Are The Body Shop’s cruelty-free claims just cosmetic?

CHOICE says The Body Shop has been selling products in China where they are at risk of being tested on animals. This is in direct conflict with the business’s ethical marketing claims.

A CHOICE investigation has found The Body Shop, which is owned by L’Oreal, has been selling its ‘cruelty-free’ cosmetics in Beijing and Shanghai airports where all cosmetics run the risk of being tested on animals by the Chinese government.

The revelation comes following a statement by The Body Shop Australia chief executive, Mark Kindness, last year that the company had chosen not to export to China. He said, “until China changes its stance on animal testing, we are prepared to not enter that market.”

Releasing CHOICE’s investigation today, Chief Executive Alan Kirkland said: “China’s stance on post-market animal testing has not changed. The Chinese government can carry out post-market animal testing, randomly and without warning pulling products from shop shelves to assess conformity with approved formulations.”

“It will come as a real shock to consumers around the world that The Body Shop is selling products in a country where animal testing is routinely conducted.”

When CHOICE approached The Body Shop Australia to ask whether their stance on cosmetics undergoing animal testing in China had changed, executive chairman Graeme Wise told us it had not. He said: “Until such time when the local situation permits otherwise, The Body Shop will not enter the Chinese market. N.B: Duty Free is not designated as in-country because products are not required to be tested on animals.”

However, while it is true that animal testing of duty-free good is not “required”, it is a potential risk. The Chinese government has confirmed that there is no way for a company to avoid random testing of their products. In a statement, 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.”

CHOICE’s revelation comes just months after The Body Shop and Cruelty Free International announced that they had gathered one million signatures from their customers for a global pledge for a ban on animal testing of cosmetics.

On its website, The Body Shop Hong Kong states:

“The Body Shop does not currently operate in Mainland China. We have no stores or online shopping presence. The Body Shop cannot guarantee the quality or authenticity of any products purchased in Mainland China.”

This is in direct contradiction to a statement made by L’Oréal Consumer Products Worldwide Marketing Director Travel Retail Charles Roullet to industry publication The Moodie Report, published in February 2013, that key The Body Shop travel retail openings in 2012 included Shanghai, China. In that interview, he said: “Now we are looking forward to exploiting many new opportunities in 2013 and beyond”.

CHOICE is calling on The Body Shop to come clean around its move into China and explain to consumers why it is selling products in a market where there is a significant risk its cosmetics will be tested on animals.

The Body Shop should not promote being “against animal testing” as one of its core values on products, market materials and websites while it continues to sell products in China.

For further information the CHOICE investigation please visit

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Photo Credit: davidwallace