If you run or want to run a vegan business, check out certification standards.
The growing number of plant-based companies, including meat/protein alternatives, means that there are more options for consumers to move away from animal-derived products and toward cruelty-free beauty and vegan food options. However, it isn’t uncommon to find labels in which a package claims that their product is “vegan” when they mean “vegetarian.” Even a small bit of dairy, eggs or honey (the common ingredients I see) make that difference.
Aside from trusting ingredient lists on products (which can still fool consumers if we don’t know how each ingredient is made), the only other way to determine whether a product is truly vegan is if they have paid for a certification. Below are the certification seals to look out for or obtain in specific regions.
Note: I will not be held responsible for any unethical companies who steal and use these logos without going through the proper certification process.
The American Vegetarian Association offers certifications for vegetarian, vegan and plant-based (which means the same as vegan). It includes an online application, submission of information, review, and payment. Because there’s also a “Recommended” logo which I couldn’t find any info about online, I “recommend” instead applying for one of the ones in the Worldwide section.
Natural Food Certifiers offers a Vegan Natural Food Certifiers label for manufacturing, trading or distribution companies, vegan processors, or farm products. The site also lists “animals that originate from your farm facility” and I don’t know what that means, so if I was a food producer, I’d again defer to one of the certs below instead.
Issued by BeVeg in Washington DC, this is a “law firm issued” symbol available to companies globally. Interestingly, there’s no application process. You pay a $100 USD fee, undergo a questionnaire, submit documentation, and then get approval. Certification is valid for 12 months.
PETA‘s Beauty Without Bunnies program is for beauty companies to ensure that products aren’t tested on animals. After certification, your company gets added to their list(s) and you have permission to use the logo. You have to e-mail them to request application materials.
IMO, they should just use “cruelty-free” or “vegan” and not both, because having either/or makes it super confusing and I’m left wondering whether there’s still cruelty involved if a company uses the “vegan” logo, or whether “cruelty-free” indicates that ingredients are vegan.
Issued by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics in the USA, the Leaping Bunny Logo is also for cosmetics companies located in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and throughout much of the European Union. You can look at their site for the criteria–companies purchase the logo for a nominal, one-time fee, but there’s no cost for companies to apply, get approved, and be listed in all versions of their Compassionate Shopping Guide and marketing materials.
Because PETA has enough money to create yet another certification for the rest of the non-beauty businesses, they have a PETA-Approved Vegan logo. Companies complete the questionnaire and statement of assurance and submit the $250 USD annual certification fee. Once these have been received and processed, a staff member contacts you to discuss next steps.
The Brand Recognition Compliance Global Standard (BRCGS), a UK-based organization that helps build confidence in supply chains, has several global standards, including one for plant-based products. It claims to be “the most robust certification program owner in the Food Safety industry with over 30,000 sites accredited to [their] standards across the supply chain.”
This just popped up on LinkedIn yesterday, and it’s a UK-based organization that’s certifying both people and businesses as Vegan Founded.
One of the most popular certifications offered by The Vegan Society in the UK, the Vegan Trademark has been around for 30 years. There’s a four-step registration process, and people can even report suspected misuse of the trademark through an online form.
Like the mark above, the certified Vegan Logo is a registered trademark offered by Vegan Action in the USA, for products that do not contain animal products or byproducts and that have not been tested on animals. It’s currently on thousands of products manufactured by over 1000 companies. The annual fee starts at $150, with a $100 non-refundable application fee. The review takes about 4-6 weeks.
The Cyprus-based International Biocyclic Vegan Network of associations, private individuals, companies and institutions involved in agriculture, processing, trade and science administer the Biocyclic Vegan Standard. Similar to the Vegan Organic certification, it is available worldwide as a global standard for vegan organic farming accredited by IFOAM.
Other international certifications by region
The V-Label trademark has been available for European Union countries since 1996, and is administered by Switzerland-based V-Label GmbH.
UK’s The Vegetarian Society-approved trademark accreditation involves independent ingredient and production method checking by experts. Your ingredient lists and specification sheets are reviewed, and after approval and fee payment, you can display the relevant (vegetarian or vegan) trademark.
I can’t tell you much about Viva!, a certification administered by Vege in Poland, but if you can read Polish, click on one of the links for more info!
Choose Cruelty-Free is Australia’s only independent body that certifies cosmetics, personal care and household care items that have not been tested on animals. To become certified, you have to meet their criteria, pay a one-time $100 AUD fee and an annual fee to license the registered trademark, based on your annual sales.
The New Zealand Vegetarian Society administers Vegan Certified Products, as well as the Vegetarian Society Approved certification mentioned above with the UK.
I can’t tell you much about this certification either, but this makes me hopeful because I’ve been told that Korea was a very un-friendly place for vegans. Vegan Korea has 325+ products with the seal, so that’s promising!
Vege Project in Japan offers 3 marks: Two for products (Vegetarian and Vegan), and one (Vegan) for restaurants. I’m super excited about this because I’ve visited Japan a bunch of times but not as a vegan, so this will make it a bit more helpful to ID safe restaurants next time I’m there.
Please visit the websites for more info.
As it pertains to medical prescriptions, in 2019, the Michigan Delegation of the American Medical Association requested that manufacturers:
(1) support efforts to improve cultural awareness pertaining to the use of animal-derived medications when considering different prescription options and
(2) encourage the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make available to the public an easily accessible database that identifies medications containing ingredients derived from animals (AMA 2019).
PETA’s done a great job of keeping a database of cruelty-free beauty products, but if a database ever gets made for medications, I’ll share that here as well.
If I’m missed any important certifications or if you’ve had a personal experience with one of them, please share in the comments below!