‘Green marketing’ involves the promotion of products and brands that show concern for the environment—including avoiding cruelty to animals and the unnecessary use of animal materials—through activities such as modified products, production process changes, using different packaging, stylising/remodelling, and new advertising/promotion strategies (Sarkar 2012). This sounds ideal, but the reality is that, although recent years have seen a shift in the cosmetics industry towards cruelty free, organic, and vegan marketing, the commercialised beauty scene has a past (and, sadly, a present) marred by animal testing—the ‘green’ beauty industry is still little more than a niche market. So I’d like to know: What does animal testing entail (pun intended)? Is all animal testing cruel? What can be done to ensure there is no unnecessary suffering? How do I get red lipstick stains out of my white shirt? (Wait—forget that last one, that’s from the list of things I’m supposed to ask Mum.)
Basically, as Cruelty Free International (2016) says, animal testing is forced experimentation on a living animal, without being beneficial to that animal, to cause harm so that products can be refined to be declared safe for human use (the animal is also usually killed afterwards). Obviously, this causes a great deal of suffering—but as consumers, we’re desensitised to this. Not only is animal testing not mentioned in official firm documents like financial statements, but we, as consumers, are shown only beauty in cosmetics advertisements—after all, nobody wants to believe that their beautiful new $50 lipstick is only on the market because an animal suffered until the side effects were weeded out.
Considering this, I would like to mention that, to me, the terms ‘cruelty free’ and vegan’ are not synonymous: cruelty to a live animal is not the same as using animal byproducts once an animal has been humanely killed; I have the same opinion about eating meat. This is one consideration for marketers concerned with ethics: different consumers will have different opinions on what is right and what is wrong, so effective segmentation and target advertising are key to ensuring a brand reached those who will appreciate it most.
So what can be done to ensure companies aren’t acting unethically towards animals or in their marketing campaigns? I can’t pretend to have all of the answers, and I certainly can’t guarantee that all the products I own are 100% cruelty free (sometimes it’s hard just to find accurate information), but I think this issue goes deeper than simply not purchasing products from brands that test on animals: Although that’s a start, it would take a concerted and coordinated mass effort to effectively boycott a huge company. If anyone at all is still buying animal-tested makeup or skincare, it will continue to happen, and we can’t assume that money will fix such a complex issue; indeed, some scientists may see animal testing as the lesser of two evils: Either they harm humans, or they harm animals. I think education and awareness is key, both organizationally and for consumers. People need to see the ugly truth of animal testing and companies need to see that people don’t like that truth and try to find other ways to test products. Marketers can also feature being cruelty free as a way to differentiate their positioning strategy. Some brands that exemplify this well are Lush, Australis, The Body Shop, and INIKA, just to name a few.
May your chocolate never melt and your mascara never smudge.
Cruelty Free International 2016, What is Animal Testing?, Cruelty Free International, viewed 19 May 2016, <https://www.crueltyfreeinternational.org/why-we-do-it/what-animal-testing>.
Sarkar, AN 2012, ‘Green Branding and Eco-innovations for Evolving a Sustainable Green Marketing Strategy’, Asia-Pacific Journal of Marketing Research and Innovation, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 39-58.
Schiffman, L, O’Cass, A, Paladino, A, & Carlson, J 2014, Consumer Behaviour, 6th edn, Pearson, Australia.