Leading safety and environmental sustainability sciences

The scientists behind our safe and sustainable products

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Everyone at Unilever has a part to play in making sure that our products are safe and sustainable and that we continue to reduce our environmental impacts. The team of scientists at our Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) has a vital role in helping to deliver these commitments.

SEAC is a team of industry-leading safety and environmental sustainability scientists. They use the latest techniques, deep scientific expertise and an evidence-based approach to ensure that our products are safe for consumers and workers and better for the environment.

Working with teams across Unilever, from the beginning to the end of a product’s life, SEAC scientists ensure that safety and sustainability are built into everything we make and do. In addition to this, SEAC scientists work with leading experts around the globe to constantly advance the science we use to assess our product innovations of the future.

SEAC is part of our Research and Development (R&D) facilities based at Colworth in the UK, with a diverse team of over 160 people. SEAC scientists use industry-leading approaches to assure the safety and sustainability of our products. They draw on a wide span of multidisciplinary scientific expertise to carry out robust safety and environmental impact assessments. This includes expertise in consumer, environmental, process and worker safety, as well as environmental sustainability. At the heart of our risk and impact assessments is an in-depth understanding of Unilever’s product formulations and knowledge of how people use our products.

SEAC covers many different fields of science including cell biology, microbiology, toxicology (looks at the potential effects an ingredient could have on the body), computational chemistry (which is used to predict a chemical’s properties from its structure), bioinformatics (using computational approaches to get new insights from Big Data), mathematical modelling, environmental and sustainability science.

Many of SEAC’s scientists have international reputations in their field.

Advancing science through partnership

SEAC scientists are at the forefront of modern advances in safety and environmental sustainability science, sharing our work and partnering with many other leading experts around the world to continue to advance this science. 

SEAC scientists partner with leading academic groups, government scientists, other companies, trade associations and NGOs around the world. We publish our research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, talk about our research regularly at international scientific conferences, and discuss our approach to safety risk and environmental impact assessment with policy makers, regulators and other authorities. For more details about our 21st century safety and sustainability sciences see www.tt21c.org and www.SS21C.org and our video (shown below) that explains our new approaches to safety science.

Our collaborative approach to safety and sustainability science means we can harness the latest scientific evidence and create approaches to assess the product innovations of the future.

The history of SEAC

  • 1961 - The Unilever Board establishes a mandatory toxicological safety clearance system for all company products.
  • 1964 - A new state-of-the-art toxicology laboratory opens at Colworth, UK.
  • 1973 - First Unilever scientific publication on alternatives to animal testing.
  • 1986 - Unilever’s safety laboratories receive first certificate of Good Laboratory Practice compliance.
  • 1990 - The Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) is formed, bringing together all Unilever’s safety resources across consumer, occupational and environmental safety and environmental sustainability.
  • 1994 - SEAC publishes its 100th research paper on non-animal approaches for assessing consumer safety.
  • 2001 - Unilever launches a scientific evidence-based IT system for formal safety approval. All SEAC groups co-located at Unilever’s Colworth R&D laboratory.
  • 2004 - Unilever invests in a novel long-term research programme to apply modelling and informatics approaches for non-animal safety assessments.
  • 2009 - Environmental Safety Laboratory scientists in Bangalore, India, become part of the global SEAC organisation.
  • 2013 - SEAC’s Safety Science in the 21st Century website (www.TT21C.org) goes live, enabling Unilever’s safety research to be shared with the global scientific community.
  • 2015 - SEAC celebrates its 25th anniversary with a scientific symposium attended by more than 60 leading scientific partners from across the world.
  • 2018 - SEAC provide underpinning scientific evidence to allow Dove to be the first of Unilever’s core brands to be certified as ‘Cruelty-Free’ by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
  • 2018 - SEAC’s Sustainability Science in the 21st Century website (www.SS21C.org) goes live, enabling Unilever’s environmental sustainability research to be shared with the global scientific community.
  • 2019 - SEAC scientists collect the Corporate Consciousness Award from the Humane Society of the United States in recognition of work on non-animal approaches to safety.

Case study: safety without the use of animals

We use a wide range of non-animal approaches to evaluate the safety of our products for consumers, our workers and the environment.  We also develop ‘next generation’ safety assessment approaches that do not rely on new animal data.

In September 2015, we announced a major collaboration with the US Environmental Protection Agency to develop ground-breaking, non-animal approaches to better assess the safety of chemicals used in consumer products.

We also partner with more than 40 other scientific groups across the world to develop new, non-animal tools and approaches for assuring the safety of Unilever’s ingredients. In doing so, we use cutting-edge research, including computer modelling, exposure science and mechanistic chemistry. We regularly publish and present our research advances and make them available through a unique website, www.TT21C.org, which we launched in 2013.

We were honoured to receive the 2019 Corporate Consciousness Award from the Humane Society of the United States, recognising the impact of our non-animal safety science in replacing animal testing.

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