When we talk about consciously-sourced body care and skincare, we often focus on the sustainability of the ingredients, the health impacts, and even the animal testing/animal welfare, and yet, we rarely talk about ethical body care or fair trade skincare that’s good for the people making our products.
Just as the Fashion Revolution movement has activated people to advocate for the garment makers behind our clothes, it’s time we do the same for the farmers and other producers behind our everyday body care products.
That’s why this post, made in partnership with fair trade body care brand Zambeezi, is going to dive into what ethical body care is all about and why it matters.
First, we’re going to dive into ingredients because although we may understand the importance of choosing products made from natural and non-toxic ingredients, there isn’t as much emphasis on the ethics or transparency behind sourcing these ingredients.
The Reality of Unethical Skincare Ingredients
Cosmetics and skincare products often come with long lists of ingredients — and most brands struggle to trace the source of all of these ingredients. Even if a non-toxic skincare product contains ingredients that are safe to use for the end consumer, it doesn’t necessarily always mean that that ingredient was sourced in a way that was safe or equitable to the farmer, harvester, or producer.
In fact, global risk advising company Verisk Maplecroft found that in a study of ingredients used in best-selling products in five categories of cosmetics, “there was at least one high-risk comedy in each product’s ingredient list, with risks ranging from child labor and deforestation through to corruption.”
For instance, cocoa butter and cocoa balm are produced from cocoa, a commodity that has been linked to child labor in Cote d’Ivoire. And other commonly used cosmetics and skincare ingredients like vanilla, shea nuts, and candelilla wax have also been linked to child labor or other exploitive labor practices. 
How Brands Can Do Better
1. Fair Trade Sourcing. As Fair Trade Federation explains, “Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.” 
Zambeezi is a Fair Trade Federation member ensuring that the African farmers they partner with earn fair, living wages. Beyond wages, Zambeezi also reinvests in the communities they work in, partnering with local churches on projects to fill the needs that the community has identified, like building schools or clinics.
One way that brands can ensure fair sourcing is by looking for ingredients that have the Fairtrade Certified seal. This seal certifies that farmers and producers had decent working conditions (including no forced or child labor) and that these farmers and producers were paid prices adequate to cover costs of growing their crops sustainably, plus received a Fairtrade Premium to invest in business or community projects.
2. Transparent and Local Sourcing. For even further transparency into the ingredients used in your skincare, body care, and cosmetics products, look for brands that engage directly with producers and can provide transparency into this ingredient sourcing.
Zambeezi is a wonderful example of this as the brand works directly with Zambian farmers, entrepreneurs, and beekeepers to create their nourishing lip balm.
From the beginning, the foundation and vision of Zambeezi has been rooted in a partnership with local communities. (Meet one of Zambeezi’s founding partners, Pastor Barry Illunga, from the Copper Belt of Zambia.)
Case Study: Beeswax and Honey
Although they are often sold at a premium price, bee products like beeswax and honey are two ingredients commonly used in natural skincare that may be unethically sourced.
Many beekeepers live in remote areas, which limits their access to information about market-rate prices and reduces the number of potential buyers they are able to sell to, thus reducing negotiating power. This leads many beekeepers to sell their products far below their actual value.
Even further, health and quality requirements from export countries may be insurmountable barriers to entry for rural beekeepers without vital information or the money to invest in proper equipment. 
Zambeezi‘s approach to sourcing beeswax and honey, though, is starkly different from this norm. The brand partners with a community-based network of 1,000+ beekeepers in Northwest Zambia called the North-Western Beekeeper’s Association. Since working with Zambeezi, these beekeepers now earn over 400% more than what they were earning before.
Fair Trade body care brand Zambeezi was founded by André Houssney, a Lebanese-American organic farmer from Boulder, in partnership with local communities in Zambia. From the very start, Zambeezi’s goal was to create truly ethical body care products from start to finish — as they put it: “We exist to enable communities to thrive by identifying and developing unrealized human potential to free people to pursue their vision of a better world.”
With this mission in mind, Zambeezi sources organic, sustainably-produced ingredients from beekeepers, farmers, and entrepreneurs to create fair trade body care that supports the regeneration of Zambian communities and ecosystems — and your skin.
With most body care, the final products are completely detached from the original raw ingredient sourcing — in fact, Maplecroft reported that tracing and monitoring all of the various tiers of production in the skincare and cosmetics supply chain is “virtually impossible”. 
Zambeezi’s approach of fair trade, traceable sourcing, and long-term partnership, however, creates a connection between communities in Zambia to Zambeezi’s North America-based customers, all while supporting the thriving of all.
Interested in trying out Zambeezi’s lip balms? My personal favorite flavor is the Honeybalm, but the Lemongrass is their most popular! If you’re looking for a gift — or are undecided on which flavor to choose — the Variety Pack would be a perfect choice.)
Pin this post to reference later:
- : The Supply Chain Risks That Could Blemish Cosmetics Reputations, Verisk Maplecroft
- : What is Fair Trade, Fair Trade Federation
- : Products; Honey, Fairtrade International
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