The ingredients in our products must be safe for people and the planet – but we don’t need to test on animals to achieve this. Here Dr Julia Fentem, Head of our Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre, explains why we’re calling for chemical regulations to change.
Over 1 million signatures opposing new animal tests. What next?
More than 1.2 million people signed the European Citizens’ Initiative to save cruelty-free cosmetics and end animal testing. Great news! But what happens now? Here’s what we’re doing…
At Unilever we’ve been committed to using science, not animals to assure product and ingredient safety for decades.
- We’ve used and developed non-animal methods since the 1980s
- We’re recognised by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) as a company working for regulatory change to implement modern non-animal safety approaches for consumer products across the world
- 31 of our brands are PETA-Approved as not testing on animals globally (we’re working on more)
- And we’re working with other partners for a worldwide end to animal tests for cosmetics. In an era when modern science and technology can provide more relevant data for better safety decisions, there is no justification for using animals.
This is why we took immediate action when we learned in August 2020 that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) was calling for new animal tests on ingredients widely used in consumer products with a long history of safe use. The move effectively ended the EU’s long-standing ban on animal testing for cosmetics, putting countless animals at risk.
Uniting to #SaveCrueltyFreeCosmetics and end animal testing of chemicals
With Dove leading the charge, we and our PETA-Approved brands joined forces with The Body Shop, PETA, Cruelty Free Europe, Humane Society International, Eurogroup for Animals and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments.
Together Dove, The Body Shop and over 100 animal protection organisations launched a campaign entitled #SaveCrueltyFreeCosmetics and backed a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – a mechanism for EU citizens to shape policy by calling on the European Commission to propose new laws.
The ECI asked policy-makers to:
- Protect and strengthen its existing animal testing ban for cosmetics
- Transform EU chemicals regulation, protecting human health and the environment without new animal testing requirements
- And commit to a roadmap to phase out all animal testing in the EU by quickly phasing in non-animal approaches based on modern science.
If 1 million people signed to support the ECI in 12 months (by the end of August 2022), the European Commission would have to take notice, and act on these issues.
With the votes now verified, we can confirm more than 1.2 million EU residents signed and no other ECI has ever received this level of support across so many different countries.
It sends a very clear message to the European Commission that EU citizens don’t want animal testing. They want to see the ban on animal testing of cosmetic ingredients upheld, and a roadmap to end animal testing across the EU for good.
Our ongoing commitments against animal testing
The ECI is now closed, and we welcome the progress we’re starting to see from the regulatory community. The European Commission must now meet with campaigners and address citizens’ concerns.
March 2023 will mark ten years since a full ban on the sale of cosmetics that include ingredients tested on animals came into force in the EU. At the time, Europe led the world with this change – and we hope that positive momentum will now get back on track.
The next three to five years will be critical in implementing regulatory change by agreeing and working on a shared roadmap to accelerate phasing in non-animal approaches based on modern science while phasing out animal testing.Dr Julia Fentem, Head of Unilever's Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre
Meanwhile we will continue to champion the use of modern non-animal safety science in place of animal testing with all stakeholders and share Unilever’s scientific approaches with others. In the past three years, Unilever safety scientists have been key contributors to training webinars and a new educational programme on animal-free safety assessment of chemicals developed as part of .
We’re advocating for the modernisation of regulatory approaches to enable greater use of the exciting new science and tools developed over the past decade. Breakthroughs that mean that ingredients and products can be scientifically proven to be safe and more sustainable – without animal testing. To achieve this we’re partnering with other experts to develop new assessment frameworks for chemicals that will help accelerate the transition to animal-free innovation.
And we’re working with governments around the world to support regulatory change. This work played a part in achieving substantial changes to cosmetics regulations in China in 2021, and we have made progress towards animal testing bans for cosmetics in other countries and states, including Brazil, Canada, Chile and New York.
“A significant tipping point for non-animal safety science”
“We have reached a significant tipping point for the regulatory use of non-animal science for assessing chemical safety,” says Dr Julia Fentem, Head of the Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre at Unilever.
“The next three to five years will be critical in implementing regulatory change by agreeing and working on a shared roadmap to accelerate phasing in non-animal approaches based on modern science while phasing out outdated animal testing. Meanwhile, those involved in developing and applying advanced non-animal tools must persist in speaking up, with passion, conviction and commitment, if we are to seize the opportunity to fundamentally change the methods and data used to assure chemical safety by all company and regulatory scientists.
We say use science, not animals, to ensure consumer products and their ingredients are safe. Read more on our commitments, our work and the challenges.
New European Chemicals Agency proposals contradict the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics. We don’t agree that ingredients with a history of safe use and manufacture need further testing on animals. Here Julia Fentem, who leads product safety at Unilever, explains why.