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Estée Lauder Partners With Cruelty Free International To “End Animal Testing”

by Suzana Rose

Oct 8, 2019

Cruelty Free International has announced a partnership with Estée Lauder, parent company of brands like MAC, Clinique, Bobbi Brown, and Tom Ford. Estée Lauder is currently not cruelty-free as many of their brands are sold in China.

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This partnership does not mean that all Estée Lauder brands will go cruelty-free, although some brands will become cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny certified as part of the process.

Read all the details about this partnership below, plus an exclusive interview with Cruelty Free International.

What We Know

  • Estee Lauder is joining Cruelty Free International "to influence to bring animal testing for cosmetics to an end worldwide" -- NOT to go cruelty-free
  • Some brands owned by EL are seeking Leaping Bunny certification
  • CFI cannot share which brands will gain certification or when, but we should hear more "soon"
  • Some brands owned by EL are already cruelty-free (Becca, Too Faced, Smashbox, Aveda) so these are possibly the brands that will become certified
  • It's unsure whether other brands will pull out of China to gain Leaping Bunny certifiaction, or continue to sell there while bypassing animal testing, or if no progress will be made
  • Currently, Cruelty Free International is paving the way for companies to avoid any post-market animal testing via their pilot programme in China -- could EL brands join this programme?

What does this mean?

Given everything we know, we can conclude that Estée Lauder Companies' goal is to help end animal testing in China in order to be considered cruelty-free.

Big companies have been influencing Chinese animal testing laws for years, and this in itself is nothing new. However, it's great progress for EL brands to show their commitment by certifying some of their brands by Leaping Bunny.

Cruelty Free International has been emphasizing that the aim of the partnership is to influence to bring animal testing for cosmetics to an end worldwide. Keeping this in mind, it seems more likely that EL companies will remain in China. Their goal, most likely, is to bring down the animal testing practices in place.

Since there has already been a ton of progress done in China lately, I believe that this is entirely possible -- yet it will take time.

The progress I'm referring to is:

"I’m confident that by working together with beauty companies through our #BeCruelty campaign, we can help bring an end to cosmetics testing on animals by 2023. Animal testing is last century’s science, but to legislate it out of existence requires us to join forces with forward-looking industry leaders like The Estée Lauder Companies." -- Kitty Block, President of Humane Society International

Interview With Cruelty Free International

Cruelty Free International has agreed to answer my questions regarding this partnership. Read their answers below if you want to gain more insight.

Cruelty-Free Kitty: Will The Estée Lauder Companies pull out of China, or will they still sell in China and bypass animal testing laws?
Cruelty Free Interntional: This announcement today is specifically about The Estée Lauder Companies entering into a partnership with Cruelty Free International to influence to bring animal testing for cosmetics to an end worldwide.
As a global corporation The Estée Lauder Companies has been clear that they don’t test their products on animals nor do they ask others to test for them. The company acknowledges that some of its brands are sold in countries where animal testing on cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients can be required by law.
A company of this scale and size adding its voice has the potential to move us forward and we hope that our partnership will help foster meaningful and sustainable change to cosmetics animal testing in countries where it is still practiced or mandated by law. We are very pleased that The Estée Lauder Companies has committed to start the process of Leaping Bunny certification for some of its brands. Watch this space for further news on this commitment.
CFK: For companies that are part of your pilot program in China, how do you ensure that products are not tested on animals post-market?
CFI: Our Leaping Bunny pilot programme allows cruelty free brands to access the Chinese market utilising domestic production whilst avoiding the risk of post-market testing on animals. The project is a collaboration between Cruelty Free International along with Knudsen&CRC, Fengpu Industrial Park, Oriental Beauty Valley and the relevant Chinese authorities.
Working with project partners like Knudsen&CRC and Fengpu Industrial Park means there is expertise on hand to ensure that filing for project companies is free from animal testing. In the highly unlikely event of any safety concerns, the involved authorities have agreed that the companies will be able to recall products rather than face animal tests.
By what year does The Estée Lauder Companies plan on acquiring Leaping Bunny certification? Is the end goal for all The Estée Lauder Companies brands to be certified, or only some?
Today’s announcement is the first phase of a partnership between The Estée Lauder Companies and Cruelty Free International aiming for a global end to cosmetics animal testing. As part of the partnership, The Estée Lauder Companies will demonstrate its cruelty free commitment by beginning the process of seeking Leaping Bunny certification for some of its brands.
As you know, details of brands applying for and seeking certifications aren’t announced until the certification is completed – and that’s always a very rigorous process. For more information please visit www.ELcompanies.com   
CFK: Can you share which brands are more likely to get certified?
CFI: We never share the names of brands that are applying for or in the process of Leaping Bunny certification but rest assured that the commitment from the company to seek certification for brands is there. We look forward to positive announcements soon.
CFK: Currently, does The Estée Lauder Companies ONLY test on animals where required by law, or do they need to set in place new measures within the company and their suppliers in order to fulfil Leaping Bunny requirements?
CFI: More than 30 years ago, The Estée Lauder Companies was one of the first cosmetics companies to eliminate animal testing as a method of determining product safety. They don’t test their products on animals, and they don’t ask others to test for them. They acknowledge that some of their brands are sold in countries where animal testing on cosmetics or cosmetic ingredients is required by law.
However, as a global company dedicated to bringing products and experiences to consumers in over 150 countries and territories, they believe it is their responsibility to contribute to the sustainable solution to end animal testing for cosmetics, and they believe that through strong partnerships such as this one, sharing their science and engaging with their communities in a meaningful way they can contribute to the global end of cosmetic animal testing.
By entering into a collaboration with Cruelty Free International, The Estée Lauder Companies is affirming a commitment to the universal acceptance of non-animal test methods with the goal of eliminating animal testing.

