil companies use forced labour.
- Air pollution. Each year, more than 100,000 deaths in Southeast Asia can be attributed to particulate matter exposure from landscape fires, many of which are peat fires.
Why not just avoid palm oil?
This is a valid response taken by many consumers. However, a number of NGOs support sustainable palm oil because replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. Furthermore in producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production.
However, some people still choose to avoid palm oil because 1) it’s hard to know all whether palm oil is truly sustainable 2) the impacts are just too great to take the risk and 3) the certification around RSPO sustainable palm oil don’t go far enough especially in relation to deforestation.
How Giki finds sustainable palm oil
In order to ascertain whether palm oil is sustainable we analyse the type of palm oil that companies use in their supply chain using data from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This data is provided to the RSPO by the companies themselves. The RPSO is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together companies and other organisations who are involved in the palm oil supply chain and which follows a transparent verification process. The data covers retailers and consumer goods manufacturers across the world and is updated each year. We look for three elements:
- Commitment – does the company have a time commitment to achieve sustainable palm oil from their physical supply chain by 2020 or before? We think this indicates that they have a clear goal that is soon enough to ensure action is needed now to achieve it.
- Progress – does more than 80% of a company’s palm oil come from mass balanced, segregated or identity preserved? The RSPO asks companies to report on different types of palm oil in their supply chain and we think that the majority coming from these three sources is an important first step towards sustainable palm oil.
- Leading the way – more than 50% of palm oil from segregated or identity preserved. This ensures that companies are focused on the most sustainable forms of palm oil. A higher hurdle than mass balanced but consumers increasingly want to know not just that the company they are buying from uses sustainable palm oil but that the product in their hand contains sustainable palm oil too. If a company gets 100% of their palm oil from these sources then they automatically get a sustainable palm oil badge.
These three criteria together set a high hurdle for sustainable palm oil and derivatives. However, hundreds of companies around the world and many of the UK’s best know retailers achieve these conditions. Moreover, when the risks of unsustainable palm oil are so great we believe that a high hurdle is appropriate.
Where a company does not report to the RSPO we do not award a badge as there is no way for us, or others, to verify its sustainability in relation to other palm oil. This is a particular issue for some large companies. For all companies we look at their overall usage, not national or product level, since unsustainable palm oil and deforestatation are global problems that require global solutions.
Our initial analysis was conducted using the 2017 ACOP data and we will update annually with the ACOP reporting process based on their annual deadline.
Some companies may be too small to report to RSPO so we also look for product level certification. A product that contains RSPO certified sustainable palm oil is awarded a sustainable palm oil badge.
The different types of palm oil
Mass Balance. This means that sustainable palm oil comes from certified sources but it is also mixed with uncertified, ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain. As such consumers know that enough sustainable palm oil has been made to manufacture their product but not that the product in their hand is definitively from sustainable sources.
Segregated. This means that sustainable palm oil from different certified sources is kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain.
Identity preserved. The clearest form of sustainable palm oil as the palm oil comes from a single identifiable certified source is kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain.
We do not include book and claim palm oil. With book and claim the supply chain is not monitored for the presence of sustainable palm oil. Manufacturers and retailers can buy Credits from RSPO-certified growers, crushers and independent smallholders.
Finding palm oil in products
The analysis above helps us to find companies who use sustainable palm oil. The next step is to ensure that palm oil, or certain palm oil derivatives, are present in a product. This is more challenging than it sounds since there are over 250 different names for palm oil, and its derivatives, some of which may not always be made from palm oil. We therefore look for a smaller group of names for palm oil which are likely or often made from palm oil (such as palm oil, palmitate or sodium laureth sulphate). This list of names we look for combines WWF’s palm oil list with our own research.
The Sustainable Palm Oil badge is therefore awarded as follows:
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that uses sustainable palm oil then the product is awarded a badge.
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that reports palm oil usage but does not meet our criteria for sustainable palm oil then it does not get a badge but gets a comment highlighting that they are moving in the right direction.
