I did something terrible over the weekend. Well, two things actually. Firstly, I told a customer she was wrong. Secondly, I then went on to tell her that the world is now proven to be round and even the Pope admits burning out Galileo’s eyes was a little extreme. So we begin the week, I’m afraid, with an alarming revelation. Just because something is certified organic, it doesn’t always mean it’s better or for that matter even good for you.

You may be asking yourself, why is the founder of a natural and certified organic skincare range for men saying this? It’s a fair question. However, to understand the reasoning one must also grasp the ethos behind Eyre BioBotanics and the concept of ‘fair dinkum’. Sure, Eyre BioBotanics is a natural and certified organic skin care range but more importantly it’s Australian through and through. From its unique indigenous ingredients to its unmistakable Uluru dawn colour scheme there is nothing contrived about the brand. It’s all simple and genuine otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘fair dinky’.

Last weekend I volunteered to help out the sales team at one of our in-store promotions to field questions about our range. It’s always a great opportunity to meet customers and most importantly hear their feedback, which helps to continually evolve our range. However, on this day without warning I was ambushed and scolded by Xena the Eco-Princess. She was a diminutive figure dressed in what I am told is the latest High Street fashion but appeared more like a brown leather armour outfit worn by the wife of a Hun from 180A.D.  The engagement commenced with a barrage of flaming arrows hailing down aimed at the plastic bottles used in our range. Before I could gather my thoughts to respond with a balanced counter argument, explaining the reasoning behind our packaging, another salvo commenced. Flaming balls launched from catapults centred on why our entire range was not fully certified organic. By this stage I was chanting ‘strength and honour’ and hoping Russell Crowe would appear on horseback. Sadly, he was nowhere to be seen.

After three deep breaths I greeted Xena with a warm ‘good morning’ and genuinely hoped to discover the cause of her outrage. Unfortunately, her mind was already made up and I struggled to get out a sentence. She confidently delivered an ignorant monologue of environmental and organic myths based on hearsay and opinion rather than fact. I am sure her intentions were honourable but the exchange was quite sad really because behind every decision we make at Eyre BioBotanics, there are countless hours of research and debate. We’re certainly not perfectnor claim to be, but the truth of the matter is we’ve probably got one of the lowest environmental footprints of any company in our market segment.

Herein lies the moral challenge. As a brand should we make flawed decisions based on urban myths and feel-good hype or should we stand our ground and make informed intelligent decisions we can stand behind? Clearly the latter position is what we consider to be ‘fair dinkum’ and here’s why.

Let’s begin by breaking some of those flaming arrows. We often hear that plastic packaging is evil and should be replaced with starch and corn derived Polylactide Acid (PLA) alternatives. In theory this sounds great and if this were true we would switch tomorrow. However, the inputs for this new ‘bioplastic’ need to be grown and therefore compete with food crops driving up prices in an already starving world. It’s also a convenient truth to ignore that producing one kilogram of this starch based product uses 500g of petroleum and consumes almost 90% of the energy required to produce a traditional polypropylene. While the production of bioplastic results in a slight reduction of carbon dioxide emissions it also requires more fresh water and can accelerate the rate of deforestation and soil erosion. But here is the real show-stopper.  PLA can’t be recycled and if you don’t have a specialist industrial composting facility in your neighbourhood it just goes into the ground as landfill. Hence, our decision to stick with clearly labelled recyclable plastics which can easily be reprocessed around the world.

Moving on to the flaming balls.  It’s no secret organic products are experiencing rapid growth and many companies are jumping on the bandwagon. However, just because a finished product is certified organic does not necessarily mean it’s better. Eyre BioBotanics was created with an underlying principle in mind – nothing about the range could ever be a compromise. Our products compete with mainstream alternatives and if they do not deliver equal or superior performance and benefits, using the excuse ‘but it’s certified organic’ was never going to be acceptable.

Eyre BioBotanics recently obtained Australian Certified Organic accreditation making it the world’s first and only exclusively men’s skin care brand with organic certification. However, we decided to only certify a product if there was a tangible health benefit or it improved performance, otherwise it would remain as natural.The reason for this is that all skin care products containing water must be preserved or they are simply not safe to use. While preservatives accepted as certified organic are, in isolation, healthier they are also required to be used at much higher levels. For example it’s possible to dowse a formulation with sugar cane ethanol and salts but these are also strong skin irritants that increase the ability of environmental toxins to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. Alternatively a totally oil based formulation reduces the need for preservatives but it can also be highly comedogenic blocking pores, aggravating acne and preventing skin to breath freely.

Rather than look at formulations and preservatives in isolation, our Advanced Research Centre adopted a holistic approach and started to think about how to reduce the need for preservatives in the first place. Packaging was the key area for innovation and the result was an airless delivery system allowing much lower levels of natural food grade preservatives to be used. It delivers the freshest possible certified organic, biodynamic and wild harvest ingredients and we believe are the most natural and effective products in our segment.

Once we managed to put out the last of the flames on our burning shelves we all needed to sit down for a coffee. I strolled over to the in-store cafe and waited in the queue only to hear Xena ordering her skinny soy decaf chai latte before joining her friends. Personally, I am of the opinion that if you can’t order a coffee in three words or less, it’s probably not coffee. Anyway, this is another story in itself. As luck would have it the only empty table was next door to Xena and friends outside. As our group chatted about the afternoon ahead nothing could prepare us for what was about to happen next. Clean living Xena the Eco-Princess lit up a cigarette and offered the packet to her friends who followed. Xena went on to tell them all how she had found these certified organic cigarettes on her recent trip to the United States. Shortly after she said her farewells and walked across the road to jump into her Supercharged V8 Range Rover. Fair dinkum.