GFAW seal for sustainability, natural cosmetics and natural products

Publish DateNov 24, 2021

Sustainability with the greatest possible naturalness becomes verifiable and tangible

[In cooperation with GfaW] Sustainable management can be defined, measured and verified. GfaW, the Society for Applied Business Ethics, is fully committed to this goal. With the Seals for sustainable management and natural cosmetics is the GfaW an Pioneer in the green economy of the common good have become. The uniqueness of the three certifications offered is their holistic view of sustainability. 

Since Authentic Eco focuses on certified natural and organic cosmetics, our starting point is the interview with the GfaW founder about her Natural cosmetics certification NCS, the Natural Cosmetics Standard seal.


Interview with Sophie von Lilienfeld-Toal on natural cosmetics certification

What motivated you to establish your NCS seal for natural cosmetics? How long has your seal been in existence and what values do you associate with it?

The advantage of the NCS (Natural Cosmetics Standard) certification over other certifications lies in the Combination of natural cosmetics certificate and independence. This makes it flexible to implement for both large and small companies. The separation of certification body and standard provider was also a novelty when the label was founded in 2012. The meaningful naming for the consumer was another requirement for our seal.

What do you consider to be the most important criteria of your natural cosmetics standard?

The NCS seal for natural cosmetics offers four labelling options:

  • Natural cosmetics,

  • vegan Natural cosmetics,

  • Organic cosmetics

  • and vegan Organic cosmetics.

All plant and animal raw materials must be of natural origin. Nature-identical substances are only tolerated for individual preservatives, pigments, minerals and vitamins.Some natural substances must come from certified organic cultivation; avoidance of critical substances such as palm oil - if these are unavoidable, then only from sustainable sources; Packaging must be recyclable.

Are there any requirements of your natural cosmetics seal that you would like to bring more into the public focus?

Yes, these are the four natural cosmetic attributes, the organic need for some natural chemicals, recyclable packaging, and the standard setter's request for increased sustainability. Regular working group meetings guarantee that the standard is based on best practice examples without jeopardizing the focus on practicality. The standard is likewise open to the public, and the standard-setter can be reached easily.

What are the benefits for natural cosmetics users of buying certified natural cosmetics products?

Natural cosmetics are a good place to start if you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Although natural cosmetics contribute a modest amount to environmental conservation, every small step is better than none. Natural cosmetics certification assures customers that they are buying a product created with the most natural ingredients possible. On the other hand, this accreditation says nothing about resource use, CO2 emissions, human rights, or other aspects of sustainability. As a result, customers should regard natural cosmetics certification as merely a first step toward long-term sustainability.

What do you wish for the future?

That when evaluating the naturalness of a product, both users and manufacturers consider process attributes in addition to components. This also implies that decisions should take into account social and economic factors. We hope that while conveying sustainability, the market does not become trapped on the term "ecological" and that critical customers' requests for further information about the product and the company are met. This also entails more transparency and communication from associations, legislators, and businesses themselves.

Sophie v. Lilienfeld-Toal is the founder and managing director of GfaW Gesellschaft für angewandte Wirtschaftsethik mbH.

The GfaW standards: certified corporate sustainability and naturalness

The core of the certifications offered by GfaW is the CSE seal "Certified Sustainable Economics" for sustainably operating companies. It is a combination of management, company and product certification that defines sustainable economics. This means that the entire company and its products are considered and audited in terms of sustainability. The seals NCS for natural cosmetics and NCP for natural products refer specifically to the highest possible naturalness of the products. All three GfaW seals are registered as international trademarks.

In the following I present the individual certifications and give an overview of their requirements.


NCS - the Natural and Organic Cosmetics Standard

The NCS seal for natural cosmetics of the GfaW distinguishes between four levels: natural cosmetics, vegan natural cosmetics, organic cosmetics and vegan organic cosmetics. The prerequisite for obtaining the seal is that at least 60% of all products of a brand are certified or are.

The following guidelines apply to both natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics certification:

  • Natural and organic cosmetics certified according to the NCS standard may only contain ingredients that meet the NCS criteria and have been tested.

  • Some ingredients must be used in organic quality, for example, shea butter and the oils of sunflower, olive, soy, coconut, as well as jojoba wax.

  • Genetically modified organisms (GMO), parabens, silicones, PEGs, phthalates, bioplastics and microplastics are not allowed in the products.

  • Palm oil may only be used if it is certified according to RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

  • Only natural fragrances and herbal extracting agents may be used.

  • Radioactive irradiation is taboo.

  • In addition, the packaging of certified natural cosmetics must be recyclable be.

  • Animal and vegetable raw materials from endangered species may be only from live animals from species-appropriate husbandry or from organic cultivation appropriate to the species.

  • Animal testing is not permitted.

  • Nanomaterials are not allowed unless they are coated and do not harm aquatic organisms.

Currently, over 1000 products from 79 natural cosmetics brands carry the NCS Natural and organic cosmetics seal. Sustainable management can then be additionally confirmed with the CSE seal.

© GfaW - NC Standard for certified natural cosmetics

NCS seal for certified natural cosmetics, classic or vegan

Natural cosmetics certified according to NCS standard does not require a minimum quantity of organic ingredients included. Attention should be paid to however, a list of ingredients that may only be used in controlled organic quality.

If the certified natural cosmetics are to be labelled vegan, no ingredients of animal origin may be used.