- If a product contains palm oil or its derivatives from a company that does not report palm oil usage then it does not get a badge and it gets a comment highlighting that we cannot verify that is contains sustainable palm oil.
An important note is that linking hundreds of thousands of products to thousands of brands and companies remains a work in progress. As a result sometimes a badge will not be awarded because we have been unable to make the link. In these cases we also say that we cannot verify that the product contains sustainable palm oil. Please contact us if you see a way to help us improve.
Please also contact us for any further information.
Household and Bathroom Products
Understanding the ingredients that are used in the kitchen and bathroom (e.g. dishwasher tablets, drain cleaners or detergent) can be challenging for consumers. Although an increasing number of companies post a full ingredients list on their website, not only are the names hard to understand for the vast majority of consumers, but there may also be large differences between what you see on the label and what is actually in the product. As an example a popular dishwasher tablet has 7 ingredients, or ingredient “groups”, on its label but 27 on the website. Furthermore these ingredients lists are sometimes just extremely difficult to find. This makes the process of discovering exactly what is in kitchen and bathroom products challenging. Giki aims to help by awarding a Kinder Cleaning badge to household and bathroom products which consider their environmental impact either through thinking about the entire manufacturing process and / or which aim to use more natural ingredients.
Furthermore the use of non toxic and natural chemicals should reduce any potentially adverse health effects. As such Giki uses a number of standards and positive claims to ascertain whether a product is comprised of these types of ingredients.
Cradle to Cradle Certified
The Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard guides designers and manufacturers through a continual improvement process that looks at a product through five categories — material health, material reutilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. On material health, this standard follows a stringent methodology to determine whether products contain one or more substances that have the potential to adversely impact human or environmental health, and specifically lists chemicals and substances that are banned for use in Cradle to Cradle Certified products.
EU Ecolabel for consumers
To qualify for the EU Ecolabel, products have to comply with a tough set of criteria. These environmental criteria, set by a panel of experts from a number of consumer organisations and industry, take the whole product life cycle into account – from the extraction of the raw materials, to production, packaging and transport, right through to use and recycling. This life cycle approach guarantees that the products’ main environmental impacts are reduced in comparison to similar products on the market. With regards to ingredients, the EU Ecololabel criteria specify substances that cannot be included in products in order to reduce or prevent environmental and human health related risks.
We also use Soil Association, EU Organic, USDA (as evidence of organic production) and Ecocert which has transparent criteria underpinned by clear basic principles to: protect the planet and its resources; to inform the consumer and to reduce unnecessary waste and discharge.
Company marketing statements
At present the coverage by third parties of kitchen and bathroom products is not as comprehensive as in other areas. Therefore, where companies clearly state that they are using natural ingredients we also award a kinder cleaning badge.
The Benefits of ‘Naturally derived’ Products with an indication that they have been derived naturally will have ingredients made from renewable plant-based materials, abundant minerals and/or water. Such products will be non-toxic, meaning that they are unlikely to cause an adverse health effect in normal or foreseeable use. However, this does not mean a product will not cause any allergic reaction or irritation in any person, as some individuals may have still have some form of allergic reaction or irritation to certain naturally derived ingredients or products. We also include a product if it is septic tank friendly because products that go into a septic tank safely need to decompose naturally.
Our view is that all ingredients should be on the label. This would make it much easier for consumer to understand what’s in their products and whether it fits with their requirements.
The Greener Cosmetics badge is awarded to Skin and Haircare products which have independent certification for natural or organic ingredients or where there are company on pack claims verifying that the product is organic.
Organic certification standards aim to protect the environment, maximise use of renewable resources and recycling, minimise pollution, waste and processing, while protecting local wildlife and animal welfare too.
We currently look for the following independent certifications for evidence of natural or organic ingredients: Soil Association, EU Organic, USDA, COSMOS, Ecocert, Ecolabel and BDIH.
Company on pack information
At present the coverage by third parties of cosmetics products is not as comprehensive as in other areas. Therefore, where companies clearly state that they are using natural or organic ingredients (e.g. “certified natural”) we also award a Greener Cosmetics badge.
