Show Notes Episode 11: Soil Association Beauty

Kirstie and Luke are invited to interview Lauren Bartley, Head of Cosmetic Certification, at the Soil Association. Have a listen as they discuss the history of the Soil Association, how they become the global highest standard for organic beauty certification and what they are doing to get their message out there.

Read the full interview below or listen to the original Podcast

Speaker Key:

KA              Kirstie Allen

LB               Lauren Bartley

LS               Luke Sherriff


KA              Episode 11, the Soil Association.  Today we speak Lauren Bartley, who is the business development director at the Soil Association for health and well-being, and we’re going to talk to her about Soil Association as a business, how it divides up health with its major business of food and to discuss through some of the changes that are coming in beauty certification currently with the new COSMOS logo and just generally to find out actually how Soil Association and the headquarters and the building that we talk about quite frequently works.  Hi, Lauren.

LB               Hello.

KA              We’re here with Luke.

LS               Hello.

KA              Hi, Lauren, and we have been having a round-table meeting this morning, discussing an idea that is literally at, completely at idea stage but right up our tree because it’s about actually having a certification badge for spas.  How did you feel the meeting went?


LB               Yes, I mean, to be honest, we didn’t really have an expectation for the meeting.  I think when you do a round-table discussion, it’s never really sure how it’s going to go.  I think we had is initial concept for the spa industry, but we are happy to profess that we’re not experts in the spa industry.  So we really just wanted to bring a group of experts together and really here your views and opinions and sort of get your knowledge really to see whether it would be a viable thing for us to look into, which it has been really, really insightful for me.  Personally, I’ve learnt like a great deal in two, three hours I’ve been here.  So thank you.

LS               And it’s based on an idea called Organic Served Here, which you’ve actually already launched, which is for cafés…

LB               Yes.

LS               Who want to get a badge about the fact that they sell organic too.

LB               Yes, definitely, so I think the Soil Association certification teams are really trying to get at more consumer-facing marketing around what a logo is, not just sort of popping up once or twice a year with campaigns, getting people to look for our logo, but actually have a standard place where you can see our logo and understand it.  So yes, we rolled out Organic Served Here, which, as you said, cafés and restaurant scheme to highlight


                   to consumers where you can eat and find organic food.  So the end result is that actually you’d go into the café and you’d know that it has, you know, 20% organic on their menu.  And it might drive you to go in there.  So it’s really creating that sort of awareness for consumers but of organic restaurants and cafés but also the Soil Association logo.

LS               And now awareness is kind of key to your job, right, because there’s…  Because as Kirstie was saying, Soil Association Charity is split across food, textiles…

LB               Food, farming, forestry, textiles, health and beauty.

LS               Okay.

LB               Catering.

KA              How?  I mean, we talk about Soil Association a lot.  It’s a huge part of our brand, but it’d be…  Now we’re sitting in its headquarters.  From, in your point of view, if I said to you what is Soil Association, what is it?

LS               Start from the top.

KA              Yes, let’s go with what is it.

LB               The Soil Association is split into two parts, so you’ve got Soil Association Charity, which is a campaign charity for organic, predominantly food and farming.  And then you’ve got the certification side of the business, which certify products or business as organic to our set of standards, so…


LS               And are they separate like structurally, or are they financially separate?

LB               Yes, they are both separate financially.  They have a different board, and essentially how it works actually is the certification side pays the charity a fee to…

LS               To license [overtalking].

LB               Use the logo.  Yes.

KA              And do they both sit in this building that we’re in, in Bristol?

LB               Yes, so they sit in the same building, but the charity sit one side of the office, which is actually the side that we’re sat at, and the certification team sit the other side.  And really we’re just separated by a glass door, but actually there’s a lot of benefits to being a certification body that also has a charity element…

LS               [Overtalking].

LB               And then a charity element that also has a certification side.  So it is working together, but also, from a consumer-facing point of view, just the Soil Association, as a whole, you don’t look at it as two separate things.

KA              And when did it start?

LB               So the Soil Association celebrated its seventieth birthday this year, so [unclear] 1946.


LS               Seven.

LB               Is it seven?

KA              So just [overtalking].

