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Alternatives to animal testing

Average read time: 4 minutes

Every product Unilever makes must be safe for people to use and safe for our planet. We believe that animal experiments should not be used to make sure that our products are safe.

Our approach

lady in science lab wearing lab coat looking at a yellow test tube

We use a wide range of non-animal approaches to assess the safety of our products. Since the 1980s, our scientists have been developing and using alternatives to animal tests, e.g. computer modelling and cell culture-based experiments. We regularly present and publish our work, and continually collaborate with others to share our knowledge and apply exciting new science to assure product safety.

Our recent video above further explains our approach and we publish more information on our scientific research on a dedicated Safety Science in the 21st Century (Opens in a new window) website.

Our leading-edge approach has one clear purpose: to continue to develop, apply and let others know about the research we do to guarantee that our products are safe, without the need for animal testing.

Julia Fentem, Head of SEAC

For the last five years, Unilever scientists have been partnering with experts at the US Environmental Protection Agency on collaborative research (Opens in a new window), to develop ground-breaking scientific approaches to better assess the safety of chemicals found in some consumer products, without using animal data.

We also work closely with researchers in the EU ToxRisk (Opens in a new window) programme, which is driving changes in safety science away from animal testing. Our scientists regularly participate in discussions with regulators and scientists in China to increase the use of non-animal approaches to safety. In 2019, in recognition of our work on alternatives to animal testing we received the Corporate Consciousness Award  from the Humane Society of the United States.

Building confidence with consumers

Our long-term investment in non-animal safety science has enabled some of our brands to be certified by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as ‘PETA-approved’, including Dove, Suave, St Ives, Simple, Sunsilk, Zendium, The Good Stuff, Emerge, Love Beauty and Planet, Love Home and Planet & Cafuné. We now have 26 brands which comply with the criteria set out in PETA’s Global Beauty Without Bunnies (Opens in a new window) Programme.

PETA certification

PETA certification logo - white bunny face with 'PETA Cruelty Free'

To ensure our PETA-approved brands and products continue to meet the strict criteria for no animal testing, we have implemented a number of internal procedures around new innovations, and a new supplier assurance process. These measures ensure that the ingredients used have not been tested on animals after 31 December 2010, and that the products are not tested by government authorities.

All our PETA-approved brands and products go beyond the standard requirements of the EU Cosmetics Regulation to ensure there is no animal testing conducted globally (for both ingredients and finished products).

Building a case to ban all animal testing

Occasionally, across our wider product portfolio, some of the ingredients we use have to be tested by our suppliers to comply with legal and regulatory requirements in some markets; and some governments test certain products on animals as part of their regulations. Unilever supports calls for a worldwide animal testing ban on cosmetics  by 2023, and we work with regulators, NGOs and our suppliers across the world to increase the acceptance of non-animal approaches.

Recent announcements from the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) could undo the continued progress that we – and many others – so want to see. We don’t agree  that existing ingredients with a long history of safe use and manufacture need further testing on animals. We will continue to work (Opens in a new window) for increased uptake of the new scientific approaches which we use to assure the safety of our consumers and our workers with no need for new animal testing.

We are an active member of the Animal-Free Safety Assessment (AFSA) (Opens in a new window) Collaboration coordinated by Humane Society International, where we work to accelerate the adoption of modern, human-relevant approaches to cosmetic safety assessment. All of this work, over more than 30 years, means that Unilever has been recognised by PETA as a company working for regulatory change (Opens in a new window).

The next generation of scientists

We also work with students – the safety scientists of the future; for example, those at the Universities of Birmingham in the UK, Wageningen in The Netherlands, and Peking in China. We want to ensure that they have access to the latest science, technology and new computational tools for assessing safety without animal testing.

We are committed to ending animal testing globally and so are our people. See our scientists’ stories  to find out more on why Unilever’s safety scientists care so much about what they do.