No Chemicals of Concern
The No Chemicals of Concern badge is awarded to skin and haircare products which do not contain any ingredients on Giki’s chemicals of concern list.
Deciphering the ingredients list for cosmetics
Understanding the ingredients list on most cosmetics is difficult for the vast majority of users. Not only are the terms often highly scientific (e.g. the first ingredient on one of the UK’s top selling deodorants is Aluminium Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly) but there are also a large number of terms to understand. A global database of cosmetics ingredients currently contains over 22,000 cosmetic ingredients names.
Consumers increasingly want to understand what they are putting on their skin but it remains a challenging area to understand. The main concern that many consumers have is around irritation caused by certain products. This has led to an increasing number of products on the market that are, for example, sulphate free. Moreover, there have been growing concerns that some ingredients are potentially harmful to human health with links to cancer and effects on the reproductive system being two of the most commonly cited concerns.
Women and girls are particularly at risk as higher use of personal care and cosmetic products leads to higher exposure. Whilst the amount of exposure, the length of exposure, other factors and uncertainty make it almost impossible to determine a direct link many consumers take the approach that they would rather not take the risk.
As a result Giki has compiled a list of commonly cited chemicals of concern using a number of sources. These are the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a US based not-for profit), Breast Cancer UK (following their #ditchthejunk campaign), the David Suzuki Foundation (a Canadian charity) and Wikidata (reference for alternative names which is a pressing issue in this area). This list can never be fully comprehensive or complete so always check the label. We look to our users to help us to evolve the list over time so it focuses on what they most care about. The full list is available on request.
Awarding the badge
We then compare this list against ingredients on the label and products without chemicals of concern are awarded a badge. The list includes a number of ingredients or groups that consumers most often cite as concerning such as: parabens, phthalates, siloxanes, aluminum salts, Triclosan, Formaldehyde, sulphates and ethanolamines. However, with so many chemicals, and the use of different names for those chemicals, users should always use additional research if they want to exclude certain chemicals from their personal care basket.
Free from additives
The move away from added ingredients is in part due to concerns about the health effects of some of the ingredients added to food and drink both in the short term (e.g. the effect that certain added colours may have on children’s behaviour) and in the long term driven by concerns about the potential effect of consuming large amounts of additives in small doses over a lifetime.
But what are additives? The EU describes them simply as “any substance not normally consumed as a food in itself…”. E numbers are the code names for additives approved for use in Europe. A popular shortcut for consumers is therefore to avoid products that contain E numbers although this is complicated by the increasingly common use of E Number scientific names in the ingredients list and the challenge of understanding hundreds of E numbers some of which some consumers may not be concerned about (e.g. E300 which is Ascorbic acid which is actually Vitamin C; or E260 which is Acetic acid which is actually vinegar, a store cupboard ingredient). There are also other highly processed additives that are not on the E Numbers lists.
In terms of processing the clean eating movement has been part of a wider trend towards less processed food with consumers questioning why ingredients are added to replace the taste lost during processing or in order to extend shelf life where the benefits may seem to accrue to companies in the supply chain as opposed to consumers. Increasingly consumers believe that unprocessed food just tastes better and want to have transparency about what is going into their food. Finally, processed food may also be more energy intensive to produce and therefore have a higher carbon footprint.
To navigate this challenging environment, we have aimed to keep the Free from Additives badge as simple as possible. Giki looks on the label for products which contain additives, using both the FSA’s additives list as well as list of other additives which are not commonly consumed as food. If a product contains an additive then the product is not awarded the Free from Additives badge.
As always users should read the label and if you want to help us improve the badge scoring please get in touch. Our principles are that Giki’s badges should be simple to understand, represent what our users want to see and backed by evidence.
Around the world many people are concerned that they are overweight, want to lose weight and the majority want to cut back on fat and sugar whilst eating more natural and fresh foods at the same time.
Whilst different diet plans shift in popularity through time there is consistent advice provided by health organisations, such as the WHO and NHS, which focuses on eating a balanced diet (i.e. a variety of food), plenty of vegetables and fruit, moderate amounts of fat and less salt and sugar.