LB               Yes.

KA              So this isn’t a new phenomenon.  Like, as a consumer, organic is a recent thing.  Like it’s the last five, ten years.

LB               Yes.

KA              We’re talking a seriously long history.

LB               Yes, and I think when you look back to organic, I think over the years the message has really got confused, and you know, 70 years ago, organic was just food as it should be.  And it, you know, was set up as a food and farming charity to do things in a certain way.  And just look at how things have evolved since then like mass production of food, etc.  You know, conventional cosmetics and all those sorts of things, that’s recent.  Actually, almost organic is bringing it back to what it used to be, yes.

LS               And so you sit in the certification side.  Okay.

LB               Yes.

KA              And so everything to do with beauty…


LB               Yes.

KA              Does that all sit in the certification side?

LB               Yes, it does.  Yes, so within the health and beauty team, so to speak, you’ve got me, as a business development point of view.  You’ve two certification officers that certify brands and business to our standards.  You got an in-house chemist, who works part-time to review the non-ingredient, non-organic ingredients that go into some cosmetics.

LS               [Overtalking].

LB               And then you’ve got one person that looks at the standards, so policy and standards.

KA              Just for those listening, just to remind you that with the Soil Association, and this is still globally the highest set of rules, is that you, as a cosmetic, you have to have 70% organic, so from certified organic soil.  But then up to 30% can be from the natural category.  So what that chemist is doing is looking at that 30, potential 30%, and it might be 30%.  It might be no percent because you can, you can vary the percentages of each bottle.  So they’re checking that they genuinely are natural and whether there is any risks or issues within those bits.

LB               Yes.

KA              And how long…?  I mean, obviously, this was food.  It was farming.  How long has beauty been in the mix?


LB               So…

KA              Health and beauty and well-being, sorry.

LB               So our standards were created in 2002 to address the absence of legislation around organic cosmetics.  So could say relatively new.

LS               Yes.

LB               I mean, the organic industry, in general, for cosmetics is relatively new, so…

LS               We’ve talked about this before because obviously the food standards are set by European regulation.  There isn’t such a thing in beauty.

LB               No.

LS               So obviously the Soil Association decided we’re out there championing organic, championing the fact that people should be, you know, looking at their ingredients, etc.  But there isn’t a standard, and so you created it.

LB               Yes.

LS               So that is what we apply to.

KA              And since 2002, the EU have still not made a fixed directive on what to do with cosmetics, have they?


LB               No.

KA              With regard to organic.

LB               No.

KA              So essentially there is still no EU governmental-led authority, and so for the UK, you essentially are that authority.  Yes, and if you want to have a certified organic bottle in the UK, you need to come to you.

LB               Pretty much.  Yes, us or another certification body that does a similar job.  We have noticed that there are working groups now sort of looking into legislation around organic cosmetics, but they’re very initial stages.  And they’re just trying to gauge where, like why we exist, to be honest, and get, drawing from our knowledge of why we exist, what our standards are and trying to see if there’s something there to create some sort of regulation, which absolutely should be regulation.

LS               Yes.

LB               It’s quite frankly shocking that there isn’t.

LS               It would be a game changer, I think.

KA              I [unclear] we, I had a friend round yesterday that I haven’t seen for a long time, and we were talking about… 


                   She was just…  She said to me…  She said I don’t understand how you make a beauty product, and I was talking her through the stages and the testing you have to have.  But the testing that you don’t have to have which is the terrifying bit, that you don’t have to have kind of full dermatological testing, you don’t have to test to be organic, you can just say you are, is quite mesmerising what you are allowed to do and how much mistruth there is in an industry which is meant to be about beautiful things.

LB               Yes.

KA              It’s just a very unbeautiful side to the, to the beauty industry.

LS               Hashtag, are being misled?

KA              Yes.

LB               Come clean about beauty.

KA              Come clean about beauty, people.  That is what we’re going to be chanting, and so currently, when you come to Soil Association to get a beauty product stamped, you can only get an organic badge.  Well, I say currently, if we were talking up until like December 2016, but it’s just, it’s just changed.  And for the whole time I’ve been involved in organic, there’s always been wittering that a group of EU countries would get their badges together and we’d try and make one concise badge so that people understood what was going on.  And to some degree, that has just happened in essence.  So that’s what I wanted to ask you about next.  So what we’re going to have to start doing for all our spas, our therapists, but also the people using it, is going to have to start educating them on the fact that the badge is going to change slightly.  What’s happening?


