International consumer goods brand Unilever says it will support the #BeCrueltyFree campaign aimed at ending cosmetic animal testing within five years. The campaign is led by Humane Society International, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
The move makes Unilever the first of the category's top ten global beauty companies to support legislative reform on animal testing. Unilever is the parent company to popular personal care brands including Dove, Degree, and TRESemmé.
“Animal testing for cosmetics has been banned in the EU since 2013, and we hope that an adoption of similar bans in other countries will accelerate the regulatory acceptance of alternative approaches and thereby remove any requirements for any animal testing for cosmetics anywhere in the world,” David Blanchard, Chief Research and Development Officer at Unilever, said in a statement.
The move signals a major shift in the marketplace as consumers seeking out transparency and socially responsible brands continue to drive market shifts.
“This is a tipping point in the fight to finally ban new animal testing of cosmetics and their ingredients and we applaud Unilever for throwing their weight behind this legislation in the U.S. and beyond,” Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said in a statement. “We have been working decades for this moment which will end this use of hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide and we urge other companies to join Unilever in this quest.”
Unilever says it will lend its support to the U.S. Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 2790), which will ban animal testing for cosmetic purposes on U.S. soil as well as ban the sale of cosmetics from other countries where animal testing was used.
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The move will also see Unilever embrace a multi-year, open collaboration between companies and regulatory agencies to develop non-animal testing and safety methods. The company will also work to train its scientists in non-animal testing methods.
The announcement comes just a month after California becomes the first U.S. state to ban the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. California is the world's fifth largest economy. It also comes after Unilever appeared to do an about-face in 2014 after it filed a lawsuit against Bay Area startup JUST (then Hampton Creek) over its eggless mayonnaise. Unilever is the parent company to Hellmann's, the best-selling mayonnaise brand in the U.S. The contentious lawsuit claimed JUST's use of pea protein instead of eggs went against the FDA's standards of identity. But Unilever was quick to drop the suit. It then released its own vegan mayonnaise under the Hellmann's label, seeming to embrace the shifting market demand for cruelty-free and plant-based options.
Unilever further cemented its interest in changing course for its brands when it joined several other leading food manufacturers in leaving the Grocery Manufacturers Association last year and starting its own sustainable food lobby group with other leading food groups Danone, Mars, and Nestlé.
Unilever has targeted 2023 for major policy shifts and animal testing bans by the top 50 major beauty markets.
“Every company will tell you it supports alternatives to animal testing for cosmetics, but Unilever is the first of the beauty giants to throw its weight behind banning it altogether," HSI Vice President for Research & Toxicology Troy Seidle said. "With hundreds of thousands of animals still used in toxicity tests for cosmetic purposes each year around the world, Unilever is to be commended for standing with us to end this cruelty once and for all. We urge other large beauty brands to follow this example and join us on the right side of history.”
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