Last week, international beauty brand heavyweights Dove and The Body Shop, owned by Unilever and Natura &Co respectively, unveiled a European Citizens’ Initiative they were spearheading alongside a raft of animal protection groups calling on the European Union to protect its ban on animal testing in cosmetics. Entitled ‘Save cruelty free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing’, it called on the European Commission to protect and strengthen the cosmetics animal testing ban; transform EU chemicals regulation; and modernise science in the EU. The aim was to collect more than one million signatures within 12 months, at which point the European Commission would have to decide on what action to take.
Beauty brands working together – this is about ‘scale and size’
Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Firdaous El Honsali, global communications and sustainability director at Dove, said the partnership with The Body Shop followed a broader industry-wide initiative in December 2020 where 450+ brands signed an open letter to the leaders of the EU calling for the longstanding ban on animal testing in cosmetics to be upheld.
El Honsali said bringing together big beauty brands to push forward this topic was, and would continue, to be key.
“The scale and size of both Dove and The Body Shop, combined with our commitment to cruelty-free beauty, means we’re able to harness our collective power to reach and engage people who share our values and the values of our partners, calling for the EU’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics to be upheld,” she said.
Chris Davis, global director of sustainability, activism and corporate communications at The Body Shop, agreed: “We are proud to speak as one voice and this is a time for businesses to really work together for the common good. We hope to inspire other companies through this unique partnership of two brands to come together and drive positive change.”
"...We’re looking forward to other brands joining us – as well as urging EU Citizens to take urgent action by signing the ECI. The potential impact of this issue is huge, and it needs huge response. We need to be sending a clear message – that ECHA’s proposals go against the will of the people," he said.
‘Conflict’ between EC Cosmetics Regulation and REACH Regulation
Noise had built in recent months around the EU’s animal testing ban on cosmetic products and ingredients because of increasing criticism that the European Cosmetics Regulation 1223/2009 and European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) REACH Regulation 1907/2006 were at odds on the issue. Under the EU Cosmetics Regulation, animal testing on cosmetic ingredients and finished products had been banned since 2013, with an initial ban on testing for certain endpoints on finished products in place since 2004 and for ingredients since 2009. But under ECHA’s REACH Regulation, certain aspects required or enabled animal testing – notably testing for environmental endpoints like aquatic toxicity, the first-time registration of some new chemical substances and long-term worker safety.
This ‘conflict’ was most recently called out by researchers from the Transatlantic Think-Tank for Toxicology t4 in a published paper identifying a number of in vivo tests conducted on cosmetic-exclusive ingredients since the 2013 ban, largely to prove environmental safety under REACH or because alternative testing methods had been rejected by ECHA.
Davis said: “The EU led the world on banning animal testing back in 2013 and now the world is watching. This ground-breaking ban was borne of decades of campaigning, and it must be upheld.”
El Honsali added: “As an actionist brand, we need to provide solutions and only by acting together can we change the industry for better. If companies, NGOs and governments come together, everyone will soon be able to assess the safety of all cosmetics without any need for animal testing anywhere in the world.”
A global animal testing ban in cosmetics the goal for 2023
The EU Parliament said its goal was to see a global animal testing ban on cosmetics in place by 2023, and just last week Mexico was added to the growing list of countries implementing bans.
In a statement published relating to the European Citizens’ Initiative spearheaded by Dove and The Body Shop, trade association Cosmetics Europe said the only way forward for such global change would be to focus on the development and regulatory acceptance of non-animal testing methods.
“The cosmetics and personal care industry has been at the forefront of developing alternatives to animal testing for regulatory safety assessment for more than 30 years. Science, research and innovation have been key drivers for maintaining the industry’s leading role in the field. We have shown strong, sustained commitment – and made significant investment – to build on scientific progress, develop new approaches and drive innovative paradigm shifts in safety testing and safety assessment that meets regulatory needs. We are fully committed to continuing our work in this field,” it said.
“…We believe in an open scientific dialogue to advance this work. We call upon the EU policy makers to facilitate such a dialogue with the cosmetics and personal care industry and all other relevant stakeholders through an appropriate collaborative platform.”
Cosmetics Europe recently unveiled plans to launch a five-year, industry-led and global New Science Programme in 2022 aimed at driving forward knowledge and regulatory acceptance of animal testing alternatives in cosmetics.