LB               So we, in 2009, we, Soil Association got together with four other certification bodies that are based in the EU.  So that’s Ecocert in France, BDIH in Germany, ICEA in Italy, and Cosmebio, who are also French, yes.  And we decided that actually there are so many certification bodies out there that are essentially trying to do the same thing, which is to do a really good thing.  And so we, after nine years of conversation, had decided to do this together and launch this standard called COSMOS, which is the Cosmetic Organic Standard.  And so it basically means that whether you’re shopping in the UK or you’re shopping in France or Germany and you see certification, it means all those certification body are certifying to the same standard.  So it all means the same thing and almost creates a level playing field.

LS               And does it only cover those countries, or is it covering Europe in general, just wherever anyone is using the mark?

LB               No, so it is…  So it’s for certification bodies that almost want to be involved in it, and we would encourage that all certification bodies would join and sort of, you know, [overtalking].

KA              And have any more joined?

LB               Yes, so Control Union, who are worldwide, and the Australian certification body, and I


                   can never remember their name, which is terrible.  ACO.

KA              Yes.

LB               ACO.  They have joined, and then we’ve had a few others that have come through as well.

LS               Oh, that’s brilliant.

KA              Yes.

LB               So…

LS               So that really does then become a unifying [overtalking].

LB               Yes, and it’s designed to be an international [unclear] standard, and I think a lot of people get confused.  Because it was set up by European bodies, they think that it’s a European standard, but actually, no, it has the potential to be an international standard to still address the lack of regulation.

KA              And why its name?  Do you know why it was called COSMOS?

LB               COSMOS, no idea.  Just Cosmetic Organic Standard.  Aside from that…

LS               And would someone like USDA ever want to get involved?  Could they?

LB               Yes.

KA              So USDA is the American version of Soil Association.


LB               Yes, so their standards…

KA              There’s a look on…  There’s a look on Lauren’s face.

LS               Slightly lower.

LB               For cosmetics considerably lower than COSMOS.  So actually it’d be a big move for them if they were to go for COSMOS and certify to that standard.  We obviously would encourage they do.

LS               Do that.  Oh great.

KA              The dream is essentially everyone comes under COSMOS.

LB               Yes.

KA              So that the consumer has some sort of clue as to what is going on out there.

LB               Yes, exactly.

KA              And then the other distinct difference with it is that it’s been split in two, isn’t it?  So you can now get a COSMOS organic badge, and you can also get COSMOS natural badge, yes.  Now, originally, when this was all first talked about, I thought that the Soil Association badge disappeared and we just got the COSMOS organic.  Was that ever


                   the plan, or have I just made that?

LB               No, it was never the plan.

KA              I just made it up.

LB               I don’t think maybe, perhaps it’s been that clear.  When you say you’re moving over to a new standard and it’s called COSMOS, you assume if then, if you’re not certifying with Soil Association standard any more, then the Soil Association…

LS               Where do you [overtalking]?

LB               Element disappears.  But actually no.  So there is…  The way they talk about it is actually it’s a COSMOS signature, so you still have the Soil Association logo, and then there’s COSMOS signature underneath to almost symbolise that actually Soil Association certifies to this standard.  And you have that across board.

KA              So what will happen on our bottles is we’ll still have the Soil Association with what I know is called the [unclear] symbol in the middle, is the internal Soil Association office, but underneath it, it will now say COSMOS organic.

LB               Yes.

KA              Equivalently, we could make a bottle and have not as high percentage, not 70% organic percentage, and fit into a natural category.  And I could get Soil Association badge, and it could say COSMOS natural.


LB               Yes, although the symbols are different.  So it wouldn’t have the Soil Association [unclear].  It’s an N, not the Soil Association symbol.

LS               Because obviously it doesn’t meet the Soil Association organic standard.

