Credo just set a new bar for clean beauty. Here’s why.

There’s no doubt that consumers are looking for safer, cleaner and more environmentally-friendly products. However, demonstrating leadership among the competition can be tricky, particularly because terms like “clean” are unregulated and lack a standard definition. One way to lead on consumer trust and gain a competitive advantage? Champion meaningful transparency – this means sharing greater ingredient information as well as how these ingredients and products are assessed. Credo Beauty, the largest clean beauty retailer in the country, is doing just that – last week they launched their leading-edge Fragrance Transparency Policy.

The Fragrance Transparency Policy incentivizes their brand partners to fully disclose fragrance ingredients and requires them to categorize the source of the fragrance in every product (i.e., unscented, naturally-derived). As of the launch of the policy, 52% of Credo’s brand partners are fully disclosing fragrance ingredients. The Fragrance Transparency Policy builds on Credo’s existing Credo Clean Standard, which as of this month, brands are required to comply with to be sold by the retailer.

Historically, fragrance ingredients have been a black box. Though this is changing, most notably in the cleaning product industry due to state level regulations, “fragrance” or “parfum” is still all too common on personal care and beauty products. Fragrances can be made up of thousands of ingredients and can include hazardous chemicals, such as skin allergens and irritants. Consumers deserve to feel empowered when making choices about the products they buy for themselves and their families, and unveiling fragrance ingredients is a powerful move to provide them with necessary information. As leaders like Credo push the box on meaningful transparency for their consumer, we hope to see others rise to the challenge in the beauty and personal care sector.

I recently had the chance to speak with Annie Jackson, Credo Co-Founder and COO, and Mia Davis, Credo Director of Environmental & Social Responsibility, about their exciting new Fragrance Transparency Policy.

What motivated you to adopt the Fragrance Transparency Policy as an addition to your existing Credo Clean Standard?

Mia Davis, Director of Mission, Credo Beauty

Mia: The US federal law that governs the nearly $100 billion-dollar industry is 82-years-old. It’s a weak law with several issues, but the biggest is “fragrance.” The makers of fragrances (which are used not only in perfumes and colognes, but in creams, lotions, bath and hair care products, and in household products) are uniquely secretive. There are 4,000+ ingredients that can be used in fragrance blends–but the composition is rarely disclosed to consumers.  Fragrance blends can include phthalates (hormone disrupting plasticizing chemicals), synthetic musks, sensitizers, allergens and chemicals that have never been assessed for safety or environmental impact–at least not by any agency that has made that data public.

Credo’s Clean Standard, a robust operating agreement that we released in April 2018, introduced our Fragrance Transparency Policy, with a launch date of October 2019. We needed to give our 120+ brand partners the time to decide where they would fall: would they categorize fragrances according to type, which Credo now requires for every single product we sell? Or would they categorize and fully disclose, which we really encourage, but which is of course more difficult.  We are incredibly proud to say that 71 of the 130+ brands that we carry have risen to the occasion and are fully disclosing. And we expect that number to only increase.

What barriers did Credo and its suppliers face in achieving such a high level of fragrance transparency and how did you overcome these barriers?

Mia: Shockingly, many fragrance houses/suppliers deem their blends “confidential business information,” and do not even disclose all of the ingredients to the companies buying them to use in their products. Perhaps back in the day when Coco Chanel was creating Chanel No.5, CBI was a valid pretext. But today, when companies reverse engineer each other’s products, and when we know that so many of these chemicals can negatively impact people and the environment, there is no excuse for this level of secrecy. Many brands have had a challenging time finding out what exactly is in the ingredient blendsthey’re paying for and putting into the products their consumers are using. But because so many of Credo’s brand partners are committed to a higher level of transparency, they’ve been able to meet the Credo Fragrance Transparent Policy’s high bar.

Are your customers asking for this level of transparency? Do you see fragrance transparency giving you a competitive edge?

Annie Jackson, CEO, Credo Beauty

Annie: Our customers are highly informed and very engaged. Some of them have been asking for this for a while. And the others we know will appreciate that when they walk into a Credo store or shop online, they have access to more fragrance information than at any other retailer. Of course there is a common view that there is greater risk in telling people more information rather than withholding, at least when the law isn’t forcing disclosure. But we do see this initiative as a competitive edge. We’re leading on clean, and we’re helping brands stay in front of state and federal policies (which are inevitably coming). Others will be playing catch up.

Trends in the beauty market change rapidly, but we’ve seen the “clean” movement create real staying power. How do you hope Credo’s Fragrance Transparency Policy and Clean Standard will influence other players and trends in the beauty and personal care market?

Annie: Credo was an early leader in the clean space, and our Credo Clean Standard has solidified our role in beauty retail and the clean products movement. We knew that in order for “clean” to be truly meaningful and to grow, we needed to shine a light on the fragrance loophole. If “clean” encompasses ingredient transparency, safety and sustainability, then we need to be able to know more about this mystery blend that appears in the vast majority of beauty products.

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