Personal Care Products and the Lacey Act: 5 Steps to Ensuring Compliance

Personal Care Products and the Lacey Act: 5 Steps to Ensuring Compliance


In September, 2017, the Utah-based Essential Oils company Young Living was ordered by the Department of Justice to pay $760,000 in fines for violations of the Lacey Act, a law dating back to 1900 that bans the trade of plants or plant products harvested in violation of the law. The company pleaded guilty in federal court to having illegally handled shipments of Peruvian rosewood oil and Nepalese spikenard oil.

“The importation of illegally harvested wood and timber products harms law-abiding American companies and workers and threatens forest resources around the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood.

The fines could have been higher, but DOJ took account of the fact that the company had voluntarily disclosed the violations to federal regulators in 2015 after an internal investigation.

In addition to the fines, Young Living was ordered to develop and implement a comprehensive Lacey Act compliance program to help ensure that its plant products come from legal and sustainable sources. The company worked collaboratively with its corporate-owned farms, partner farms, suppliers, the U.S. government and legal experts for more than a year to develop the program, which is regarded as the “gold standard” for such programs.

At the last Cosmetic Compliance conference, in March, 2019, two top executives from Young Living, Julie Hunter, VP of Corporate Compliance and Member Conduct, and Jessica Harris, International Trade and Compliance Project Manager, gave a presentation describing the company’s new program and detailing how it was developed. As they described it, the program consists of five general steps to “help ensure that our essential oil products and partners comply with all laws and regulations in the jurisdictions in which we do business.”

Any cosmetic or personal care product company that uses plant products should heed Young Living’s hard-earned lessons. Read on for a summary of the  five steps to ensuring compliance.( And check out the full presentation here).

If you want to learn even more about the Lacey Act and a host of key compliance issues facing the personal care products industry, book your spot at the upcoming Cosmetic Compliance Summit September 30 – October 2 in New York City.

5 Steps to Ensuring Lacey Act Compliance

1. Supplier Education: Suppliers dealing in the trade of plants and plant products, domestically and abroad, must understand the Lacey Act, their due care obligations and risk exposure.

2. Supplier Evaluation: Companies dealing in natural products should encourage supply chain transparency and evaluate suppliers who are unwilling to share source information of plants and plant products they supply.

3. Supplier Certification: Companies dealing in natural products should implement their own Lacey Act Compliance Program, to ensure all suppliers and employees are evaluated and certified, and that the company only deals with suppliers who agree to cooperate with compliance.

4. Risk Assessment: Companies dealing in natural products should independently assess all potential supplier relationships and new product ventures. It is imperative to understand sustainability and impact when developing new products.

5. Audit and Monitoring: Companies should be auditing and monitoring the supply chains they engage in business with, to ensure compliance and follow-through of due care obligations.