How we award badges
Giki’s aim is to drive sustainable consumption by connecting consumer values with their shopping decisions. We do this by awarding badges to 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 provide easy to understand badges as well as transparency about how we award those badges.
Review the badges below to see how this works.
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.
The average UK household recycles just under 45% of their household waste. Whilst this is a good proportion the UK also has an EU target to reach 50% by 2020. Recycling has a number of benefits including conserving natural resources (recycled materials can be used again), saving energy (it takes less energy to recycle than make new), helping the environment (reduced need for materials extraction and saves GHG emissions because less energy is used) and reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
Giki therefore looks on the label for information that helps consumers understand whether some, or all, of a package can be recycled.
However, it is important to note that not all packaging that can be recycled will have recycling labels.
On-pack recycling label
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 500 brands. Recyclenow gives detailed information on what can be recycled, and where.
Giki uses the OPRL to determine if any of the packaging can be recycled. However it is important to note that not all packaging will have the recycling label but this does not mean you can’t recycle it. Examples could include plastic bottles where a symbol containing a number tells you whether it could be recycled. If you want to encourage companies to follow the OPRL scheme let us know.
An increasing number of consumers want to buy food that has been grown locally. This helps to explain the proliferation in farmers’ markets that we have seen in the UK over the last few years as well as an increasing focus in the supermarket on which country any food comes from. Consumers value freshness and the ability to support UK farmers and businesses as key considerations when choosing local produce. People may think about what it means to be local differently with some referring to the surrounding area whilst others include produce from the UK. In either case a further benefit for many products is reduced food miles which could mean a lower carbon footprint. Although this will vary from product to product what is clear that buying local will confer additional benefits such as those mentioned above and will almost always be less energy intensive than products that are airfreighted to the UK. Consumers also increasingly want to buy seasonal produce. If this is a feature that you think Giki should investigate then let us know. Eat the seasons offers useful advice on what’s in season today. Giki therefore looks for products which are produced or manufactured in the UK.
In order to ascertain whether a product is locally produced we look for products that have been made, manufactured, produced, baked or brewed in the United Kingdom or any area within it. We use labelling information to help us to find this out supported by logos, such as the Red Tractor UK flag, which confirm that a product comes from the UK. Consumers also increasingly want to buy produce that is local to their area. If this is a feature that you think Giki should investigate then let us know.
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.
Sustainable supply chains
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 uses materials that come from responsibly managed forests we use labelling information to find out whether it has a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label.
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.
Responsible palm oil
Palm oil is used in many common products sold in the supermarket including margarine, ice cream, 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 a natural preservative. This explains why it is so common in the goods we buy. However, knowing a product contains palm oil is not always easy with almost 250 different names for palm oil and its derivatives. However, in some regions the cultivation of palm oil has, and continues to, cause deforestation which impacts both local wildlife and also reduces the ability of forests to sequester carbon dioxide. Furthermore local populations are often not consulted over the use of their land and violations of workers’ rights and fair pay have also occurred. WWF continues to be a world leader in investigation and reducing the impacts of palm oil production. Whilst reducing palm oil usage is an attractive option the reality is that, in the short term, the volume of palm oil demanded by consumers makes this hard in practice. Giki therefore looks for companies that are using sustainable palm oil in categories where palm oil usage is prevalent.
Roundtable on Responsible Palm Oil (RSPO)
In order to ascertain whether palm oil is sustainable we look for companies that are using palm oil that is RSPO certified. The RPSO is an independent not-for-profit that brings together companies and other organisations who are involved in the palm oil supply chain. The RSPO follows a strict verification process and certification is transparent as is membership of the RSPO. However, there remain two concerns about the use of RSPO. The first is that there are a number of different levels of certification which are hard for the consumer to understand. These range from ’identity preserved’ (where sustainable palm oil from a single identifiable source is kept separate from ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain), to ‘book and claim’ (where the supply chain is not monitored for the presence of sustainable palm oil but manufacturers and retailers can buy credits from RSPO-certified growers, crushers and independent smallholders). Perhaps this explains the second concern which is that whilst the RPSO is well regarded as a leader by experts it is less well known amongst consumers. This may relate to the fact that there are so many names for palm oil which makes it difficult for the consumer to understand when they need to focus on buying sustainable palm oil. In future releases of Giki we hope to be able to unpick some of these challenges by flagging when a product may contain palm oil and perhaps linking to companies who use different supply chain certificates. Let us know if this is a feature you would like to see. In order to ascertain whether palm oil has been produced sustainably we look for products that use the RSPO trademark or which use the terms sustainable palm oil, CSPO or responsible palm oil on their labels. The use of terms (e.g. sustainable palm oil) as well as third party certification (e.g. RSPO trademark) is important since many companies are members of the RSPO but do not have specific product accreditation. We do not want to miss these companies when reviewing the label. At the same time, however, this means we are dependent on companies following fair marketing principles. We look to our users to help us find instances where this may not be the case.