LB               No, what we’ve kind of realised is that actually that the infinity symbol with [unclear], the Soil Association symbol, whatever you want to say it, is synonymous with organic, and actually to have, then have a natural certification, it almost muds waters.  So we…

LS               You’re diluting it.

LB               Yes, you need to be really clear that actually there’s a difference between organic and natural.

KA              Yes, I think, as licensees, which is what we’ll refer to as the brands, I think that we’d all kind of missed it slightly what was occurring.  And then, in the last few months, led by Paula at her pharmacy, there has been somewhat of a licensee backlash, hasn’t there?  And Lauren has been having to stand at the forefront of it, and it really is…  Our worry is that obviously, when you choose to do the organic route, you’re making…  Every single ingredient decision is more expensive, and at the end of the day, we’re all…  We are all businesses, so whereas the worry is of the symbols being too similar…

LB               Yes.


KA              That we could almost half our internal costs and still get a badge that nearly looked the same and that the consumers were going to think of as the same.  So you guys have been drawing…

LB               Yes.

KA              And drawn lots of different new ones.  And so we will put up…  Alongside this podcast, we’ll put up a little slide that you can see these badges on, so you can see the new COSMOS organic one, you can see the new COSMOS natural one, and you can see what it looks like.  So at the moment, as Pinks Boutique, if we make a new product today and send it to you guys to check, we have to go through the slightly new different COSMOS organic route.

LB               Yes.

KA              What happens to our current bottles that have been already accredited just as a Soil Association badge?  When do they have to change?

LB               So essentially they don’t have to change.  If you’re not changing your formulation, then there is no…  You know, there’s no time frame for you to change.  So we’re saying that as of January 2017, we’ll certify new products to COSMOS standard.  Anything existing can stay as Soil Association, whereas if you have Soil Association now on one of your products and you want to dramatically change the formulation, technically class as a new product, so then you’d have to go through COSMOS certification.

LS               But if you wanted to relabel a formulation that had already been certified…


LB               Yes.

LS               Then you could keep the Soil Association organic.

LB               Yes.

LS               And it would just be a rebranding essentially.

LB               Yes.

LS               And so if I was to reformulate a product, personally, which is not out of question, from now onwards, and it met the Soil Association and the COSMOS organic standard, I would get two logos, Soil Association logo and a COSMOS organic signature.

LB               Yes, but essentially one, it’s one logo.

LS               It’s one logo now.

LB               Yes.

LS               Fine, and then, if I was to meet the natural standard, I would get separate logo.

LB               Yes.

LS               Which is slightly different.  So let’s not confuse this to the old Soil Association organic standard.


LB               Yes.

LS               Okay, I got it.

KA              It is, it is slightly…  To use not very polite words, I can understand, from a brand point of view, it’s a bit of a [unclear] in that there is a very good chance we…  Am I allowed to say that?

LS               Too late.

KA              We’re going to end up at some point with different badges.

LB               Yes.

KA              So if we bring out three new products this year, we’re going to have a COSMOS organic badge, but we can’t just reprint all the other labels to match COSMOS organic.  They’ve essentially got to go through the certification and check process.

LB               Yes.

KA              And there is a chance that actually, because the standards are slightly different, that actually we might have to tweak things and change things.  So it almost is like you’re reformulating again, potentially.

LB               Yes.


KA              There have been a few brands that have had those challenges, haven’t they?

LB               Yes.

KA              So there is a good chance for over the next few years you might see Soil Association brands where they’ve got slightly different logos on the bottles.  But I suppose, as long as you’re in organic category, which we are, you will still get that [unclear] infinity symbols.

LB               Yes.

KA              It might just have different words with it, and I suppose again, from our point of view, that’s just going to be a new education piece.  How is like the future of beauty doing with Soil Association?  How many new brand applications have you had?

LB               So in 2016 we had 54 new businesses come through.

KA              Fifty-four new beauty businesses.

LS               One a week, busy.

LB               Yes, very busy for…

KA              Incredible.


LB               a very small team as well.  We definitely felt the effect.

KA              And how long realistically does that take for them to process through?

