The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.

– Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop

It’s this quote from The Body Shop founder, Dame Anita Roddick, that could perfectly describe what we have been witnessing these past couple of weeks. The beauty world and loyal customers of The Body Shop were rocked to the core when an investigation by Australian magazine CHOICE came forth stating The Body Shop was NOT cruelty-free, as they have been claiming.

I personally do not take claims of cruelty-free status lightly, nor do I take an accusation from a publication as gospel, and I do hope none of you would either. The Plastic Diaries was first and foremost created to inform consumers. I am a consumer too and I like to be as informed as possible before I purchase something. It’s this principle that I have applied to todays post. I am breaking down the battle that has ensued and I hope it will help you to make an informed decision about your purchasing options in the future.


Before we get into the saga, let’s take a look at who CHOICE are and why anything they say should be listened to.

CHOICE is a magazine and website for consumers produced by the Australian Consumers’ Association. In terms of Australian history, they were the first publication to take a focus on informing consumers. They were the first “reviewers” of our time – running independent tests and writing reports for everything – from makeup to health insurance, cars to microwaves.

They are completely independent so all funds are raised by selling subscriptions to their magazine and website memberships. That funding is used to run the tests they perform.

We get no freebies from manufacturers, and we don’t take any advertising. Our thorough testing is funded by you, the consumer.

Chinese Law

The key to understanding why The Body Shop’s cruelty-free status is in doubt comes about because of laws in China. Understanding this breakdown, as published on the CHOICE website, will help you to understand the unfolding story.

What Chinese Law Says

  • All foreign-manufactured cosmetic products intended for sale in mainland China must be tested on animals before being made available to consumers.
  • According to Chinese industry insiders, while no exemptions are specified in the legislation, cosmetics sold exclusively in duty-free stores do not have to undergo mandatory testing before being sold in China.
  • However, the Chinese government also carries out random so-called “post-market” testing, without warning, pulling products from shop shelves to assess conformity with approved formulations. Products in duty-free stores are subject to this testing. According to Chinese cosmetic industry insiders CHOICE spoke with, there is no way to guarantee that this testing regime doesn’t include animal testing.
  • A representative of the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China said: “It is inconceivable that any foreign cosmetics company can bypass Chinese regulations and sell at the airports. The airports in Beijing or Shanghai are part of the Chinese territory that is subject to the same rules.”

While this random post-market testing isn’t necessarily done on animals, it can be, so companies selling products in Chinese airports cannot guarantee that their products will never be tested on animals. It’s up to each individual consumer to decide whether you believe the “probability of being tested on animals” deems the product cruelty-free or not. However, it’s the opinion of CHOICE that The Body Shop are not being completely honest by claiming to be cruelty-free, and that they should be more transparent with their customers.

The Body Shop products all state they are not tested on animals

The Body Shop products all state they are not tested on animals

What Happened

On 11 March 2014, CHOICE published their report – CHOICE investigates The Body Shop’s cruelty-free claims. The extensive report is centred around the use of animal testing for cosmetic products made in, imported and/or sold in China. The key point of their investigation were that The Body Shop claimed they wouldn’t enter the Chinese market while there was a risk their products could be tested on animals, but CHOICE found them being sold in duty-free stores at Chinese Airports.

In May 2013, when CHOICE’s investigation into companies with misleading animal testing claims first hit the airwaves, the CEO of The Body Shop Australia, Mark Kindness, said “Until China changes its stance on animal testing, we are prepared to not enter that market… While it’s tempting in terms of the size, until the day comes that you do not need to test your ingredients or your products on animals, we will not be going into that market at all [emphasis added].”

Upon sharing the report CHOICE published on our Twitter I received a response from The Body Shop Australia Twitter with a link to a statement stating

“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.  If there are any instances of post market animal testing on our products by the Chinese government, it is absolutely being done without our consent or our endorsement and violates our strict code of ethics.”

But the nature of the Chinese government’s testing regime in duty-free outlets is that companies are not given the option to consent or decline – it is compulsory, and it is done randomly and without warning. As the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China said: “It is inconceivable that any foreign cosmetics company can bypass Chinese regulations and sell at the airports. The airports in Beijing and Shanghai are part of the Chinese territory that is subject to the same rules.”

The next day, 12 March 2014, The Body Shop updated their statement to say the following

We are aware of the Choice report and subsequent articles about our products sold in the duty-free stores of two Chinese airports and questions of Chinese regulation of animal testing.

We, The Body Shop have not, and will not, undertake or resort to any animal testing in order for our products to be sold in any country.

However, 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.

 Shower gel purchased at Shanghai International Duty Free Shop, China

Shower gel purchased at Shanghai International Duty Free Shop, China

The Facts

Are people making a big deal over nothing? What it comes down to is whether you want to purchase from a company that is honest and transparent with their claims. To cut through all of this back-and-forth, take a look at some of these facts that you may or may not know about The Body Shop.

  • In 1976 Anita Roddick founded The Body Shop in the UK with 5 core principles –  Support Community Fair Trade, Defend Human Rights, Against Animal Testing, Activate Self-Esteem, and Protect Our Planet.
  • 1996 – The Body Shop joins forces with the BUAV (British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) and its European Partners, and Anita Roddick delivers 4 million petition signatures to the European Commission.
  • 1997 – The Body Shop signs up to the Humane Cosmetics Standard
  • L’Oreal purchases The Body Shop for £652m in 2006. The Body Shop is delisted from the London Stock Exchange. While L’Oreal is based in Paris, The Body Shop continues to be based in the UK. According to The Body Shop, it operates independently within the L’Oreal Group and is led by a management team reporting directly to the CEO of L’Oreal. Anita Roddick says of the acquisition “Combining L’Oréal’s expertise and knowledge of international markets with The Body Shop’s distinct culture and values will benefit both companies.”
  • In 2007 Dame Anita Roddick dies aged 64 from a brain haemorrhage.
  • 2009  – The Body Shop is presented with Australia’s RSPCA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • The BUAV, alongside The Body Shop, launches Cruelty-Free International in 2012. It’s the first organisation to campaign for a global ban on animal tests for consumer products. The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International join forces to campaign for a global ban on the use of animals to test cosmetics with a global pledge launched in stores in 65 countries.
  • At present The Body Shop is still certified cruelty-free by the Leaping Bunny program and PETA. Both these organisations do not certify other brands as cruelty-free if they sell in China.
  • 2014 – The Body Shop has 2500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide.

Now that you have some facts, it’s up to you to decide what fits your morals and ethics. You can learn more about Animal Testing in our exposé.

Were you shocked by this news? Will you continue to buy The Body Shop products? Do you think any party is in the wrong? Let me know by commenting below!

Image credits: CHOICE. The Body Shop

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop

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