Unilever PLC - Animal Testing

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Middle Ethical Consumer rating for palm oil policy

In April 2018 Ethical Consumer checked the RSPO website and found that Unilever was a member but that no further reports had been submitted since the 2016 ACOP. Ethical Consumer also saw on the Business and Human Rights website that Unilever had publically disclosed its entire Palm Oil supply chain. This was also incorporated into Ethical Consumer's Palm Oil rating system for Unilever. Ethical Consumer searched the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) website for information on Unilever's performance. The company was a member and had submitted the latest Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) for 2016. The figures disclosed volumes of palm products used in the period for the company’s global own-brand operations. The ACOP stated, ‘From 2012-2015, all our volumes were covered by a combination of RSPO segregated and mass balance oils and GreenPalm certificates.’ However, the figures showed that only 41.5% was RSPO certified in 2016, of which 9.65% was certified as segregated. No explanation was given for this, however, the company did state, ‘In 2016, Unilever made a decision to exit GreenPalm certificates and to accelerate physically certified palm oil volumes. This is in response to the risk related to NGO perception of the use of GreenPalm certificates as greenwashing.’ Unilever stated that it had achieved 73% traceability of its palm oil back to the mill in country of origin in 2016, and its 2016 Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy (also viewed October 2017) stated that Unilever aimed to have 100% traceable palm oil by the end of 2017. It also stated that the company aimed to use 100% physically certified palm oil by 2019. The company’s ACOP listed several more positive initiatives it was undertaking in its supply chain, including certifying more than 60 factories, validation of the mill points, site verification for independent mills, and a program to help independent smallholders located in Sei Mangkei to achieve RSPO certification and to increase the traceability of and certification of smallholders. Unilever’s 2016 Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Policy – which outlined targets for 100% physically certified palm oil in 2019 – stated that the company expected all suppliers to comply with its five principle requirements, ‘that go beyond the current RSPO Principles & Criteria’: no deforestation; no development on peat; no exploitation of people and communities; driving positive social and economic impact for smallholders and women while protecting forests; and transparency. Unilever named four smallholder projects that it was involved with: PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) 3, PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) 5, Yayasan Inovasi Bumi (Inobu), and Amanah Oil Palm Independent Smallholders Association. It did not name any of their larger suppliers, however, and therefore did not receive a positive mark under supplier disclosure. Only a low percentage (less than half) of Unilever’s palm oil was RSPO certified in 2016. However, it also had positive initiatives and targets in place, and disclosed all relevant data for crude palm oil, palm oil kernels, and palm oil derivatives. Overall, the company received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for its palm oil sourcing and lost half a mark in this category.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil:RSPO - 2016 Unilever ACOP (26 October 2017)

Worst Ethical Consumer rating for animal testing

In April 2018 Ethical Consumer viewed Unilever's website for the company's animal testing policy. The company manufactured foods, cosmetics and household cleaning products. It therefore operated in a sector where animal testing was commonplace. A statement was found on its website which said "We use a wide range of non-animal approaches to assess the safety of our products for consumers. We do not test our products on animals and are committed to ending animal testing. Our leading-edge research has one clear purpose: to continue to develop new non-animal approaches that can guarantee that our products are safe, without any need for animal testing. Occasionally, when there are no suitable non-animal approaches available, some of the ingredients we use have to be tested; and some governments test our products on animals as part of their regulatory requirements. We are actively working with these governments, other scientists and NGOs, to put in place alternative methods." While Unilever appeared to be working to end the use of animal testing in cosmetics, food, and household cleaning products, the fact it operated in countries which still required animal testing and had no fixed cut off date for ingredients tested on animals meant that it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for animal testing and lost a whole mark under this category.

Unilever Corporate Communications:www.unilever.com (10 March 2016)

INFO ONLY: Involved in animal testing not required by law

According to the PETA website viewed by Ethical Consumer in June 2016, Unilever was listed in a pdf called 'Companies that test on animals' produced by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and updated 14 June 2016. The companies were on the list because they had not eliminated tests on animals for their entire line of cosmetics and household products.

PETA - Companies that test on animals:Companies that do test (17 April 2015)

Animal testing of food for health benefits

The BUAV released findings in June 2013 of research showing cruel and unnecessary animal tests carried out by some of the world's leading food giants including Unilever. Animal experiments have been carried out in an attempt to identify the ‘health benefits’ of certain foods to feed the growing infatuation with ‘super foods’. The animals subjected to the experiments uncovered included mice, rats, rabbits and pigs. Unilever was named by the BUAV for experiments involving Hoodia gordonii, a spiny African shrub (which is already used as a weight management supplement for the treatment of obesity). Rabbits and mice were subjected to a reproductive toxicity test. Pregnant rabbits and mice were force fed extracts of the plant throughout their pregnancy for 25 days. The day before the animals were due to give birth, they and their unborn foetuses were killed and examined. Unilever was also named in an experiment in which piglets were given an extract of Lipton’s tea to see if it could counter diarrhoea caused by the Ecoli stomach bug. Eight of the month-old animals died, with severe diarrhoea to blame in at least seven of the cases.

BUAV :BUAV condemns cruel animal experiments by major food companies to prove ‘health benefits’ (21 June 2