LB               So we like to say it takes three months, but that is entirely dependent on where you are with your product formulation.  I think some people come on the journey and say I want to create a product and I want to make it organic.  And that’s as far as it got.  They have no idea what ingredients they want to use.

LS               That will never be done in three months.

LB               Which will never be done in three months.

KA              I’d add…

LS               [Overtalking]

KA              I’d add years to the end of that.

LB               Yes.

LS               Years.

KA              Three years later, you’ll have a…

LB               And then you have people that are, have read the standard, are fully up…  Like they know exactly what they can and can’t use before they formulated or in the process of formulating.


                   And that’s very easy to process because they’re almost already meeting the standard, just go through that journey.  And then you have other people as well that have organic products that they think are organic or contain ingredients that they think would be accepted.  And then they find out that actually it wouldn’t be accepted and actually they need to look for alternatives.

KA              That’s so…  That’s the painful category.

LB               [Overtalking]

LS               Yes, reformulating [overtalking].

LB               Yes, so all being well [overtalking].

KA              And are you noticing like any sort of trends in them?  Like are they all certain type of people?  Are they mainly girls?  Are they mainly boys?  Like what’s coming through?

LB               I think a lot of our brands that we certify target females, female skincare.  We’re like starting to have brands that come through looking at more men’s grooming, and male grooming [unclear] actually probably more unisex than men in particular.  Pregnancy and baby also something that’s like really coming through…

KA              Huge.


LB               That we’ve really noticed.  And one thing that we definitely noticed that we’re lacking is make-up brands.

KA              That was going to be my next question.

LB               Yes.

KA              Where are the holes?  Like what are you not certifying that you want to certify?

LB               Make-up, absolutely, make-up.

KA              And do you think…?  I get asked this all the time.  Every spa I go into, by the time we’ve got to like first half through the day and I’ve destroyed their view of the beauty industry and they need to go home and look at all their ingredients, the first…

LB               Yes.

KA              Question, and it makes me realise actually how motivated women are by make-up before anything else.  Maybe we should all be make-up brands.

LB               Yes.

KA              Their first question, it’s not…

LS               Did you seriously just question the fact women are driven by make-up?

KA              Yes.

LS               The person that spends at least half an hour every day.


KA              By the way, today we forgot all our food.  We forgot all our podcast material, but we never forget my make-up.

LS               Yes, which is astounding that you now wonder…

KA              I’m really bad at…

LS               That women spend…

KA              I’m really bad at forgetting my phone, and so Luke, for my birthday, found this really clever purse that charges my phone but puts my make-up in because he’s like the only…

LB               Amazing.

KA              Thing I can trust you to ever, ever have is your make-up.

LB               Oh, I love that.  It’s brilliant.

LS               Hence my surprise that you didn’t expect therapists be driven by…

KA              So actually their first question is not what should I wash my body with, not what should I wash my hair in…

LB               Yes.


KA              Not what skin cream should I use.  It’s what make-up should I use.

LB               Yes.

KA              Followed by what fake tan should I use.  And they are two major holes…

LB               Yes.

KA              Truthfully in an organic-certified world.

LB               Yes.

KA              There are a huge amount of more natural make-up brands that have come through in the last two or three years.  Like five years ago, I could barely get anything in my make-up bag to be in the green category.

LB               Yes.

KA              I say green loosely with inverted commas.  Now you can, but I mean, have you certified any?

LB               So Odylique and Neal's Yard have a very small range of make-up that’s certified.  The issue is it’s actually very, very small, and [unclear] they don’t want us to promote it because it’s not their main…

LS               Their main [overtalking].

KA              Their main [overtalking].


LB               Yes, and I think it’s again like very much in development stage.  I think there’s just a lot of work there to be done.

KA              Do you know some of the formulation standards?  Do you think it’s possible?  Do you think someone could actually make a volumising mascara with the restrictions they’re going to be given?

LB               Yes, to be honest, potentially under natural certification.  Probably not right now under organic.  I have been speaking to a lady who actually used to work for Ecocert, which is the French certification body…

LS               Yes.

LB               Who’s gone off on her own to I’m creating the first range of certified organic make-up.  Okay, so I’m working on an organic mascara, and I saw her…  This was months, months, months ago.  I saw her two weeks ago.  I said, Oh, how are you getting on with that?  She said, You cannot make an organic mascara.

