Leading safety and environmental sustainability sciences

The scientists behind our safe and sustainable products

“Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre has a particularly vital role in delivering our global commitment to developing products responsibly.”

“SEAC scientists use industry-leading approaches, combining safety risk and environmental impact assessments, to assure the safety and sustainability of our products.”

Everyone at Unilever has a part to play in continuing to deliver safe products and in reducing our environmental impacts. However, Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) has a particularly vital role in delivering our global commitment to developing products responsibly.

SEAC is led by world-class safety and environmental sustainability scientists. They use the latest techniques, deep expertise and an objective approach to ensure that our products, the way we make them and how consumers are intended to use them, are safe and better for the environment.

Working side-by-side with teams across Unilever, from the beginning to the end of a product’s life, SEAC scientists ensure that safety and sustainability are designed into everything we make and do. In addition to this, SEAC scientists work with leading experts globally to advance the science needed to assess the product innovations of the future.

SEAC’s work is spearheaded by a team of 200, including scientists with expertise across a wide range of disciplines, based at two major Unilever Research and Development (R&D) centres – Colworth in the UK and Bangalore in India.

SEAC scientists use industry-leading approaches, combining safety risk and environmental impact assessments, to assure the safety and sustainability of our products. They draw on a wide span of expertise including consumer, environmental, process and worker safety, as well as environmental sustainability. Their scientific expertise is complemented by an understanding of product formulations and knowledge of how consumers use our products.

Advancing science through collaboration

SEAC scientists are at the forefront of safety and environmental sustainability science, sharing expertise and working in partnership with other leading experts around the world to further advance science. They are, for example, continually contributing to the evolution of toxicology and ecotoxicology (the sciences of evaluating the effects of chemicals on people and the environment) to keep our consumers, workers and the environment safe. 

These sciences draw on insights from such dynamic fields as systems biology (which uses computational models and laboratory data to understand biological effects as a whole), computational chemistry (involving the use of computer programs to understand chemical structures and properties) and bioinformatics (which applies computational techniques to vast amounts of biological data to provide new insights and understanding). For more details about our 21st century safety science see www.tt21c.org.

Q. How do SEAC scientists ensure safe and sustainable products?

A. Our main focus is on carrying out safety risk and environmental impact assessments of new Unilever products and processes. Our scientists work objectively, using rigorous science-based tools. The evidence they generate is used to guide decisions on the safety and environmental sustainability of Unilever product innovations sold around the world.

Q. Who does SEAC work with?

A. SEAC works with scientific organisations, leading academics, government scientists, other companies and trade associations. We publish our research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, present regularly at international conferences and discuss our approach to safety risk and environmental impact assessment with policy makers, regulators and other authorities.

Q. Is your industry-leading approach still evolving?

A. Yes. As science – and Unilever product innovation – continues to evolve, so does our safety and sustainability science. SEAC continues to build and apply new capabilities and tools to assess Unilever’s products and manufacturing processes to ensure our product innovations are safe for our consumers and workers and better for the environment.

Our open, collaborative approach enables us to advance science and develop Unilever’s expertise and reputation. This also means we keep abreast of external developments, enabling us to harness the latest scientific evidence and to create tools that can assess the product innovations of the future.

  • 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.

Case study: Assuring safety without the use of animals

Unilever is committed to ending animal testing wherever we operate. Our long track record in advancing this science means we already use a wide range of non-animal techniques. SEAC scientists continue to play a leading role in developing further new non-animal approaches for assessing product safety.

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 found in some consumer products.

We are also working with more than 40 other partners across the world to develop new non-animal tools and approaches. 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.

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