Natural, organic and chemical-free – buzzwords that currently drive the sustainable cosmetic market. With eco-labelled bathroom amenities, hotels are delivering on the promise of eco-friendly travel, while grooming their green credentials.

By Kim Wyon

Frankly, there is nothing inherently sustainable about travel. From boarding the aircraft to checking in at a hotel and taking a hot shower, your every action will increase climate-damaging emissions. No wonder so many of us feel a little guilty when holidaying abroad. Indeed, 70 percent of consumers in the Nordic countries say their choices are less eco-friendly than they would like them to be, according to the 2018 survey Nordic Swan Ecometer.

But this is where a little friendly nudging from hoteliers will make all the difference. By offering eco-labelled personal care products, hotels not only certifiably curb their corporate carbon footprint, they also introduce their guests to new, sustainable brands. After all, almost every second consumer in the Nordic region finds choosing the right sustainable product overwhelming, according to the Ecometer survey.


Since its inception 30 years ago, the Nordic Swan Ecolabel has swayed consumer habits from Reykjavik to Helsinki. Initially launched in Sweden and Norway, the programme now covers the entire region. Almost 60 percent of consumers in the Nordics say that ecolabels are decisive with any purchase, and almost 90 percent of consumers recognise the Nordic Swan Ecolabel, which remains top-of-mind in the region.

So, choosing Nordic Swan eco-labelled products for a Scandinavian hotel chain may seem a no-brainer. But while the Nordic Swan ecolabel ensures low environmental impact during the entire lifecycle of the product, there is no guarantee that the herbal content of certified cosmetic products is organic, for instance. Or that the product only contains natural ingredients – buzzwords among many travellers seeking gentler alternatives to synthetic fragrances and harsh chemicals. So, to ensure that bodycare products use organic and natural ingredients, hoteliers need to look for other ecolabels than the Nordic Swan.

Products by iLoveEcoEssentials are packaged in 100 percent recycled and recyclable HDPE plastic dispensers with detachable bamboo cap.


In Europe, the principal ecolabels for organic and natural cosmetics are the independent certification programmes ECOCERT and COSMOS. Both provide two certification programmes, one for 95 percent organic and natural, and one for 50 percent natural.

No cosmetic products are wholly organic. After all, mineral ingredients and water cannot be certified as organic, despite being natural products. So, although the percentage of organic substances in eco-certified bodycare products may seem low (often no more than 10 percent), an ECOCERT ecolabel still ensures that any plant material or plant derivative, such as herbs, honey or fruit, are organic. Natural ingredients are also no guarantee against allergens. Indeed, many natural substances can cause allergies.

To ensure skincare products are allergy-friendly, they should preferably also be certified by either a national Asthma association or an international programme, such as AllergyCertified or Asthma Allergy Nordic. But few, if any, hotel amenity lines are allergy-certified since this would require that they are fragrance-free, for instance. And scent is still considered by many, if not most people, as a desirable and memory-evoking property. And after all, hotel stays are about creating memorable moments.


To some degree, plastic packaging is unavoidable However, minimising the use of plastic and ensuring it is recycled and recyclable are priorities of all ecolabelling programmes.

“Our most important challenge is to avoid using virgin plastic. That’s why it’s important to use recycled plastic, to close the loop,” says Mia Thielsen, Managing Director of iLoveEcoEssentials.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring post-consumer-plastic initiatives is the recycling of ocean plastic, such as the initiatives under the Surfrider Foundation where throwaway plastic from the vast gyres of the oceans is recycled as commercial packaging. Upcycling ocean plastic may seem like a gimmick – or a proverbial environmental drop in the ocean – but it highlights one of the major challenges the world faces, while boosting the green credentials of hotels using ocean-sourced plastic.

Another sustainable packaging initiative is the FSC certification programme for responsible forestry, such as with cardboard or bamboo packaging. But the FSC ecolabel can also be extended to plantation products, such as palm oil, used in the bodycare products themselves. Certification of plantation products is a contentious issue among environmentalists so hoteliers need to rely on their instinct for what appeals to their eco-conscious guest.

Listening to your consumers is always paramount. And as corporate and public entities increasingly require eco-certified hotel products as part of their sustainability strategy then choosing eco-labelled bathroom amenities might prove vital to your business when signing your next corporate contract.


ECOCERT is an independent French organic certification organisation founded in 1991 that today operates in over 80 countries. In 2003, ECOCERT became the first certification body to introduce standards for natural and organic cosmetics, ensuring products without GMO, synthetic preservatives, fragrances and dyes, silicon, mineral oil, PEG, or animal-derived ingredients, etc. There are two standard ECOCERT programmes for cosmetics: 95 percent organic and natural, and 50 percent natural.


The 2003 ECOCERT standards (above) are also the basis of the European harmonised COSMOS ecolabel for natural and organic cosmetics promoted by several independent certification bodies, including BDIH (Germany), Cosmebio (France), ICEA (Italy), and the Soil Association (UK).

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel

The Nordic Swan Ecolabel was introduced by the Nordic Council of Ministers in 1989. The ecolabel covers 60 product groups. The aim is to cut emissions and resource consumption. With cosmetics, the aim is to minimise the use of chemicals and ensure products are free of microplastics, nanomaterials, parabens, phthalates and many other non-natural substances.

EU Ecolabel

The EU Ecolabel was established in 1992 by the European Commission and can be applied to a wide range of products. The environmental criteria are devised by a panel of experts from consumer organisations, environmental NGOs and industry experts. Among the aims of the programme is to promote the circular economy.