We recently attended a conference hosted by Unilever on the topic of animal testing. To provide a little context, the current regulatory landscape for animal testing is a complicated one and varies significantly by geography. In some jurisdictions, testing is banned, and non-animal measures are used as an alternative. However, in other markets, testing is legally mandated by the government. This contradictory background makes it challenging for Unilever to navigate, as a global business. To combat this, Unilever has transitioned from a corporate approach to a brand approach for animal testing. In doing this, Unilever can certify that specific products are not involved in animal testing at any point throughout their development and production process. Third party NGOs are used to verify these claims and, as things stand, Unilever possess 28 PETA approved brands throughout their portfolio.
Besides the obvious ethical objections to animal testing, the results provided from said tests are no longer the gold standard. Modern science and technology provide numerous alternatives such as cell-based assessments and computational models that generate more relevant data at more detailed levels, in a speedier fashion. Therefore, animal testing is no longer required. Unilever has been involved in the development of non-animal alternatives for 40 years and are supportive of a global ban on animal testing. Despite the advances in science and technology that have occurred over the years, regulation has lagged behind in many countries and is yet to be updated for the modern era. Unilever have been working in collaboration with government labs globally to educate and validate non-animal testing methods. For example, by working closely with the Russian and Chinese governments, they have successfully removed the mandatory testing requirements for a number of cosmetics products.
Outdated and conflicting animal testing laws are unfortunately not isolated to Russia and China: the EU is also impacted. While animal testing may be banned on cosmetic products in the EU, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) under the REACH regulation, mandates the testing of almost all chemicals used throughout Europe in order to assess health hazards alongside their environmental impact. This regulation requires animal testing for a selection of chemicals and if historical results are unavailable, fresh tests are required, despite a considerable number of these chemicals having been safely in use for many years. Unilever, in unison with their competitors and NGOs, are taking an active stance against this regulation. Brands including Dove are mobilising consumer support and encouraging the signing of EU and UK-wide petitions to phase out animal testing. The actions taken by Unilever provide us with a sense of reassurance and demonstrate their commitment to eradicating animal testing.
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