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 and high carbon footprints. This is based on research from WRAP, the Barilla Institute and academic studies. Over time we would like to add product level carbon footprints but there is currently far too little information to attempt this.
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, confectionary, 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, an increasing number of NGOs support sustainable palm oil.
- 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.
- 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.
- Replacing palm oil with other types of oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as a food ingredient.
- However, some people still choose to avoid palm oil because 1) it’s hard to know whether palm oil is sustainable 2) the impacts are just too great and 3) the rules around 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). RPSO is an independent, not-for-profit, 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:
- 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.
- Does more than 80% of their 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. What are they though?
- Mass Balance means that sustainable palm oil comes from certified sources but it is also mixed with 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Where a company does not report to the RSPO we do not give 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. We use the RSPO data that was available in July 2018 and will update annually with the ACOP reporting process.
- 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.
This analysis helps us to find companies who use sustainable palm oil. The next step is to ensure that palm oil exists in the product. This is sometimes more challenging than it sounds since there are over 250 different names for palm oil and its derivatives. We look for a smaller range of different names for palm oil (such as palm oil, palmitate or sodium laureth sulphate) and will look to grow this list over time.
The badges are 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.
If a product does not contain palm oil then we don’t give it a sustainable palm oil badge. This may seem obvious but there are some products that use alternatives instead of palm oil. Finding a way to include these products will be part of our future research.
Concerns and future work
The RSPO, we believe, offers the most comprehensive and up to date view of sustainable palm oil on a global scale. However, concerns remain about the use of RSPO. The first is that their certification and rules simply do not go far enough. In particular many consumers, NGOs and investors would like the RSPO to add a formal “no deforestation” pledge to their rules which are currently being reviewed. We support this and the call by 60 NGOs for a no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation pledge (termed NDPE). If the RSPO updates its rules then we will be able to incorporate this in our score at a future date. At the same time we may review souring policies more broadly.
We also expect our threshold for sustainable palm to increase each year. Within a few years our hope is that all companies will have 100% segregated and identity preserved palm oil.
Please 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 kind ingredients. Cradle to Cradle Certified The Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM 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. Clear labelling 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. If you agree contact us.
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. More companies are also using natural ingredients and we continue to research new independent certification in this area whilst debating how much weight to put on company claims.
We currently look for the following independent certifications for evidence of natural or organic ingredients: Soil Association, EU Organic, USDA, COSMOS and BDIH.
Company marketing statements
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 ingredients (e.g. “certified natural”) we also award a Greener Cosmetics badge.
No chemicals of concern
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. 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.
Kitchen and bathroom
Understanding the ingredients that are used in the kitchen and bathroom (e.g. dishwasher tablets, drain cleaners or detergent) can also 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 what is in kitchen and bathroom products challenging and is one of our key research projects for 2018. At the moment the only way to be sure is to check a manufacturer’s website, which may not always be easy to find, against a list of chemicals of concern. Our view is that .Therefore all ingredients should be on the label and kitchen and bathroom products are one of our main research areas for 2018. If you’d like to help please contact us.
Free from additives
An increasing number of consumers are looking for products that have fewer additives whether they are colours, preservatives, flavours, sweeteners, artificial or other added ingredients. More broadly there is also greater demand for products that are simply less processed.
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 people are concerned that they are overweight, many of them are looking to lose weight and the majority want to cut back on fat and sugar whilst eating more natural and fresh foods with this in mind.
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 & 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 transpo
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. We appreciate that this less stringent requirement than certification may not be suitable for everyone and both PETA and Naturewatch Foundation provide comprehensive test / no test lists. If you believe that a company label is not correct then join us in talking to them.
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.