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The Body Shop Boycott

The Body Shop faced a boycott by consumers for more than a decade over animal testing. 

So what was behind The Body Shop boycott and how ethical is the company now?

Hundreds of consumers declared a boycott of The Body Shop in 2006, after its owner sold the cruelty-free brand to cosmetics giant L’Oreal – which was well-known for testing on animals. 

The boycott called for The Body Shop owner to end animal testing – and saw a major success in 2018

NB: In February 2024 we removed The Body Shop from our shopping guides whilst we waited to see the outcome of its new private equity company owner, Aurelius, having called in the administrators.

What was The Body Shop boycott?

Naturewatch called a boycott of The Body Shop, after L’Oreal bought the previously-independent company for over £650 million.

The Body Shop had been cruelty-free since its foundation. But animal rights groups criticised L’Oreal’s policy on the animal testing of cosmetics ingredients.

Following the buy-out, John Ruane, director of Naturewatch warned, "If you spend your money at the Body Shop, it could now go to animal testing."

Natura buyout

Naturewatch maintained its call to boycott The Body Shop in 2017 after the brand was bought by Natura, Brazil’s largest cosmetics company. Natura bought The Body Shop from L'Oreal for 1 billion euros.

Animal rights activists had hoped that the buyout would return the brand to its ethical origins. But hopes were crushed after Natura refused to answer questions about its own cruelty-free claims.

Supporters of the boycott wrote to the company demanding transparency. And in December 2017, Natura responded, announcing a new policy on animal testing.

Crucially, the new policy banned ingredients that have been tested on animals since March 2013. This is known as a fixed cut-off date (FCOD), and is what Naturewatch calls ‘the gold standard’ for all cruelty-free products.

Almost all ingredients in cosmetics have been tested on animals at some stage in their development. But companies with FCOD will discourage current or future animal testing and often avoid buying ingredients that have recently been tested on animals.

Is there still a boycott call against The Body Shop?

Naturewatch lifted the boycott call in 2018, after Natura announced its new policy. It was a major victory for campaigners, who had protested against the company for over ten years.

However, Natura sold The Body Shop to private equity company Aurelius in January 2024 who then swiftly called in the administrators so we are not sure whether the Body Shop will continue to exist and in what format. When we know who the owners are going to be - Aurelius or a new one - there may be calls for a renewed boycott based on the new owners' stance on animal testing.

Is the Body Shop cruelty-free?

The Body Shop itself has always been cruelty-free in terms of animal testing, but has used animal products like honey, shellac, lanolin and beeswax. In 2024 it announced that it's completely vegan with all its products certified as vegan by The Vegan Society. 

Ethical alternatives to The Body Shop

There are a growing number of ethical alternatives to The Body Shop, which are prioritising environmental and animal rights issues.

Some of our Best Buy companies include Flaya which sells cruelty-free and vegan perfumes and aftershave; Lucy Bee which sells cruelty-free, vegan deodorant and other toiletries; Conscious Skincare sells cruelty-free, vegan skincare, shower gel, soap and shampoo; Friendly Soap makes palm oil free vegan soap, and Queenie Organics makes 100% organic and vegan skincare products.

Each of our health and beauty guides lists many other vegan and cruelty-free options, as well as providing an overall score for tens of brands, so you can check how ethical they are overall.

Which other health and beauty companies face boycotts?

A number of other health and beauty companies face boycott calls.

Campaign group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) calls for a boycott of AHAVA, over its presence in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. According to the group, “Ahava cosmetics has its production site, visitor center and main store in an illegal Israeli settlement.”

Israeli settlements have been declared illegal by the United Nations, and have caused the massive displacement of Palestinian communities. They have been linked to serious human rights abuses.

Nestlé, which owns 23% of L'Oréal, has long been boycotted by consumers. Nestlé has been the subject of boycott calls around the world since the 1970s for its irresponsible marketing of baby milk formula.

It is accused of "contributing to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants" through its aggressive marketing practices, which promote baby milk formula as a superior option to breastfeeding despite evidence to the contrary.

Ethical Consumer’s animal testing rating

Ethical Consumer rates all companies that are involved in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, animal nutrition, and household, toiletries and cleaning products on their approach to animal testing.

While many companies claim not to test on animals, policies can be riddled with loopholes. For example, they may not test finished products on animals, but may still be using ingredients that have recently been animal tested. They may not be involved in animal testing in the UK, but be choosing to sell products in China where animal testing is often mandatory.

Few consumer-facing brands directly test on animals now. But we think they should still be making an effort to reduce the risk of animal testing occurring in their supply chain.

Our animal testing rating gives companies a best, middle or worst rating – so you know which brands to trust.