CFK: As cruelty-free consumers, how do we trust that products won't be tested on animals before the company has a chance to recall them? Are there signed documents from the authorities in China, or is it based on trust?

CFI: I'm sure you'll appreciate that one of the reasons we don't do lots of PR on the pilot programme - even though it's a really significant stepping stone - is that we do need to think about our partners at all times, Knudsen&CRC, Fengpu Industrial Park, Oriental Beauty Valley and the relevant Chinese authorities with whom we’re working.

It's worth noting that one of the things we're trying to do is build confidence in the safety of cruelty free cosmetics in China. Safety is obviously incredibly important everywhere, but it is something that the Chinese have a lot of concern about. Growing that confidence is essential.

We know our brands produce safe products and have done so for years. We know that validated non-animal tests result in safe cosmetics. The agreement about product recall is in the most unlikely case of a safety concern. We have a detailed working relationship with all of our partners and we're in constant communication and have people on the ground – so we have complete trust and confidence in the pilot.

What are your thoughts?

Feel free to share your thoughts on this partnership in the comments below. Do you believe that Estée Lauder is purely doing it for publicity, or do you think they have good intentions? What kind of impact do you think this partnership will have?

Image Credit: Zalando

Which Brands Are Cruelty-Free?

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+ Show Comments (45) - Hide Comments (45)
  • Susan Cassano says:

    I will not patronize companies that manufacture and sell in China. China is notorious for animal abuse, manipulation etc. for testing, for their so-called “miracle cures”, etc. as well as unclean and suspicious conditions and processing. They have no regard for other life forms at all. I would rather pay more money (and do) for products made in the USA where there is regulation and certification for non-testing and abuse. Estee Lauder may have the right intentions to an extent, but they are also doing it for publicity. I also think the way they are going about it is misleading. If you are truly cruelty-free and concerned about the welfare of animals, you would very prominently display it on your products, website, etc. It’s a shrewd marketing campaign that would be very misleading to many people if they don’t actually follow-thru and stop testing for all of their brands.

  • Shirley Astle says:

    Thank you for the time and effort you spend sending your readers updated information on cruelty- free cosmetics. Yours is the best list I have ever used and I check it regularly. The animals and I thank you for making your readers aware of what is happening.

  • Theresa says:

    Either your cruelty free or your not. Parts of a company should not be allowed to be cruelty free if the whole company does not comply. Seems like a good trick to get part of the market share without really changing your behaviour.

  • Annette M says:

    What is a cruelty free alternative to Clinique?

  • It’s consumer sovereignty that we are seeing here. Soon, many other brands will join the movement.