LS               Whatever I said before, disregard that comment.

LB               So…

LS               We’ve been looking for however long for an organic depilation wax, haven’t we?


KA              Yes, the actual…

LS               There are things…

KA              Sticky wax, the warm wax or the hot wax.  People still can’t believe that you still can’t get certified, and actually I had, I had…  You know, when you have phone calls and you know that someone’s a bit weird on the phone with you.  And it actually turned it was a lady from quite high up in Neal’s Yard.  And she wasn’t being unethical.  She was genuinely asking for their salon.  She’s like I’ve heard you might have the actual wax.

LB               Yes.

KA              Do you have an organic-certified wax?  And we ended up in this really long conversation about how nobody yet has been able to find or make one.

LB               Yes.

KA              Because people don’t think about it.  You actually have to…  Mostly, the trees get cut down to extract the resin that comes out, the wax.  Okay, so the challenge is out there if you’re listening.  World’s first organic…

LS               Mascara.

KA              Mascara.  Yes, with volumising lift.

LS               Waterproof.

KA              So you think pregnancy’s coming through strong.


LB               Yes.

KA              Men, but not make-up.  What about hair?

LB               Yes, hair is another actually.  Yes, you are right, and especially when it comes to shampoos and conditioners.  Like, historically, they’ve been a bit crap.

KA              Yes.

LS               And is that, is that people’s…?  We were discussing this very thing, as we’ve got one out, which is, which is American.  It might…  I’m not…  I couldn’t tell instantly by looking it.  It would be come close to close to your standards, I think.  But there’s a perception because it doesn’t foam, because it doesn’t have that…

KA              Yes.

LS               Like silicone feel that it’s not doing a good job.  But is it…?  I mean, I’m actually asking you two this question.  Is that actually the case?  Is it not doing a good job, or is it so engrained that L'Oréal smells a certain way, feels a certain way, foams up, and leaves your hair like…

KA              Yes.


LS               You know, in terms of shampoo, as a man, I want it to wash my hair.

LB               Yes.

LS               Do they just not even do that, or is that unfair, and it’s just there’s too much cultural…

LB               I think…  When you think about the…

LS               Expectation.

LB               Organic cosmetics industry first started, people were really receptive to it and they wanted to try it.  And then they tried it and they were like oh God.  Like, oh no, it doesn’t work.  It smells.  It’s mouldy and like doesn’t foam.  It doesn’t do this.  And now you look at it, and it has developed massively.

LS               Yes.

LB               But I think, yes, there is this like misconception that, you know, it needs to foam.  It needs to smell like…

LS               It needs to be white.

LB               Grapefruit.  It needs to be white.  It needs to do this.  But actually there are brands that are coming through now that are certified as organic and do really great shampoo and conditioner.  One of them we don’t actually certify…  It’s certified COSMOS…

LS               Yes.

LB               But not by Soil Association.  It’s called Urtekram, and they are actually now stocked in Tesco.


KA              Oh.

LB               Yes, and I think it’s around £6, so slightly more than what you would pay.  [Overtalking]

LS               Yes.

KA              So what have you got in the certified camp for hair?

LB               Not a great deal.  It is mainly shampoos and conditioners, probably maybe more conditioning treatments than shampoo because of the [overtalking] factors and things.

KA              Serums and oils…

LB               Yes.

KA              Are easier to do.

LB               Yes.

KA              What brand names are there?

LB               So Odylique again do shampoo and conditioner, Intelligent Nutrients also do a range, and I’m definitely missing a few.  Oh, Neal’s Yard again do shampoo and conditioner.


KA              Is, Tabitha is going to come through…

LB               Yes, new.

KA              Really, really just come through as a Soil Association…

LB               Two weeks ago.

KA              Yes, I saw the Instagram post.

LB               Yes, very new.

KA              Am I pronouncing it correctly?

LB               Yes.

KA              Tabitha James.

LB               Yes, it is.  So two weeks ago, certified, so I’ve yet to try products.  So…

LS               On the birthday list.

KA              I have, I have it on my list.  I’m going to send her an e-mail.

