FAQ

Find the answers to your questions below.

What is the difference between approval and accreditation?
  • Approval is the action through which the relevant authority (in France, this is the national institute for origins and quality, INAO) authorises a certification body to issue agricultural provenance labels, compliance certificates, organic production certificates or indeed more than one such certification, for one or more products.
  • Accreditation attests to the competence, impartiality and independence of a certification body relative to the standards in force. While accreditation was originally a voluntary procedure, it has become mandatory in many areas of activity in Europe because it establishes trust in the certifications conducted. In France, the French Accreditation Committee (Cofrac) is the designated body for the accreditation of certification bodies according to the EN 45011 standard.
What is certification?

Certification is a voluntary process. Any entity conducting a business for which a standard exists may ask to have its output or services certified. Certification is a procedure through which a third party, the certification body, gives a written assurance that an organisational system, process, person, product or a service complies with requirements specified in a standard or benchmark. Certification is awarded for a limited period, during which the certification body carries out monitoring.

Cofrac (the French Accreditation Committee) therefore exercises second-level control it being the organisation that inspects the certification bodies, i.e.

Cofrac >> certification body >> operators.

What is an organic agricultural product?

It is compulsory for any product labelled "organic" to meet the requirements of one of the official sets of regulations on agriculture and organic produce:

  • Europe: European regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and its implementing regulations (EC) 889/2008 and 1235/2008;
  • United-States: NOP regulation (National Organic Program).
  • Japan: JAS regulation (Japanese Agricultural Standard).

The product is inspected and certified by an independent body (accredited by French government authorities), such as Ecocert. The certification body ensures product traceability throughout the value chain: production, processing, packaging, storage and distribution. Laboratory analysis may be carried out in addition to the on-site checking of products.

The criteria defining an organic agricultural product are as follows:

  • Organic agricultural products: grown avoiding the use of chemical fertilisers or synthetic products, in ground fertilised with organic fertilisers and natural minerals favourable to life within the soil, application of the precautionary principle.
  • Animals: predominantly fed on organic feed, non-intensive husbandry, reared with access to the open air, maximum living space.
  • Processed products: made from controlled organically-sourced farm ingredients and eventually from non-agricultural ingredients as authorised by European regulations or NOP.
How does Ecocert inspect organic products?

Ecocert has available an extensive network of inspectors in over 80 countries for on-site inspection of products from organic farming. Ecocert undertakes at least one inspection per year, supplemented by spot checks over the course of the year. Samples may be taken for laboratory analysis. The entire production chain is checked, from the raw material to the finished product. A scale of penalties applies to non-compliant products, which may go as far as final suspension of the certificate.

Can an organic product contain GMOs?

In accordance with the European regulations on organic farming (EC 834/2007 Article 9.1), the use of GMOs is prohibited in organic production. In the event of proven contamination above the labelling threshold (0.9% currently), the products concerned are to be demoted from the organic value chain. Below this threshold, the certification decision is taken on the basis of the cause of contamination. If it is accidental, the operator is to put remedial measures in place to avert any risk of contamination. If the contamination is deliberate, this is a violation and the product is demoted.

How can consumers tell whether Ecocert certifies an organic product?

Ecocert conducts on-site inspections to ensure that a product properly complies with the requirements laid down in a "standard" (or "specification"). An Ecocert-certified product may be identified in various ways, consumers therefore need to read the labels and find one of the following:

  • The Ecocert certification logo.
  • The wording "Ecocert-certified"
  • By the codes allocated to Ecocert by the European Commission:
    - FR-BIO-01: for Ecocert France SAS in France.
    - AB-BIO-602 (AB or ISO country code numbers): for Ecocert SA in most of countries outside the European Union.

Any of these prove that the wording ("organic" for example) displayed on the product has been checked for compliance by Ecocert.

What is an "Input"?

An input is a product eligible for use in organic farming used either in actual production or processing.

The term includes:

  • Supplements and fertilisers (organic, mineral and organo-mineral);
  • Seeds.
  • Crop-growing media.
  • Phytosanitary products.
  • Cleaning and disinfection agents
  • Non-farming ingredients (additives, enzymes, processing aids, microorganism...).
What are ecological and organic cosmetics?

A trailblazer in this field, Ecocert created and introduced the "Natural and organic cosmetics" standard in 2003. A cosmetic certified as organic by Ecocert must be labelled "Ecocert-certified ecological and/or organic cosmetic" and may display the Ecocert certification logo.

