What we mean by 'safe'

We place the highest priority on safety in terms of human health and environmental protection.

Safe products

It is important to differentiate between hazard and risk. Potential hazards are all around us, every day. Even a child's toy can be a hazard, if left at the top of the stairs where someone could trip over it.

Safety is mostly about minimising risk by controlling exposure to the hazard (tidying the toy away), rather than trying to remove every potential hazard from our lives (throwing away, or even banning, all toys). This is particularly relevant for selecting ingredients and using them at the right levels to be both safe and effective. For example, apple seeds contain cyanide to protect them against insects. We all know that cyanide can kill, but as we are not as small as insects, the minuscule amount of cyanide in an apple does us no harm at all. In other words, this very hazardous ingredient in the apple poses no risk at all to us.

This is why, when we say a product is safe, we say it is safe for its intended and reasonably foreseeable use. We apply rigorous risk assessments to make sure all our products are safe for consumers to use every day.

Consumers can call the Careline number on all our product labels if they have read the label and still have questions.

Safe for the environment

Our goal is to continually make our products and processes more environmentally friendly. Because safety is so central to our business, we are always aiming to optimise product design. We assess the safety of our products – for consumers and for the environment – over their whole lifecycle, and we replace safe but hazardous ingredients if less hazardous ones become available that can deliver the necessary product quality and benefits.

Unilever has effectively been practising what is now considered to be ‘green chemistry’ for decades. Green chemistry is about designing and redesigning our products and processes to make them more environmentally friendly by considering the safe and efficient use of chemicals whenever possible, thereby preventing pollution from happening in the first place.

We have environmental experts who assess the lifecycle of products – beginning with the manufacture of ingredients, all the way through to the use and eventual disposal of the product. This means that we have a picture of how our products and their packaging will affect the environment. This knowledge enables us to make targeted improvements.

To ensure we continually make our products and processes more environmentally responsible, we participate in environmental research with partners in industry, academia and NGOs and we also work with regulators.