At Green Blue You we are committed to providing products that we have reviewed carefully to ensure maximum sustainability. In addition, we do not stock products that have been tested on animals. In this blog we take a deeper look at animal testing, at how the landscape has changed in recent years and explain our approach to what we stock and sell.
[Image: Humane Society International graphic from one of their campaigns against animal testing]
Worldwide millions of animals are used in animal testing each year- for medical research, safety of medicines and for testing of other ingredients and products for human use including household products, personal care products and cosmetics. The movement against animal testing began in the late 19th century, but achieved huge prominence in the UK in the 80s and 90s with animals rights organisations, ethical companies and others forming a huge lobby against animal testing. This movement raised consumer awareness of animal testing for cosmetics, advocated outright bans on some forms of animal testing and promoted cruelty free brands and products. For many of us growing up at this time, animal testing became a big consideration in our shopping choices and pressure increased on governments to do much more to regulate and reduce animal testing.
So where are we now and how confident can you be that the products you buy are not tested on animals?
Many countries have taken steps to introduce greater regulation of medical testing and to ban animal testing of other products, in recognition not just of animal welfare arguments but also developments in technology and lab techniques that made alternatives means of safety testing these products both rigorous and widely available. In 2004 the EU introduced a ban on the testing of finished cosmetic products on animals. Five years later it also banned the testing of cosmetics ingredients and it banned the import and sale of new cosmetics tested on animals abroad in 2013. However, other EU legislation makes the ban on ingredients testing incomplete. The EU chemical safety regulation -REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) required all chemicals used in Europe to be re-tested for safety by June 2018. Where it was judged that non animal tests were not sufficient, animal tests were still used, so some chemicals used in some cosmetic products will still have been tested on animals to satisfy REACH requirements. And although the testing of ‘finished’ household (e.g. cleaning) products on animals has been banned in the EU since 2015, the testing of ingredients is still allowed.
To complicate matters further, some products are not tested on animals for the UK market but legislation elsewhere (e.g. the USA or China) may still require them to be tested on animals. This can be the case even for for personal care items like tampons and condoms which you wouldn't necessarily expect to be tested on animals. So even if a company’s products for the UK market are not tested on animals, they may still have animal testing as part of their overseas operations. In other cases, products or brands themselves are not tested on animals but are owned by a company that continues to use animal testing. Ecover and Method- two popular “eco” cleaning brands- are not themselves tested on animals but are owned by SC Johnson which tests on animals for its other brands. Ecover’s rating by Ethical Consumer (an independent non profit organisation analysing the policies and actions of companies with respect to the environment, human rights, workers’ rights, politics and product sustainability) dropped from 11 out of 14 to 7 out of 14 when it was bought by this parent brand (in addition to animal testing, also having its scores cut for pollutions and toxins, human rights, supply chain management, anti-social finance and political activities).
So what can you do to make sure you are not buying anything tested on animals?
The label will not always tell the whole story- a declaration that “this product is not tested on animals” may apply to the finished product itself, not all the ingredients, and tells you nothing about the company’s wider operations. Certification can be a good place to start. For example, the Leaping Bunny Certification sets out requirements for the product and ingredients, but also that the product cannot be sold in any countries requiring animal testing. However, certifications might not apply to the parent company of a brand: Ecover has Leaping Bunny certification but, for reasons explained above, its parent company SC Johnson does not. Similarly, Garnier shampoo bars are leaping bunny certified but the parent company Loreal has not adopted a company wide ban on animal testing therefore is not. In addition, small suppliers and start ups might be cruelty free (and arguably more purely so than some of the certified brands) but not have the resources or capacity to go through the certification process in their early years of operating- so looking for certifications is not the only way to find good cruelty free brands. Looking at the animal testing statement of the company in question is also worth doing. This should also include information on, for example, the cut off date for any ingredients which have been historically tested on animals. Ethical Consumer scores highest those companies which do not test any of their products or ingredients on animals, have a fixed cut-off date (a date after which none of their products or ingredients will have been tested on animals), and are not selling to markets, such as China, where animal testing of products is required by law. They also reveal products whose entire range have been certified as cruelty free.
So what do we do at Green Blue You? Animal testing is an important issue for us, and we stock only products where the product and its ingredients have not been tested on animals. Whilst we know, for some customers, it is enough that the product itself (and its ingredients) has not been tested by animals, for us, the parent company is also important so we do not stock brands where a parent company still uses animal testing. Which means we do not stock some brands (e.g. Ecover) that some of our customers do associate with being green. All of our cleaning products- Bio-D, Ecozone, Fill Refill and Greenscents are owned by companies whose entire ranges are cruelty free. Our refill brand for hair and body products, Faith in Nature receives the highest Ethical Consumer rating for animal testing. Certification itself is an important thing we look for, but we also buy from small producers who have not gone through the certification process. Here we look at the animal testing statement of the company, asking more questions if we need to, to ensure that all their claims of being cruelty free are valid. We care about this a lot, so if we wouldn’t use it ourselves then we don’t sell it to you.
HELP US OUT: Whilst we are constantly reviewing our products against our sustainability and ethical criteria, we are also mindful that landscapes can change (with purchase of a brand by a parent company being a classic example). If you ever have or hear any concerns about the sustainability or ethics of one of our brands, please do speak to us. We hope to be able to reassure you, but we would always want to know about a change or revelation we have not picked up. Ultimately, we are all part of the journey towards more sustainability and more transparency so it is great that we can all do this together.