  • Maria says:

    Estee Lauder does not care about ceasing animal testing — not enough to give up profits from China. Any half-baked initiative they take toward appearing as caring is just a defensive measure to not lose more customers. It is hypocritical to join in with an organization dedicated to eradicating animal cruelty — but to not go cruelty-free all the way themselves. Saying “we’re cruelty-free — except for when we sell in China” is like saying “I want everyone to know I’m a vegan. Except for when I go to a steakhouse. They have no vegan options, so I have no choice but to eat meat.” Buddy, you’re not a vegan then, are you? And Estee Lauder is not a cruelty-free company.

    Many thanks to Suzana for continued excellent work. I trust you more than most authorities on what’s truly cruelty-free.

  • Silvia Borba says:

    i’m glad that they are trying to move in the right direction but until they are 100% cruelty free i’m not buying from them

  • Karen Ashton says:

    Cruelty free means none of their products are tested on animals not just some. That’s like me aging I am vegetarian but have meat now and then. Not good enough.

  • Nina says:

    I agree with the below comments I will wait for the brands to be cruelty free But it is good to hear that the big companies are putting the pressure on as they can be the only ones to change it in China with their money and brand influence

  • Barbara Emery says:

    I wouldn’t like to say whether this is just PR rhetoric but there are a lot of good cruelty free products available anyway there is no need to buy from ‘uncertain’ companies

  • Fran says:

    Well this is a con really, isn’t it? Estee Lauder are doing this for marketing reasons, not because they care about preventing animal cruelty. Otherwise ALL their brands would be cruelty-free, wouldn’t they? Another cynical ploy to grab a greater market share. One good thing to come out of your blog is I didn’t realise MAC tested on animals. I love their lipsticks, however will be looking to change brands now. I read Nyx is comparable and at a lower price point. I’ve emailed their make-up team for hints on shades to replace my current MAC range. Thanks.

  • suellen laing says:

    Anyone who believes its as simple that EL have developed a conscience then i have a bridge i would like to sell you

  • Cheryl L Gilchrist says:

    i won’t buy their products. I don’t believe them, unless their profits are hurting, even then, not sure i’d use them. I have my favs now.

  • Ellen Schofield says:

    I won’t buy from any companies that claim to be cruelty-free but sell their products in countries that require animal testing. As far as Estee Lauder goes, it’s hard to divine their motivation. Maybe they are jumping on the cruelty-free bandwagon because of compassion or maybe because of expected profits. Maybe because the wind is blowing in that direction now. We don’t (can’t) really know. Their partnership with CFI is certainly encouraging! It makes me feel hopeful. Especially since MAC makes a lipstick color category I can’t find elsewhere, and which I long for whenever I happen to see their display! 🙂

    • Dorothy Van Daele says:

      «More than 30 years ago, The Estée Lauder Companies was one of the first cosmetics companies to eliminate animal testing… » so yes, they have some credibility with me.

  • Brenda K says:

    If EL can use their enormous clout to bring about an end to animal testing in China, then I applaud that effort. Just because they are seeking to cash in on the cruelty free market doesn’t negate the goal. I too will be loyal to my own brands, but how wonderful that those people who buy their cosmetics without thought to animal testing will now be purchasing cruelty free brands by default. This is very good news.

  • Amy says:

    First of all thank you Suzana for ALL YOU DO! We all appreciate it.
    It’s wonderful and hopefully finally animal testing could possibly be stopped once and for all.
    I feel the same as a lot of people I’m going to stay true to the companies that have always been cruelty free!!! Yes, it’s wonderful these companies that finally stop animal testing for the poor animals. But, for me personally they did it for so long I’m so turned off by all they’re products that I will just stay with the people and companies that cared all along to be cruelty free!

  • Meryl fine says:

    I’m suspicious nevertheless whatever it takes to end these barbaric practices. It’s progress at least. The big companies are seeing so many people going cruelty free that they see there’s a real market to exploit. Frankly these cruelty free companies they bought out like smashbox, Becca, etc. are hypocrites who sold out for almighty dollar. IMO they shouldn’t be going on about their commitments to be cruelty free.

  • Katrina Owens says:

    I think it is a PR stunt. They are probably feeling pressure…. so this is their way to send out a press release in hopes that we will believe it. Until they stop selling in China….nothing changes. I have gone cruelty free ( thanks in big part to your and other lists ) and I will not go back. Too late…..too late for EL

  • Judy Godwin says:

    Wonderful news. I hope the animal testing will be a thing of the past someday thanks to people like you giving them a voice. I became a full Vegan when I saw the suffering of animals in bondage waiting to be food. The torture is unimaginable. I hope that will be over someday too.