LB               Yes.

KA              And see if she’d like a cleanser in exchange to try a shampoo, and going back to your question of do they work.  I don’t have an answer.  I really want to say, yes, it does and it’s just cultural.  But in honesty, shampoo is one where…  And it’s possibly because I’ve got quite difficult hair as in I’ve got a lot of hair and it’s quite dry.  Sometimes I actually still don’t feel that they do work, even if I ignore the bubbling.


LB               Yes.

LS               I mean, I …

KA              I just can’t seem to get them coated through my hair.

LB               Yes.

LS               I mean, even…  I mean, well, yes, obviously, children don’t get a choice because we decide what they wash their hair in.  But Leyla’s hair that we washed in the organic stuff the other day was clean and fine.  But then she went to hairdresser on Monday, and…

KA              He wasn’t organic.

LS               And her hair still looks amazing…

KA              Yes.

LS               On Thursday.  So you know, it’s a trade-off.  I mean that’s…

KA              Yes.

LS               The challenge, I think, with the hair.  It feels like a trade-off, where with organic beauty…


KA              Yes, it seems…

LS               It’s not.  It’s as good.

LB               Yes.

KA              And this is why…  I mean, we have actually made shampoos, but we’ve never launched them, and this is my worry, with make-up as well, is that it still feels like a bit of a compromise.  It feels like your ethics are winning over results.

LB               Yes.

KA              Whereas the thing, I think, is incredible about skincare is that it’s not true.

LB               Yes.

KA              You can give equivalent results, if not better, and that’s, I think, probably why, if you look down your list of licensees, Soil Association brands, why most of us are skincare.

LB               Yes.

LS               And talking about that growth, you know, are there any big brands going sort of backwards and thinking, wow, we got this great range of, shall we say, synthetic products, but organic’s where it’s at and they’re retrofitting stuff.  Or is it generally just new brands coming back?  I mean…

LB               Yes.

LS               Unilever, I suppose, tend to just buy up organic brands as opposed to making their own.


LB               Yes, no, really, to be honest, it is probably like smaller brands coming through to almost do the right thing.

LS               Yes.

LB               Get certified, create organic ranges and things rather than big brands coming through and sort of saying…

LS               Adding an organic range.

LB               Add an organic range.  But actually I think, with a lot of the campaign work that we’re doing this year and the demand for organic and natural cosmetics anyway and, I think, if, the way that trajectory is going, if we can get that certification message almost running parallel, then these bigger brands probably aren’t going to have a choice.  They have to consider certification and doing organic or natural and doing it the right way if the consumer demand is there.

KA              It’s a funny one.  Someone said to us a few weeks ago that there are rumours that Unilever are about to get very seriously involved…

LB               Yes.


KA              In organic.  And they were like, oh, that’s terrible for you, and I was like not really, it possibly proves our point.

LB               Yes.

KA              Like they will have marketing and budget to spread the message much more…

LB               Yes.

KA              Quickly than we will.  And in some ways, that actually might massively help.

LB               Yes.

KA              The downside will be if they’re not doing it properly.

LB               Definitely, yes.

KA              So it’s got to be them doing it with a real organic brand.

LB               Yes.

KA              But yes, it will quite interesting to see because there are becoming a few organics brands now that are relatively sizable…

LB               Yes.

KA              If I was sitting in the Unilever camp, I’d be watching.

LB               Definitely, yes, and then, from a Soil Association…


KA              Or P&G or whoever else [unclear].

LB               Yes, and then, from a Soil Association point of view, we are actually in conversations with a lot of these bigger retailers and bigger players in the market to sort of say, you know, this is what we’re about.  This is what we’re doing.  We’re doing this campaign work.  We’re also doing this and sort of creating that awareness of actually maybe should look out for like…

KA              Because it’s…

LB               Certification.  Here we are.

KA              It’s still amazing that if you mentally think about being in most beauty department stores, there are nearly zero.

LB               Yes.

KA              So if you think…  If you stand in John Lewis, that’s probably the only one you can get Neal’s Yard.

LB               Yes.

KA              You can get Dr. Hauschka, but most of the rest of them, like if you were standing in Debenhams or…


LB               Yes.