The NCS seal for natural cosmetics, for example, is the Alkaline luxury natural cosmetics from LUBANA certified. 

NCS seal for certified organic cosmetics, classic or vegan

For NCS certified organic cosmetics at least 95% of the organic certifiable ingredients must come from controlled organic cultivation. The packaging indicates what percentage of the total ingredients come from organic cultivation.

Vegan, NCS certified organic cosmetics do not contain any animal ingredients.


NCP - the Natural Products Standard

for natural products, classic or vegan

The NCP seal distinguishes products of daily use that are made from the most natural materials possible and do not unnecessarily pollute the environment. The standard for environmentally friendly product alternatives is used for non-food products such as for example toys, tools, household articles, hygiene and washing products, fertilisers and care products for objects.

  • Natural products certified according to the NCP standard may only contain ingredients that are of natural, plant or animal origin and have been tested.

  • Genetically modified organisms, synthetic silicones and surfactants, as well as microplastics are not permitted in the products.

  • Palm oil may only be used if it is certified according to RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

  • The products must not pose any risk to health or the environment.

  • Radioactive irradiation is taboo.

  • In addition, the packaging must be recyclable or reusable.

  • Animal testing is not allowed (except for those required by law).


CSE - the Certified Sustainable Economics Standard for sustainability in the Company

The CSE standard defines the concept of holistically considered sustainability in companies in terms of working methods and products. It sets the standard for how sustainability should be implemented and defines what characterizes sustainable business.

Companies certified according to the CSE standard

  • have a consistent environmental management system.

  • comply with strict ecological product standards.

  • prefer fair trade raw materials and maintain long-term supplier relationships that are not based purely on price advantages.

  • use electricity from 100% renewable energy sources.

  • use green IT and recycled paper.

  • pay women and men equal wages and offer family-friendly working conditions.

  • observe ethical capital flows and reinvest in sustainability and solidarity.

CSE-STAR - the new management tool for sustainability in companies

With the CSE-STAR, the " Sustainability Tool for Assessment and Reporting". the GfaW has a cutting-edge Software for the Sustainability management in companies. This makes sustainable management easy to measure. The STAR supports companies in collecting, measuring and evaluating their sustainability performance. The STAR is used to prepare and carry out CSE certification. It is also used for Preparation of sustainability reports. With the STAR, the Implementation of the environmental management system according to ISO 14001:2015 facilitated.


GfaW - the Society for Applied Business Ethics

Business ethics in everyday entrepreneurial life? GfaW says: absolutely!

GfaW is driven by the knowledge that we urgently need new survival strategies. Our everyday lives today continue to be shaped by the pursuit of growth and profit. The price we pay for this is only gradually penetrating the consciousness of most people. For GfaW, the solution is a Newly defined and lived common good economy.

Since its foundation, GfaW has been demonstrating with growing success that such a change is feasible. It gives the impetus and support for profound, economic change. At the same time, it motivates all stakeholders from society, business and science to become active and work together.

"Goodprints for authentic business": what makes GfaW's seals so special?

GfaW stands out above all due to its holistic approach in the definition of sustainability in the eye. Another special feature is the close cooperation with working groups of experts and customers in the creation and further development of the standards. In this way, the latest developments and technologies are very flexibly linked to practical issues. For example, GfaW is the only standard setter to date to offer the possibility of having certified natural cosmetics also advertised as vegan in a single seal. For customers and business partners, the CSE, NCS and NCP seals are a guarantee in image form, short codes for sustainability and naturalness, so to speak. This makes it easy to make a consciously sustainable decision to buy or work together. The GfaW ensures the quality of its certifications through continuous exchange with its certification companies. Its auditors receive regular training. The audits take place once a year on site at the companies to be audited. Complaint management is implemented in accordance with ISO 17065 for certification bodies. The Society for Applied Business Ethics naturally sets a good example itself. Since February 2019, it has been CSE-certified according to its own standard. (2019-02-06 CSE_GfaW - Version 1-1) The current sustainability goals are to implement a system to meet their travel policy, to implement ISO 14001 and to implement social-ecological accounting. The Society for Applied Business Ethics is, of course, setting a good example itself. It has been CSE certified to its own standard since February 2019. (2019-02-06 CSE_GfaW - Version 1-1) The current sustainability goals are the introduction of a system to comply with their travel policy, the introduction of ISO 14001 and social-ecological accounting.


The GfaW team

The vision of combining ethics, economy and sustainability

The people behind GfaW: living sustainability in the company

The question of how a future fit for life through sustainable economie can be realized unites the entire GfaW team. The principle "The economy is there for the people and not the other way around" is everyday life here.

Sophie von Lilienfeld-Toal founded GfaW in 2012. She is supported by Prof. Dr. Hermann von Lilienfeld-Toal as a partner. Niels Christiansen advises and is responsible for product development. Marketing is in the hands of Paulina Oerter. She manages public relations together with Martin Henkemeier. He sums up what the GfaW team is all about: "Here, idealists are selflessly and consistently committed to what I consider to be the most important goal of our time, sustainability.

GfaW is a member and supports the following associations and organizations: "Enterprise Green", "Economy of the Common Good", "Perspective Daily" and "Entrepreneurs for future".

Author: Elke Hockauf


Photo credits: Gfaw photo material and David Vig at Unsplash, Christopher Campbell at Unsplash, Dylan Alcock at Unsplash, Ben White at Unsplash

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