  • Caryn S says:

    I agree with sticking with companies/products that have remained cruelty-free throughout. At this point this EL move is largely PR. There is no solid commitment here, they are dancing all around it.

    • Glenna Combs says:

      I agree…..such a large company….they didn’t have to sale in China. Saw a picture of Aerin Lauder setting with her pets and I bet she would never want testing on them!!

  • Donna says:

    I don’t trust China and absolutely don’t trust Estée Lauder. Will not use any of their products.

  • e biourd says:

    I was under the impression that Cover Girl was now cruelty-free, but upon checking out their products in a couple of stores (and one of them even had a leaping bunny poster to announce it) I was unable to find ANY of their products with the bunny logo. Is it that they are trying to sell off what was left of the products (which I refuse to buy) before they stock the cruelty-free merchandise? I feel it is wrong for them to put up the poster. I shall keep checking.

    • Suzana Rose says:

      I’m not sure if their newer products display the Leaping Bunny logo, but it’s possible you’re seeing older stock. They’re officially certified by the Leaping Bunny, but keep in mind that not all certified brands choose to display the logo.

  • Alison says:

    Definitely a big step in the right direction. I’m glad. These things were never going to happen overnight. So glad this large group of brands are moving in the right direction.

  • Karen Wilson says:

    Yes I totally agree with the last comment.EL see how the younger generation care about climate and animal welfare and want to cash in on this .

  • To change the mindset of the Chinese people is extremely difficult. I believe EL is trying to do the right thing. I assume they have new, younger people work for their departments these days who might care. I think EL believes in “making friends” with the mentioned organizations in China in order to influence them. It is going to take some time. I think what will really make a difference is the new, upcoming generations of Chinese people. The change has to come from them, within their own country.

    • Kathy says:

      Wow….that is a rather ‘ageist’ statement. Some of us….including me….have been working on the cruelty issue since the early 70s when the only option was The Body Shop which was a godsend. Our work is not limited to makeup but includes household products and farm animal issues. Shouldn’t make assumptions about what age uses or sells these products in the USA or China for that matter. Animal welfare in all arenas is a HUGE issue for many people over 65 who started it and the environmental movement ‘back in the day’. Now, I am glad to see our children carry on but no one needs to be ‘younger’ to have principles and some of the cruelest people on this planet might also be ‘younger’. Who knows?

      • Susan says:

        Agreed, Kathy. Also, I don’t think it’s the Chinese people. I firmly believe it’s the big companies who make those decisions. Their government isn’t concerned with human rights; do you think they care about animal rights?

  • Kathy says:

    Too late for Estee in my opinion. This company, like Loreal (Lancome) has resisted too long for me to ever purchase their products even if they do go cruelty free. And, their sales consultants at stores like Macy’s constantly say the products are cruelty free…this dishonest promotion is probably encouraged or required by their supervisors and works in consumers who are not diligent. I would not trust either company to do the right thing or, if they did, to remain cruelty free. Smoke and mirrors is their business model.

    • Superangel says:

      Never too late, surely better late than never

      • Yvonne Walker says:

        I am going to remain faithful to the brand’s I have always used that have always remained cruelty free putting animals first instead of making blood money on products that have been used for barbaric evil animal testing!!!

  • Christine Haddad says:

    I haven’t purchased any brands under the EL umbrella that are sold in China for years. There are thousands like myself so making sure that ALL EL umbrella products are truly cruelty free will be a win win all round. Why wait until 2023? Do it NOW!

  • Jana Cervinka says:

    Thank you for your dedication and ongoing activism toward world changing improvements regarding ending animal testing for cosmetics! Your updates keep me encouraged. The more we spread the word and shop cruelty-free, the greater the momentum for change. Hopefully the Estee Lauder will get on board and innocent animals will be spared the torture – when they do, I will resume buying some of my favorite cosmetics, but not until they are cruelty-free.

  • Yvonne Walker says:

    All these designer companies keep on about going cruelty free but until they stop selling products in China I wont touch them. Even when they stop selling in China I wont touch them as I will stay loyal to the companies i have always brought my make-up etc etc from as they have always been cruelty free as they care about and love animals unlike these companies who never gave a second thought to animals going through barbaric tests, being tortured and abused, all they care about is the money that they make!!! All of them make me sick, shame on them!!!

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