INSIDER Q&A: GEORGIA BARNES, SENIOR DEVELOPMENT MANAGER AT THE SOIL ASSOCIATION

Welcome to the next instalment of the #beautyinsider Q&As, where you can find out who is behind some of your favourite beauty brands, what they are working on and how they got there. This month’s guest is Georgia Barnes, Senior Business Development Manager at The Soil Association. This organisation has been certifying organic and natural beauty products since 2002 and is the UK’s leading organic certifier. With a 14% growth last year of certified organic and natural beauty products, there has never been so much choice in this category. You’ll find the likes of Pai, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Nourish and Fushi in the ever-increasing list of beauty brands sporting The Soil Association organic logo with the support of Georgia and her team. Here she talks about the meaning of the certification and the dangers of greenwashing.

Georgia Barnes Soil Association

1. Hi Georgia, thank you for being my Insider Q&A guest this month. Let’s start at the beginning: what has been your career path so far and what made you want to join The Soil Association?

I joined The Soil Association after I fell pregnant with my son, who’s now 20 months old. At the time I was working in sales in a very corporate environment selling fragranced candles. When I fell pregnant I became much more aware of my body: what I was putting in it and the environment I was creating for my baby. I re-evaluated my whole way of thinking and that started with reassessing my career. After I had my son I looked for a role that matched my ethics. It was one of those serendipitous moments where I was searching The Soil Association because I’d heard of them and this role came up. It was the perfect moment! I joined the company last year and since then it’s been a whirlwind but really good fun, particularly to be able to champion a cause I really believe in.

2. What role does The Soil Association play in beauty?

The Soil Association certifies beauty products that want to make natural and organic claims. There are no regulations within the organic beauty industry, so a product doesn’t have to be certified to make organic claims. For us that’s problematic because a product could feature just 1% organic ingredients and the rest of the ingredients could be full of toxins. Our certification exists to provide clarity to the consumer, guaranteeing that the products they are buying not only contain a very high percentage of organic ingredients, but also have sustainable ingredients sourcing. The manufacturing process is very stringent, everything is transparent: there is no GM, no pesticides, no herbicides.

The role of The Soil Association is not only to provide certification but also to grow awareness of the certification and its importance, as well as awareness of the certified beauty brands.

One Small Swap banner by The Soil Association

Image courtesy of Soil Association Limited (all rights reserved)

3. What does a typical day look like for you?

My days are so varied! I look after several hundred brands. I may attend an event to talk on a panel, or I might be dealing with certification queries, helping to facilitate conversations with the standards, ensuring our standards remain rigorous and the best in the market. I might be on an internal team building day: for example this week there was a deodorant making course in the office that we helped facilitate. We support brands across their entire organic journey so we could be sharing social media stories. We also write a market report that goes out on a yearly basis. We organise learning days for certified brands: we visited Pai’s offices recently to help the staff understand what their certification means. We support newly certified businesses, providing information about the market and how they can get involved.

4. What is the best and the worst thing about your job?

The best thing is being able to champion brands that are truly making a difference to the environment. When you buy a certified product you genuinely are being kinder to the planet.

The worst part is that you can’t fix these environmental issues straight away. I think it weighs on all of our minds that the time is now, we’re doing what we can but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s quite enough.

wild flowers

Image courtesy of Soil Association Limited (all rights reserved)

5. Natural and organic beauty is on the rise, but what is the biggest challenge it is facing at the moment?

Clarity and believability. We’re seeing a shift in the market: in 2017 65% of consumers trusted brands, in 2018 it went down to 48%. What we’re seeing is that consumers are becoming more aware and discerning, so the biggest challenge I think is greenwashing. Brands need to build trust with the consumer but this is becoming increasingly difficult because of the amount of greenwashing. The brands that are authentic have to go above and beyond to get their message out there.

6. And finally – what do you get up to when you’re not at work?

My toddler keeps me very busy! He’s an early riser, he’s up at 4.30am which is painful! I try as much as I can to get out of the house: we live near woods so we go and have a stomp around there.

If you have any burning questions you’d like to ask Georgia why not leave a comment below? Or you can get in touch with her and her team @soilassociationbeauty

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