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Ending animal testing for cosmetics: ten years of progress


In March 2013, the EU banned the marketing of cosmetics containing ingredients that had been tested on animals. Here’s how we’ve been partnering for progress over the past decade.

Two scientists look at a computer screen in Unilever’s Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre

Ten years ago, the EU introduced a total ban on the marketing of cosmetics containing ingredients that had been tested on animals. This was a pivotal moment for animal protection worldwide, and 42 countries now have cosmetics animal testing bans in place.

At Unilever, we’ve been developing and using alternatives to animal testing to assess the safety of products and ingredients since the 1980s. We want to see an end to regulatory requirements for animal testing for cosmetics in every part of the world.

In 2018 we announced our support for a global ban on animal testing for cosmetics and our Dove brand, which reaches tens of millions of consumers every day, was PETA-Approved.

We now have over 25 PETA-Approved brands, including TRESemmé, Simple, Sunsilk and Lakmé. In 2021, Kate Somerville, one of our Prestige Beauty brands, became the first PETA-Approved brand imported into China.

The considerable progress made in the last decade has only been possible due to all stakeholders working together with a shared ambition of ending animal testing.

Dr Julia Fentem, Head of Unilever's Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre.

Unilever is also a member of Humane Society International’s (HSI) #BeCrueltyFree movement, supporting its hard-hitting #SaveRalph campaign in 2021, and HSI’s Animal-Free Safety Assessment collaboration (AFSA), a global coalition working to advance the acceptance and regulatory use of animal-free safety science worldwide.

We are committed to ensuring that our products and the ingredients they contain are safe and sustainable without animal testing – and we take pride in sharing our experience with others. That’s why we’re working with partners to accelerate the use of animal-free safety science beyond our own business.

Read more about alternatives to animal testing at Unilever here

 A close-up photo of a scientist wearing a white lab coat with a Unilever logo on the chest.

Defending the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics

The progress made by the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics was at risk of being undermined when in 2020 the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) called for new animal tests on hundreds of commonly used cosmetics ingredients with a long history of safe use.

Dove, working together with PETA, Cruelty Free Europe, The Body Shop and more than 100 animal protection organisations, launched a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), inviting EU citizens to show their support for upholding the ban.

More than 1.2 million people signed the ECI, sending EU policymakers a very clear message. Read more about the Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics ECI and what’s happening next here.

We believe that regulators can and should go further to phase out animal tests through implementing non-animal approaches for assessing the safety of all chemical ingredients – not just those used in cosmetics. Last year the EU Commission announced its intention to implement a roadmap to phase out EU regulatory animal testing for chemicals and we look forward to supporting this action through the European Partnership on Alternative Approaches to Animal Testing (EPAA).

A close up photo of a scientist in one of Unilever's lab using a microscope and wearing purple surgical gloves.

Collaborating to advance use of alternatives to animal testing globally

We’ve been developing and using alternatives to animal testing with over 70 partners for more than four decades, publishing approximately 200 scientific research papers in the last ten years alone. Read a summary of our progress here.

One of our key research partners is the Center for Computational Toxicology and Exposure at the US Environmental Protection Agency, who we’ve been working with since 2015 to develop and evaluate our non-animal chemical safety assessment approaches.

We've worked with more than 70 partners to publish around 200 scientific papers on alternatives to animal testing in the past 10 years

We’ve also worked with leading academics, government laboratories and authorities to share our expertise and help build animal-free safety science capability in China for over a decade, both directly and in partnership with the Institute for In Vitro Sciences. In 2021, we were delighted that China introduced a new regulation removing the need for most imported cosmetics to undergo animal testing in Chinese government laboratories.

This year we helped launch the International Collaboration on Cosmetics Safety (ICCS) – a group of more than 35 cosmetics and chemicals companies and animal protection NGOs focused on advancing the adoption of animal-free safety science for cosmetics products and ingredients globally. Read more about our work with the ICCS here.

We’re also investing in the next generation of safety scientists, collaborating with universities and labs around the world to share access to the latest science, technology and new computational tools for assessing safety without animal tests.

And as part of our work to promote the wider use of animal-free safety science, we present our research at scientific conferences and workshops, and make all our research available online as a learning resource. Find out more about SEAC (Unilever’s Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre) here.

“Working together with a shared ambition”

“The considerable progress made in the last decade has only been possible due to all stakeholders working together with a shared ambition of ending animal testing,” says Dr Julia Fentem, Head of SEAC.

“I am extremely proud of the part that the Unilever team continues to play in sharing our non-animal safety approaches and actively collaborating with others. Some strong new partnerships have emerged as powerful contributors to achieving real change, connecting leading-edge animal-free safety science with advocacy to transform regulations to be based on modern science and tools.”

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