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Ethics in the Cosmetics Industry

Recently, the beauty and cosmetics industry are facing ever growing concerns regarding social and ethical responsibility in terms of animal testing, sustainability and chemical pollution.

I live in the UK, which at the time of me writing this is still a member of the European Union and must abide by its regulations. As of 2013, one of the regulations which cosmetics companies must abide by is a complete ban of animal testing from cosmetic products which are finished. Individual ingredients of these products, however, must still be tested. This raises some questions for companies which claim to be cruelty free and against animal testing.

Companies such as The Body Shop and Lush market themselves as being cruelty free and ethically sourced brands, but how can this be when regional laws and regulations require particular tests before their products can enter the market.This is a problem worldwide, not just in Europe. Lush, a UK based cosmetics company who praise themselves on their stance on ethical conduct and their campaigns against animal testing, have recently entered the Chinese market where all finished cosmetic products are required to be tested on animals, not just individual ingredients like in the EU. In these cases, can such strong ethical values still be upheld when selling products in foreign markets require a brand to go against it’s strongest values?

More questions can be raised about company ethics when you begin to look into parent companies and their values, or in some cases, conflicting values. The L’Oreal Group claim to be the worlds largest cosmetics company, owning and marketing hundreds of sub-companies such as Maybelline, Garnier, Vichy, Kiehl’s and Pureology. Many of these brands will hold values and standards which conflict with each other, but also conflict with their parent company’s values. One company may be the most ethical company in the world, but if they have to answer to a parent company which doesn’t hold the same strong values, can these values actually be upheld and enforced?

L’Oreal claim that they haven’t tested finished products on animals since 1989, however, if you look into some of its sub-brands, it is apparent that some of them actually do. PETA offer an online service where consumers can check whether or not a brand test on animals. From doing a little searching on the site, it states that L’Oreal actually does test on animals, but PureOlogy, a sub-brand, does not. Another sub-brand, Kiehl’s apparently do test on animals but NYX and The Body Shop do not.

It’s becoming increasing difficult to distinguish individual company ethics among larger parent companies with a reputation larger than its sub-brands. Ethics are becoming very sketchy, and most people don’t really know what the truth is when it comes to cosmetics ethics.

If you are conscious of cosmetic companies which test on animals, here’s a link to a list made by PETA of some of the companies which don’t test on animals. Just don’t forget about that EU regulation; as long as we’re in the EU animal testing will happen at some stage of the production process, unfortunately.

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