KA              You’ve got no real certified beauty option.

LB               Yes.

KA              Which is quite interesting.

LS               So that’s the challenge.

KA              Yes, and it is a real challenge.  We discussed this when we went into the John Lewis spas because we were asked by their head office why we had not approached the main beauty self-serve.  And we were saying that what would happen if we were standing on the normal department floor, telling people our truths and handing out our little cards with avoid this ingredient, this ingredient, this ingredient.

LB               Yes.

KA              And then they walk up to the Clinique or the [unclear] or any Estée Lauder or L'Oréal stand and present that.  Like you’re going to cause chaos.

LB               Yes.

KA              It’d be a week before they threw you out.


LB               Definitely, yes, I mean, we spoke with a major high-street retailer around organic and sort of approached them really to sort of say like your beauty department like what is it doing.  And they called us in for a meeting.  It’s within their like CSR to look at these sorts of things, so it was a good opportunity to talk about it.  And they actually probably gave us some perspective on it and actually sort of said, you know, we’d love to stock certified brands and we’d love to create a range of products that are certified.  But we, what we don’t want to do is have certified or nothing.  And actually these two brands, two, you know, different…

KA              Worlds.

LB               Worlds, yes.

KA              Yes.

LB               Would have to sit side by side, and actually we can’t have you as the Soil Association going out, and campaigning for all of these things.  And then you walk into one of our stores, and we’ve got certified and non-certified or non-organic or natural.  Like it needs to be a happy medium.  Like the, what we need to kind of understand from you, as the Soil Association, is actually if we did stock Soil Association–approved brands, that that wouldn’t be the only type of brands that we could stock.

KA              Yes, and also that they’re not…

LB               So it was interesting.  They are in a difficult position.


KA              They’re not going to cause chaos to the non-certified organic brands…

LS               That are currently…

KA              By revealing…

LB               Yes.

KA              What rubbish they actually have in their very expensive bottles.

LB               Yes.

KA              It’s a…

LB               Yes.

KA              And this is…  I was always say this is our $64 million question.  I get asked like how big, how big can an organic brand get…

LB               Yes.

KA              globally.

LB               Yes.

KA              Because there is the might of Estée Lauder and L'Oréal that are you ever going to get past, and even, would they even want to buy you.  Because if they bought you, you’re still saying such terrible things about their other brands that produce billions of pounds.

LB               Yes.


LS               Which is probably why the [unclear] online and places like Naturisimo do so well.

KA              Yes, definitely.

LS               Because they don’t have to worry about offending the…

KA              Yes, or…

LS               The brand that’s over the aisle.

KA              Or what…

LS               They can say exactly what they like and stand apart.

KA              Or what we’ve discussed that if you did go to retail, you’d probably do it with your own salons, spas, and stores.

LB               Yes.

KA              Because then you can say what you like.

LS               Oh, which is what Neal’s Yard have essentially done.  I mean…

LB               Yes.


KA              Yes, it’s interesting.

LS               So there we go.  It is interesting times.

KA              We will see.  Watch this space.  See…

LS               A massive thank you to Lauren.

KA              Yes, thank you for having us.

LS               It’s been really fascinating afternoon.

LB               Thank you.  It was fun.

LS               We’ve learnt a huge amount.  She’s doing awesome job of getting Soil Association organic beauty out there.

LB               Thank you.

LS               I’m very excited about the upcoming campaign.

LB               Yes.

LS               Having moved organic beauty to main.  Having a good lead-in.

KA              Yes, and it was really lovely to see inside the headquarters.  I think one of things, and we just, we have a Facebook live record of this as well, is actually how vast and big it is, like how many people are involved in that process.  So when you see it on your loaf of bread or your little beauty bottle, there’s a whole team of 120.


LB               Hundred and twenty, yes.

KA              People sitting in Bristol making it happen.

LB               Yes.

KA              But no, thank you ever so much for joining us, Lauren.

LB               Thank you very much.

KA              And thank you to the Soil Association hosting us, and we’re looking forward to organic beauty week.

LS               And thanks for listening.  We look forward to seeing you soon, our next podcast.  Have a great day.

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