How do you know if organic really is organic?

Certification means that a product has been independently approved as meeting a specific standard. For organic foods the basic standard is set by European law, so no product can be labelled or marked as 'organic' unless it complies.

When it comes to health and beauty products however, there's no equivalent regulation, so the term 'organic' can be misleading. Just because the product is labelled 'organic' does not guarantee that it contains even a speck of natural ingredients produced from organic agricultural methods.

So how can you tell if you are being 'greenwashed'?

Sadly, often you cannot tell from reading the marketing claims. To get to the truth take a good look at the ingredients listing on the packaging - does the company indicate exactly which of the ingredients are organic? If so - how many organic ingredients are there - and where do they appear in the list? Cosmetics ingredients are listed in order of quantity so the ingredients that make up the bulk of the formulation are listed first.

We often see examples of products such as "Organic Lavender Body Cream" - where the one and only organic ingredient is organic lavender oil - and it's likely that this is less than 1% of the total. Other claims may mention "Active Organic Ingredients" as if there was some mysterious distinction between active and non-active ingredients in a product.

To avoid being greenwashed, choose products that have independent organic certification (Soil Association, USDA, etc), or choose companies that clearly identify their certified organic ingredients and sourcing policies.