Procter & Gamble (P&G), The Body Shop and Lush were recently mentioned as leading cosmetic companies with “no animal testing” policies by the Karner Blue Center for a Humane Economy. We looked into the animal testing policies of each company, and dug a little further to see what makes their products and practices Earth-friendly or not.

These are by no means the most Earth-friendly cosmetic options on the market. Small brands like Dulse & Rugosa offer 100% plant-based, zero-waste cosmetic options.

As consumers, we vote with our money. Paying attention to environmental practices allows us to support companies engaging in practices with which we agree.

Identifying truly cruelty-free companies

Animal testing is an inhumane and archaic practice that is still being practiced in many countries. As a consumer, it can be difficult to identify cruelty-free products. Here’s what to look for:

Keep in mind, brands that are certified by one or more of these organizations may not use an emblem on their packaging. Use an online database or find a company’s animal testing statement to ensure a particular brand is cruelty-free.

Procter & Gamble

P&G is one of those companies that is so big it’s hard to escape. It has 23 cosmetic brands including Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences and Olay. In 2018, P&G released a series of sustainability goals called Ambition 2030. However, several of these goals use subjective wording like “Lead the charge in…” and “We aim to have clearly defined…”

P&G was “recognized for active leadership to address climate change” by the Environmental Protection Agency and others with the Climate Leadership Award 2017.

Animal Testing: P&G is a supporter of the Humane Society International’s #BeCrueltyFree campaign and has “invested more than $420 million in developing non-animal testing methods.” However, P&G is not certified cruelty-free by any of the organizations above and acknowledges that it still performs animal testing where required by law.

We do not test our products on animals anywhere in the world unless required by law, and we are working hard to make animal testing of all consumer products obsolete.

P&G’s animal testing statement.

Despite its efforts to eliminate animal testing, it seems P&G’s size is standing in the way of it being cruelty-free.

Packaging: According to its sustainability page, 86% of P&G’s packaging was considered recyclable in 2018. It’s goal is to have 100% recyclable packaging by 2030. P&G teamed up with TerrCycleto make a Head & Shoulders shampoo bottle made with 25% recycled ocean plastic.

Much like its animal testing policy, P&G seems to be headed down a sustainable path but its sheer size is making for a slow process.

Ingredients: To P&G’s credit, it is surprisingly transparent with its ingredients, with full ingredients lists for each product. However, it’s admittedly still phasing out possibly harmful ingredients like phthalates, parabens and microbeads, and seems content relying on synthetic ingredients.

P&G’s palm oil policy seems representative of its overall sustainability goals. The company is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and has goals to identify palm oil sources that will not contribute to deforestation or inhumane labor by 2020. But P&G sources palm oil from 1,153 different mills – I just don’t see how it’s possible for them to verify and track that many sources for sustainable practices.

Bottom Line: P&G might be genuinely concerned about the environments or perhaps its just riding the environmentalism wave – my gut says it’s a little of both. Either way, its still possible to buy a products from P&G that are animal tested, non-recyclable, and contain little to no natural ingredients. This company is just too big to ensure sustainable practices for all of its products.

The Body Shop

The Body Shop is a certified B Corporation that aims to be “the world’s most ethical and sustainable global business.” Since opening its first store in 1976, the British vegetarian cosmetic brand has been a focused on sustainability, humane practices and fair trade.

Animal Testing: The Body Shop became the first Leaping Bunny certified brand in 1997 and is currently certified by Beauty Without Bunnies (PETA). It also leads a Forever Against Animal Testing campaign that has gathered more than 8 million signatures to end animal testing. According to Free the Bunnies, the company was owned by L’Oreal from 2006 to 2017 and its products were sold in China, where animal testing is required by law. In 2017, the brand was sold to Natura Cosmetics, a cruelty-free brand that does not sell in China, returning The Body Shop to a 100% cruelty-free status.

Packaging: As of June 2019, 119 of The Body Shop’s products were packaged using 75% post-consumer recycled plastic. Its goal by 2030 is to collect 25% more packaging than it sells through its “Return. Recycle. Repeat” program. The Body Shop also buys recycled materials collected in India through its Community Trade plastics program, which it plans to incorporate into its recyclable packaging.

The Body Shop hasn’t quite achieved 100% recyclable packaging, so check for a recycling logo on its products.

Ingredients: 100% of The Body Shop’s products are vegetarian and more than 50% are vegan. Honey, beeswax and lanolin are among ingredients that make certain products non-vegan. Its website lists 43 natural ingredients. 95% of its products contain ingredients sourced through its Community Trade program. which has led to supply chain awards through Ecocert and Business in the Community.

The Body Shop’s products are by no means 100% natural, but the company has certainly made an effort to responsibly source and incorporate natural ingredients.

The Bottom Line: You can do a lot worse than The Body Shop in terms of animal-cruelty, recyclable packaging and natural ingredients. This company has been focused on sustainability since its birth and seems only to be increasing its efforts.

Lush Cosmetics

Formerly known as Constantine & Weir and Cosmetics to Go, Lush is a 100% vegetarian cosmetics company founded in 1995. It now has 250 shops across North America.

Animal Testing: Lush is certified cruelty-free by Beauty Without Bunnies (PETA) and will not purchase ingredients from a supplier that has commissioned animal testing after June 1st, 2007.

“Lush do not test on animals, do not use materials that contain animal derivatives that are unsuitable for vegetarians and only buy raw materials from companies that are not involved in the use of, or commission the use of, animals for testing and have no plans to do so in the future.”

Lush’s animal-testing policy.

Packaging: 35% of Lush’s products are sold “naked” (in biodegradable, compostable cellophane). Its pots and bottles are made of 100% post-consumer plastic and can be recycled curbside or returned to the store.

Lush is already ahead of the curve for recyclable packaging and is looking into using ocean plastics.

Ingredients: 100% of Lush’s products are vegetarian and nearly 80% are vegan. Honey and yogurt are among ingredients that are non-vegan. Each products’ ingredients are listed online and linked to a description of the ingredient. Lush also has an ingredient finder that which products a particular ingredient can be found in. (For example, search “paraben” to see a description of the ingredient and which products contain it.) Its ingredients may not be 100% natural, but the company is certainly transparent about them.

Learn more about Lush’s ethical buying practices here.

Bottom Line: Like The Body Shop, sustainability seems to be embedded into Lush’s culture. Rest assured, Lush’s products are cruelty-free, packaged in recyclable (if not compostable) packaging, and contain natural ingredients.

Feature photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash.