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Leading Voluntary Actions

The cosmetics and personal care industry places a major emphasis on proactive self-regulatory initiatives, in particular within the areas of advertising and sustainable development.

Responsible advertising

A strong legal framework, including both horizontal laws and elements of the Cosmetics Regulation, are in place in the EU to prevent misleading advertising.

Due to cultural and linguistic differences between markets, and the rapid pace of scientific progress, a purely legislative approach would however make it difficult to implement then monitor a system of checks and balances that protects consumers from misleading or offensive advertising. For this reason, good self-regulation delivers great benefits in parallel with legislation.

In order to provide guidance to our members on this issue, we have published the Charter and Guiding Principles on Responsible Advertising and Marketing Communication. It articulates our industry’s commitment to high standards for advertising in Europe and provides guidance on how to address potential negative impacts of advertising, with specific recommendations around themes like airbrushing, advertising to children, and respect for the individual.

For further details, view the charter on responsible advertising and marketing communication in full in the Guiding Principles on Responsible Advertising and Marketing Communication.

The charter was produced in line with the European Commission’s recommendations on voluntary actions and follows its principles of self-regulation. The charter is registered in the Commission’s self-regulation database and we are part of its community of practice on co-and self-regulation.

Audit on industry self-regulation compliance

Working with the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), an independent association that represents national self-regulatory organisations, Cosmetics Europe ran the largest ever pan-European audit of its kind in 2015.

The exercise aimed to check whether the current regulatory framework is effective when complemented with the self-regulation outlined in our charter and guiding principles.

A total of 1,861 advertisements were reviewed, including 577 television and 1,284 print advertisements aired or published over three single month periods: September 2014, March and June 2015.

Upon completion, the results demonstrate the efficiency of self-regulation, with 91% of advertisements considered as compliant with all relevant advertising codes and laws. Only 6% of advertisements were considered to be in breach of the relevant advertising codes and laws while 3% were considered as ‘in doubt’. Despite the positive outcome, Cosmetics Europe remains committed to further improving compliance by promoting both regulatory and self-regulatory frameworks and working with stakeholders like EASA and national self-regulatory bodies.

View the full results of the EASA audit.

Sustainable development

Our industry is committed to sustainable development in order to help to protect the human and environmental resources we utilise and affect. In line with the United Nations, we define sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, based on three pillars: economic development, environmental protection and social responsibility.

Cosmetics Europe promotes sustainable development by providing guidance to our members on voluntary measures to improve sustainability practices. We have developed documents for members including ‘Good Sustainability Practice for the Cosmetics Industry’, which provides practical advice on developing an effective sustainability strategy and ‘Ten Steps to Sustainability: all you need to know and do for a successful start’, which assists companies (particularly SMEs) that are commencing their sustainability efforts.

Cosmetics Europe has developed specific guidelines for complying with EU legislation relating to genetic resources, and the equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use. We worked with stakeholders from across the cosmetics value chain, specifically three European associations representing cosmetic ingredient suppliers EFFCI, IFRA and UNITIS, to produce the guidelines, which are available to members.

Voluntary action on specific ingredients

Although cosmetic ingredient legislation is stringent, it can take a significant amount of time to regulate a specific ingredient. For this reason, swift self-regulatory action can work faster than legislation if a problem is identified concerning a specific ingredient. Our industry has self-regulated in this context for a number of years, on ingredients such as methyl eugenol, mineral hyrdocarbons and tea tree oil.

Recent examples:

Methylisothiazolinone (MIT)
In the interests of consumer health and in response to new clinical data, market feedback and Quantitative Risk Assessment analysis that shows an increase in adverse skin reactions, Cosmetics Europe published an industry-wide recommendation to discontinue the use of the preservative MIT in leave-on skin cosmetics and personal care products. Cosmetics Europe recommended that industry should not await regulatory intervention, but rather, take voluntary action to implement this change, although the European Commission later adopted the same recommendation. Read the full text of the recommendation.

Microplastics
The occurrence of plastic debris in the marine environment is an issue of increasing public concern. The vast majority of small plastic particles have been shown to come from the breakdown of bigger plastic materials.

In 2015, Cosmetics Europe published a specific recommendation for companies to discontinue, in wash-off cosmetic products placed on the market as of 2020: the use of synthetic, solid plastic particles used for exfoliating and cleansing that are non-biodegradable in the marine environment. This recommendation built on voluntary initiatives already taken by individual member companies of Cosmetics Europe. This action was taken despite the cosmetics and personal care products sector being considered as a minor potential contributor to the total amount of the aquatic plastic litter.

On 27 January 2017, Cosmetics Europe announced the results of a survey showing an 82% reduction in use of plastic microbeads.

Read more about plastic microbeads here.

Sunscreens
The cosmetics and personal care industry, with the European Commission, has published a recommendation on the efficacy of sunscreen products and the claims made for them.

It is important that sunscreens protect against both UVB and UVA radiation. The Commission’s recommendation notes that the UVA protection of a product should be in relation to its SPF and that this should be at least 1/3 ratio of its SPF. European industry best practice is to indicate UVA protection in this respect on the pack by the letters ‘UVA’ in a circle.

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