Giki therefore looks on the label for information that helps consumers understand whether a product is a healthier option by following the Food Standards Agency Front of Pack nutrition labelling methodology which provides traffic lights on food and drink based on fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content. This is combined with advice from the NHS:
- the more green on the label the healthier the choice
- amber means neither high nor low so you can eat foods with all of mostly amber on the label most of the time
- red means food high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar and these are foods we should cut down on
For healthier options Giki therefore awards a badge to products that have green and amber ratings.
The UK public’s concern for animal welfare has always been high and in recent years it has been increasing. Not only is the UK, “a nation of animal lovers” but a focus on animal welfare also means that animals live healthier and more active lives resulting in better quality product. Farmers also report that higher welfare standards improves their working environment and job satisfaction.
Giki uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is supported by good animal welfare standards.
The Soil Association is the UK’s leading organic certifier offering certification schemes across food, health and beauty and textiles. It has been a pioneer campaigning for healthy, humane and sustainable food since 1946 and is a charity that is able to act independently when certifying products. The Soil Association’s criteria are transparent and it’s logo is widely recognised and trusted by consumers across the UK.
As well as being associated with organic farming the Soil Association also requires high animal welfare standards for certification. Animals must be truly free range and the Soil Association standards cover: living conditions such as access to plenty of space; food quality (including as natural as possible diet free from genetically modified organisms); antibiotic use (which should not be routinely given); transport and slaughter.
The RSPCA farm animal welfare assurance scheme is owned by the RSPCA but is a charity in its own right and operates independently.
For a product to be labelled RSPCA Assured all aspects of the animal’s life must have been covered by the RSPCAs welfare standards which, as a leading animal welfare charity, are comprehensive. They are based on scientific evidence and industry experience and include: feed and water provision; the environment animals live in; how they are managed; healthcare; transport and humane slaughter.
A proportion of the members are monitored annually and the RSPCA has high consumer acceptance as the most recognised animal welfare charity in the UK.
The EU Organic Logo ensures that organic means the same for consumers and producers across the EU. EU legislation is detailed and rigorous and it is continuously reviewed whilst the “Euro Leaf” has become familiar to consumers across the UK in recent years. The certification standard ensures that organic operators are also reviewed annually. The EU’s definition of organic is refreshingly clear stating, “Put simply, organic farming is an agricultural system that seeks to provide you, the consumer, with fresh, tasty and authentic food while respecting natural life-cycle systems.”
To support this the EU follows a number of objectives, principles and practices. For farmers this includes practices such as strict limits on fertilizer usage and free-range, open-air livestock. EU organic animal welfare standards also covers feed (must not contain substances that artificially promote growth or GMOs), strict rules on living conditions with access to natural light and air and includes rules for transport.
We also include “Outdoor bred” claims for pork products which is supported by Compassion in World Farming.
No animal testing
Animal tests for cosmetic use are increasingly being replaced as better scientific methods become available and also because an increasing number of countries, including the EU, have banned the practice. Moreover 79% of consumers report that they would switch brands if the cosmetic they are using involved the forced suffering of animals and encouragingly 37 countries around the world now have some form of animal testing ban.
However, some countries require, and some companies continue to use, animal testing and so Giki uses a number of certification standards to ascertain if a product is not involved in animal testing. These include Cruelty Free International, NATRUE, BDIH and the Vegan Society. We also recognise on-pack manufacturer’s claims of no animal testing if it is put on the product label. The badge applies to the product, brand or company but not the ultimate owner which may sometimes be different.
However, whilst many companies put information on the pack, or are certified by independent bodies, for others the only way to know they don’t test on animals is to research the company and check their statements against a reputable source. This is an additional level of research we do for animal testing. We review company websites for claims of no animal testing focusing on whether both the product, and the ingredients, have never been tested on animals. We verify this using PETA’s Don’t Test list if the language on the website is unclear. The companies we research will be led by our users so if you see any that you think should be included please contact us.
Historically much of the focus on animal testing has been on cosmetics. However, animal testing is also used for household cleaning products which the EU ban does not cover. We therefore look for the same certification process in this area.