Did you know that it is not uncommon for natural beauty product companies to be owned by big corporations who are not cruelty free or environmentally ethical? According to the Nutrition Business Journal, consumers in the US spent over $8 billion on natural and organic personal care products in 2010, including vegan, cruelty-free beauty products. This constitutes a 6% increase in sales over the year before. Needless to say, large corporations have been sitting up and taking note of the fact that consumers are trending towards healthier and organic beauty products, and are quickly snapping up small natural beauty product companies to stake their claim in a portion of these profits. Sadly, for those of us who consciously buy ethically, that means that we often lose some of our favorite brands to companies whose ethics are far from being aligned with ours. Here are 5 “natural” companies whose parent companies may surprise you:
- Burt’s Bees – Burt’s Bees was started out of the founder’s garage is now owned by corporate giant, Clorox, who has a terrible environmental track record and admittedly still tests on animals (they whitewash it by saying, “only when necessary”). They’ve recently undertaken a major campaign to greenwash their image, but even their new “green” cleaning product line, “Greenworks,” contain dyes and preservatives, although they emphatically point out that these only comprise 1% of the ingredients, and the rest of the ingredients are “natural.”
- Tom’s of Maine – The company originally began in 1970, when couple team Tom and Kate Chappell decided to start a company devoted to only natural products, that don’t harm the environment. Apparently those values went out the window when they gave Colgate-Palmolive an 84% stake in their company. While as compared to other big corporations, such as Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive is making the most efforts to be more responsible, including actively working with PETA to lobby the USDA to abolish current animal testing laws, and completing the first LEED certified manufacturing plant in the US, the fact of the matter is that they still do test on animals and they are responsible for a large amount of VOCs contaminating soil around some of their other plants. The one area where they have suspended product testing is in personal care products, but this “suspension” has been in effect since 1999, and has not been upgraded to a full “ban”. This is a bit too non-committal for our taste.
- The Body Shop – We were disheartened to learn that The Body Shop, one of our favorite beauty product companies, was sold to L’Oreal. L’Oreal is notorious for continuing animal testing, and what’s worse, The Body Shop simply dances around that fact, despite that they have always proudly proclaimed themselves as being cruelty-free. Check out the interaction between a few of our writers (and a few outside fans) and The Body Shop on their Facebook page. Their PR team certainly has done a great job in teaching the staff the art of avoiding the issue. (screenshots)
- Aveda and Origins – These two companies, loved by many for their self-touted vegan, cruelty-free and environmentally friendly products, are owned by known animal testers, Estee Lauder. Estee Lauder recently came under fire (link to our article) for resuming animal testing. Like so many, they defend their actions by making themselves sound like victims of international animal testing laws, claiming that their hands are tied. Like The Body Shop, we are truly saddened by this revelation, because we were long-time fans of Aveda products.
- Wella – many vegans love using Wella hair color because it is free of animal ingredients and was previously cruelty-free. While Wella products specifically may not be tested on animals, they are owned by the notorious Proctor & Gamble, one of the most well-known and biggest offenders of animal testing.
What most of these companies have claimed is that, while their new parent companies are “still actively working to find other methods of safe product testing” (read: are still animal testing), they as a company maintain their values and do not test on animals. But money flows upwards, and if you spend money on products from these companies, you are largely just spending money with the parent companies who still test on animals. We are certainly not opposed to business growth, and we support certain corporations whose missions are closer to our own, such as the Hains-Celestial group, but there is a high level of hypocrisy to claim that you have a specific set of values, and then sell yourselves to a company whose values are the opposite. It sets apart the companies whose values are true, from those who are true, unless the right price comes along.