11 March 2013

Beauty and the Beast

Written by Published in Health & Beauty

March 11 2013 will be remembered as a big day for cruelty free cosmetics campaigners in Europe. But, certainly, the fight is not over yet

EU legislation banning animal testing on all products and components of products, final or prototype, made, sold or imported into the EU has come into effect. But animal testing is not yet banned in the USA and Asia and there are still circumstances in which companies can appeal to override the ban. Even with this big victory in the EU there is not always a guarantee that the products you buy in the UK, or in other European countries, are not funding companies who do test on animals.

In 2006, ethical shoppers were shocked by the news that the Body Shop had been bought by cosmetics giant L’Oréal. Previously, Anita Roddick, founder and ethical campaigner, had largely owned the company. The anti-animal testing brand sold for £652 million on March 17 2006.

Concerned shoppers and loyal customers may have been put off by the sale because of the 29.8% of L’Oréal that is owned by Nestlé. Infamous for their unethical practices, Nestlé’s share in the profits of the wholesome, family owned Body Shop brand is simply disconcerting.

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The ethics of the two companies: the Body Shop and their new owners L’Oréal, couldn’t be more different. On their website, the Body Shop has a page dedicated to their policy on animal testing. All products sold in their stores are certified by the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) and meets their Humane Cosmetics Standard.

In 1997, The Body Shop were the first international company to sign up to the Human Cosmetics Standard; in 2004 the EU ban on animal testing came into force; 2009 saw them receive a lifetime achievement award from the RSPCA and in 2012 they began supporting Cruelty Free International, who on their website advertise their campaign within Body Shop stores.

However, L’Oréal’s brands appear on PETA’s list of companies that do test on animals as much as eighteen times, including: Garnier, L’Oréal USA and Lacôme. John Ruane, director of Naturewatch calls L’Oréal ‘the biggest animal testers in the world.’

Naturewatch, an organisation campaigning against animal cruelty around the world, states that the ‘Body Shop doesn’t want you to know’ that it’s now owned by L’Oréal.’

The Body Shop’s profits and number of stores climbed under the umbrella of L’Oréal. In 2005, previous to the sale, the Body Shop had 2,085 branches. In 2007, L’Oréal’s half-year financial report states that the Body Shop now had 2,133 stores and made 3.9% of L’Oréal’s cosmetics sales. More recently, in the latest financial report from the company (first half of 2012), L’Oréal states the Body Shop has 2,781 stores – a growth of 648 in five years – and makes 3.1% of L’Oréal’s cosmetics sales, which equates to £322.62 million.

bodyshop3Naturewatch have been campaigning against the Body Shop since its take-over by L’Oréal in 2006. Their message: ‘Boycott the Body Shop: their profits go into the pockets of L’Oréal.’

‘In widening it’s audience,’ Ruane continues, ‘it has lost its way.’ Boycotting is a powerful resource we have as consumers to penalise misleading and bad practices by choosing not to buy their products,’ Ruane explains, to ‘hurt’ the company you must take their money. A win for Naturewatch would ultimately be for everyone to stop buying The Body Shop's products. 

In 2006, ICM conducted a study into the views of loyal Body Shop customers. Their conclusions state that many shoppers (52% of randomly selected members of the public) would not shop there any more. The ‘loyal big spenders’ who bought all cosmetics, body products and even gifts from The Body Shop no longer had the loyalty that they did when Roddick owned it. The Body Shop was ‘no longer a trustworthy alternative.’

Ruane thinks that, sadly, the new EU ban on animal testing won't affect L’Oréal in any significant way, but boycotting a shop that in the past stood against animal testing just might.

So how do you get involved? Naturewatch needs involvement for their boycott to move forward. Visit their website for template letters to write to The Body Shop and L'Oreal, find a cruelty-free alternative (such as Lush, Green People, Weleda or Neil’s Yard) to shop for similar products and spread the word for people who may not know that The Body Shop’s parent company are still testing on animals. 

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