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.

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   
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