In this blog post I’m going to be looking at a brand that, despite its supposedly squeaky clean image, has attracted a certain amount of controversy over the years. I’ll be sharing my own personal opinion on this but I encourage everyone who reads this to form their own opinion.
When looking for cruelty-free products, The Body Shop seems like a pretty solid choice. In 1989, The Body Shop became the first cosmetics company to campaign to end animal testing in cosmetics. On its website it proudly states ‘We have never tested any of our ingredients or products on animals and we never will’ and ‘The Body Shop sources its ingredients only from suppliers who do not test their ingredients on animals.’
The list of cruelty-free credentials The Body Shop has goes on and on: a Lifetime Achievement Award by the RSPCA in Britain in October 2009; the BUAV recognising The Body Shop as setting ‘a gold standard’ for the industry; endorsed by PETA; all chemicals in products annually reviewed as well as being audited regularly by the BUAV to ensure absolute compliance with the Humane Cosmetics Standards….. 
I recently went into a Body Shop in London’s Westfield Shopping Centre and I was greeted by these signs:
However, I think there are two big issues to be aware of when it comes to The Body Shop and animal testing.
- The parent company is L’Oréal. When the purchase by L’Oréal was made in 2006, animal welfare activists called for a boycott. L’Oréal is not cruelty-free: they sell their products in China where, despite the changes to animal testing laws, animal testing is still mandatory for a lot of L’Oréal’s products and the cost of this is covered by L’Oréal. Despite investing a lot of money into the research of alternatives to animal testing, it’s clear L’Oréal still believes animal testing is ‘worth it’.
And this raises the question – what do you do when you think you’ve found ‘the one’ but you just can’t get along with the parents?
It’s easy to see why a lot of people decided to boycott The Body Shop after the L’Oréal purchase. It does seem hypocritical that The Body Shop oppose animal testing but have a parent company engaging in the practice. The Body Shop’s profits do ultimately go to the parent company and this means your money could indirectly fund further animal testing.
On the other hand, it is good to see that The Body Shop have remained committed to their own cruelty-free practices despite the opposing ethics of their parent company. And it is important to note that The Body Shop have improved L’Oréal’s practices: they have shared fair trade suppliers with L’Oréal to improve their ingredient selection  and on The Body Shop’s website, they do state that since The Body Shop acquisition, L’Oréal has invested more in alternative tests with the inauguration of the world’s first Evaluation Centre fully dedicated to alternative testing.
- The second thing to consider is that, in 2014, an investigation by CHOICE uncovered that The Body Shop had entered the Chinese market and was selling its products in duty-free shops in Beijing and Shanghai airports. Only selling at duty-free outlets appeared to be an effort to bypass the mandatory animal testing laws which applied to mainland China, a statement from The Body Shop declaring ‘it is our understanding that our trading in China is through exclusive Duty Free outlets and as such, the products that have been sold to these outlets were never tested on animals.’ However, this did not take into account the fact that the Chinese government could legally take cosmetics off the shelves at any store, including those in duty-free, at random and conduct animal testing to assess conformity with approved regulations. After CHOICE published this bombshell, The Body Shop released a statement which said ‘given the questions that have arisen, we have temporarily removed the products until we can clarify the situation. In all cases, The Body Shop will not sell products if it would compromise one of its core beliefs which is our opposition to animal testing’.
Hopefully this was just a case of The Body Shop not doing its homework properly. Although it’s a shame post-market testing wasn’t considered when it started selling in the airports, it’s good to note that The Body Shop listened to the consumers and did withdraw the products. I can’t find any evidence that The Body Shop ever brought the products back. I sent an email to The Body Shop’s consumer helpdesk asking if the company currently sells its products in the duty-free section of any Chinese airport and received the below response:
Although The Body Shop has received a lot of criticism, I think they are a conscientious company and it’s good to see a big brand very publicly make an effort. If a big brand protests against animal testing, it keeps the issue in the public eye. The fact that other brands engage in this practice is made all the more conspicuous when you can compare them to The Body Shop. It also shows other successful brands that people are interested in cruelty-free products. If other companies recognise a demand for compassionate practices, hopefully they will take note.
In addition to this, it is wonderful to find a cruelty-free store which is highly accessible and affordable; it really helps to normalise the cruelty-free lifestyle. A lot of people could be deterred from choosing cruelty-free if they saw the transition as too difficult, impractical and costly, but hopefully a big brand like The Body Shop shows this is not the case.
Of course, The Body Shop isn’t the only store which sells affordable cruelty-free products, so there are alternatives if you don’t want to shop there. In the end, it’s a personal choice and it’s up to you to decide whether the controversy surrounding The Body Shop is a deal breaker. Everyone will have their own opinion and will decide what feels right to them.
As I mentioned earlier in this post, I did pay a visit to The Body Shop recently and I do really like the products I purchased there. Their Rainforest Shine and Rainforest Volume shampoo and conditioner is really nice and made stepping away from my beloved Aussie shampoo a lot easier. I am absolutely in love with their spiced apple and vanilla chai products because of the lovely scents; the spiced apple really makes me feel festive. My red matte lipstick is very eye-catching and the pomegranate lip balm is so cute. The lip and cheek stain is great as I am useless at getting my makeup to match and the two-in-one product really helps. I found a foundation which matched my pale skin beautifully, although it was a little shiny (although I feel like finding a foundation that doesn’t make my skin shiny is a constant battle for me. I will keep you updated on my hunt for my perfect cruelty-free foundation…)
Rainforest Shine Shampoo from £2; Lip and Cheek Stain £8; Fresh Nude Foundation £15; Vanilla Chai Shower Gel £5; Spiced Apple Softening Body Gel-Lotion £8; Matte Lipstick £8; Rainforest Volume Conditioner from £2; Born Lippy Pot Lip Stick Balm £3; Spiced Apple Hand Cream £4.
This is the first in a series of articles we’ll be posting that will examine one company in detail. I hope this article has been useful. I am not an expert and do not claim to be. I do want to share my own research on The Body Shop and I have included all my sources, but I strongly encourage everyone to do their own research and form their own opinions.
If you’d like to hear more from us, please check out our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.