In August last year, Dove and The Body Shop announced a partnership alongside a raft of leading global animal protection groups to mobilise consumers into signing a European Citizens’ Initiative* entitled ‘Save cruelty free cosmetics – Commit to a Europe without animal testing’. The goal? To call on the European Commission to protect and strengthen the cosmetics animal testing ban; transform EU chemicals regulation; and modernise science in the EU.
Approaching its August 31, 2022 deadline, the European Citizens’ Initiative already had more than one million signatures – 100,000 of which were signed in the first ten days – meaning the European Commission would likely now have to take note, but Dove was making a last push for additional signatures.
“EU citizens are being urged to make more of their voices heard and send a clear message to the EU Commission to end animal testing and use modern non-animal safety science to better protect people and our planet,” the beauty brand said in a statement.
*A European Citizen’s Initiative is a petition-like mechanism designed to enable EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies. The initiative needs more than one million signatures within 12 months, with minimum numbers in at least seven EU countries, before the European Commission will decide on what action to take.
Combining scale and size brings a collective power
Speaking on the last push for signatures, Firdaous El Honsali, VP of external communications and sustainability at Dove, said: “At Dove, we stand passionately against animal cruelty and, together with our partners, we are leaning into the power of collective action to deliver a long-standing impact. We need to act now – we urge our peers in the beauty industry and the public to lend their voice to fight to end animal testing in the EU once and for all, by urgently supporting and signing this European Citizens' Initiative.”
Executives from Dove and The Body Shop previously said it was the combined scale and size of both beauty majors, alongside the leading animal protection groups, that gave power to this call.
EU Animal Testing Ban in Cosmetics
The European Citizens' Initiative came amidst increasing criticism from industry and NGOs that the European Cosmetics Regulation 1223/2009 and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) REACH Regulation 1907/2006 were at odds in animal testing requirements.
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 in finished products in place since 2004 and for ingredients since 2009. However, 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.
Executives from Unilever's Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) highlighted industry 'frustration' on the matter, particularly around potential use of animal-free testing alternatives.
Julia Fentem, head of Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre told CosmeticsDesign-Europe the broad industry partnership, including more than 100 animal protection organizations, was hoping to use "power in numbers" to protect the bans and raise consumer awareness.
“In order for the current animal testing ban to be upheld across Europe, we need to see the EU being bold and progressive in re-thinking its regulatory approaches to chemicals, starting with those used as ingredients in cosmetics, to enable the use of the best science available rather than continuing to be anchored in animal tests dating back to the first half of the last century,” Fentem said.
Beauty industry noise, collaboration and innovation
In recent years, the beauty and personal care industry had extensively joined forces in the plight to end animal testing on cosmetic ingredients and products globally, with a series of public statements and official letters, industry initiatives and individual brand actions worldwide.
In November 2020, industry majors including Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal, Unilever and Avon signed an open statement issued by the Human Society International’s Animal-free Safety Assessment Collaboration (AFSA) claiming ECHA and its Board of Appeal were undermining the EU animal testing ban on cosmetics. In December 2020, 400+ beauty companies and brands signed an open letter addressed to the European Commission, Parliament and Council calling for new animal testing to be stopped, in adherence to the existing EU animal testing ban.
Last year, industry association Cosmetics Europe then unveiled its latest project: the animal-free safety assessment New Science Programme, to drive forward non-animal safety assessment capabilities, regulatory use of these alternatives and education and training across industry.
Gavin Maxwell, strategy and communications lead for the Safety & Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) at Unilever, said: “It is a unique programme. It’s the only programme that’s going to directly address cosmetic industry needs and we hope it will become the place to continue discussions that have been ongoing for 20+ years.”