The strength of the Ecosystem Approach lies in its capacity to go beyond authoritative lists to scrutinize materials and ingredients using modeling, predictive analysis, and available science to predetermine harm before substances are widely deployed into the marketplace. It is comprehensive and uncompromising.
Overall, the Ecosystem Approach is a scientifically rigorous, independent, third-party review that determines if the materials in a given product are, as designed for use, made without substances that are known or suspected to be harmful. For products containing substances of potentially threatened or endangered origin, it also ensures they are made using sustainable and responsible sourcing methods.
As a first step, products seeking MADE SAFE® Certification are screened against our Banned / Restricted List to ensure that over 6,500 substances have been avoided or constrained, thereby eliminating the worst hazards commonly found in products used in our homes and daily routines. For example, we screen for known or probable carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, toxins (behavioral, developmental, neurological, reproductive, or teratogenic), heavy metals, endangered species, hazardous flame retardants, high-risk pesticides, toxic solvents, and harmful VOCs.
This is only the first step in our unique Ecosystem Approach to screening, which is designed to protect people and every resource we rely on for life. After clearing the Banned / Restricted List stipulations, step two of our process begins. Here, our approach requires manufacturing transparency, as well as disclosure of each substance and process involved in formulation, going far beyond basic ingredient list reviews to assess for broader impact. Companies must also gather and submit extremely detailed ingredient information, and adhere to substance level specifications, as part of the comprehensive screening process.
This level of diligence allows us to analyze potential sources of pollution as well as harmful impacts on soil, sediment, air, water, and human, aquatic and/or terrestrial life.
During this process we primarily use a hazard-based approach to chemicals because we believe substances should be proven ‘not hazardous’ prior to use. In doing so, we flip the current ‘chemicals first / consequences second’ approach used in product manufacturing today:
Traditional Toxicological Framework = Risk-Based
- Chemicals are considered innocent until proven guilty, leaving consumers to do all the hard work and take on chemical / manufacturing giants.
- Permissive, for every product asking “How much of this substance can be used before it becomes toxic?” This is problematic because it doesn’t account for cumulative burden. For instance, consumers often use a myriad of products containing the same chemicals, which allows the overall load of a given chemical to become much greater.
Ecosystem-Sound Approach = Hazard-Based
- Chemicals are instead considered guilty until proven innocent. This is the only safe and sustainable approach to substance diligence.
- This is significantly more restrictive because it means: if a hazard exists, do not permit said chemical in products.
This framework is underpinned by an adherence to the Precautionary Principle. Essentially, if we are unsure about a chemistry or substance’s potential for harm, or if there is insufficient data on a new ingredient or material, we take a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ stance and do not permit certification until a thorough scientific safety review has been conducted. In other words, our Ecosystem Approach requires ingredients to be considered harmful until proven safe. This position differs from other certification programs, where new or unknown ingredients are often given a green light without sufficient data to warrant it. In our view, the Ecosystem Approach is a more logical and protective starting point for substance safety consideration.
At MADE SAFE, we take inspiration from the Native American philosophy that it’s our responsibility to consider potential impacts on many generations into the future. We also believe the Arapaho saying that: ‘All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them.’
When our Science & Research team performs each Ecosystem Screening, they are also listening to and learning from nature. Whenever the team encounters a new or unique substance, they rely on our Ecosystem Approach to fully vet and consider it for viability, after which point it is added to our proprietary Element360 ingredient database. Element360 is dynamic and constantly evolving, becoming a smarter and more informed tool with every screening. With over 85,000 chemicals registered for use in products today, this is a massive undertaking.
The Element360 database warehouses information on thousands of unique substances. Leveraging this robust data set allows us to quickly review already known substances, and to provide guidance and request further documentation related to the unique characteristics of any given material (e.g., derivation, manufacturing processes, impurities, use case restrictions, and occasionally additional lab testing). Our team also works with respected scientists and subject matter experts to screen ingredients based on the most current available science, further allowing us to close ingredient data gaps.
This 360 degree evaluation of all inputs is what makes MADE SAFE® Certification incredibly stringent; every substance submitted is considered in the context in which it will be used, and must pass the entire screening process for the MADE SAFE seal to be granted for use on a given product. If all substances within a product meet the required certification standards - meaning they are not found to be potentially harmful to humans, soil, sediment, air, water, aquatic or terrestrial life - then the product is granted the MADE SAFE seal. Earning the MADE SAFE seal is an incredible badge of honor and superiority, as it signifies that a product is Made With Safe Ingredients™.