Its criteria are among the most stringent on the market:

  • At least 95% natural ingredients in the finished product.
  • No GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, ingredients derived from petrochemicals or synthetic chemistry; no testing of the finished product on animals.
  • The whole manufacturing process is controlled, up to the packing stage, and the packaging and outer packaging must be biodegradable or recyclable.
  • The labelling must be transparent for the consumer.
How is the percentage of organic ingredients in cosmetics calculated?

A 5% to 10% minimum of organic ingredients may at first sight seem a very low percentage. However, it should be recalled that water is the main ingredient in most cosmetics (50 to 60% on average) and water cannot be certified. This 5% to 10% is therefore in reality a high percentage, since the Ecocert specification is the only one that includes ALL the ingredients in the formula in its calculation, including water.

This minimum percentage is combined with conditions regarding each category of certifiable ingredients since 95% of ingredients must be natural or of natural origin.
Most other bodies and associations calculate the organic percentage excluding water and salt, which artificially inflates the final percentage of organic ingredients found on the label displayed for consumer information.

What is the difference between Ecocert and Cosmébio?

Cosmébio and Ecocert, which both work for organic cosmetics and which worked together on the "Ecocert ecological and organic cosmetics specifications" in 2002, are two different organisations, independent from each other and with separate articles of association and purposes:

  • Ecocert is an independent and accredited certification body. As such, Ecocert developed and introduced the "Ecocert ecological and organic cosmetics" specification.
    Ecocert inspects products on the basis of this specification, and issues organic certification. The products in question must bear the wording "Ecocert-certified". This is the only labelling guaranteeing organic certification for the consumer. The product can consequently be marketed being described as "organic".
  • Cosmébio is a French non-profit organisation bringing together some manufacturers of certified organic cosmetics. As such, the purpose of Cosmébio is to promote certified organic cosmetics with French consumers. Its role does not include either inspection or certification of cosmetics.
    For advertising purposes, it uses a "Cosmébio Charter" label, which is a simplified version of the Ecocert specification, and a Cosmébio logo.

    Membership of this organisation is not compulsory and it provides no additional or different guarantees from Ecocert certification - companies can become Cosmébio members only if they manufacture cosmetics that have been previously certified as organic by a certification body, such as Ecocert. Many certified manufacturers do not wish to join Cosmébio and therefore do not use the Cosmébio logo.
What is the "Ecocert Fair Trade" guarantee?

Ecocert created the "Ecocert Fair Trade" (EFT) standard in 2007 in conjunction with representatives from the value chain - producers, suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Revised in 2010 to apply exclusively to products meeting both organic farming and fair trade criteria, it relates to food, cosmetics and textiles. The EFT standard meets the expectations of consumers with a globally public-spirited philosophy who want to buy environmentally friendly, socially responsible products.

The "Ecocert Fair Trade" label means therefore that the product is both organic and fair trade. Ecocert thus provides a comprehensive response to the expectations of consumers who were previously forced to choose between organic or fair trade.

Why have a specification for environmentally friendly natural cleaning products?

The general regulations for detergents set boundaries and limits on products' toxicity for humans. By creating the "natural cleaning products" standard in 2006, Ecocert's aim was to augment these regulations by defining criteria for the manufacture of environmentally-friendly detergents. The basic principles of the green detergents standard are as follows:

  • To protect our planet and its resources by using renewable ingredients obtained using eco-friendly methods and by banning the majority of synthetic petrochemical-based ingredients.
  • To protect and inform the consumer by clearly stating the origin and quantity of the ingredients used and the presence of allergens and by recommending environmental advice and precautions for use.
What are organic textiles?

The textile industry is one of the world's most polluting industries. It is consequently not enough to certify the raw fibre in order for a textile to be environmentally friendly; all the stages in manufacture must also be taken into account.
Ecocert therefore offers the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which includes all stages of textile manufacture - the raw fibre must be certified as sourced from organic farming, and the entire manufacturing process must meet environmental and social criteria.

What is an "Ecological green space"?

Ecocert's "Ecological Green Spaces - Eve®" standard is used to evaluate and promote the environmental management of green spaces: no pesticides or chemical fertilisers, water and soil management, maintaining biodiversity, air quality, recycling and composting. It applies to various kinds of spaces such as town squares, parks and gardens, or managed natural areas, be they public or private.

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