Recently, the short film ‘‘Save Ralph’’ by the Humane Society International went viral. The audiovisual production — which denounces the cruelty of animal testing — shows the sad reality of a rabbit that works as a guinea pig in a research laboratory.
Ralph touched the Internet users and several brands, especially those related to cosmetics and hygiene products, such as O Boticário, Vult, and Natura — spoke out to express their disapproval of the animal experiments, reinforcing the fact that their products are Cruelty-Free — free from any animal exploitation at all stages of the manufacturing process. It’s important to remember that this encompasses the entire production chain. Therefore, inputs and other ingredients from other suppliers also don’t have it in their production.
- Masked hypocrisy
Although the great repercussion of the video was significant for the defense of animal rights, many companies took advantage of the context to promote themselves, using this theme for self-interest and marketing strategy to reach other niche audiences, and not going to the heart of the problem.
Moreover, some of those companies who have claimed that their products are Cruelty-Free forgot to mention that they are on the list of the world's biggest polluters of the environment, which highlights a contradiction.
As an example, we have Nestlé and Unilever in the top 10 most polluting companies in the oceans worldwide — ranking made by Greenpeace and the organization Break Free From Plastic.
Coca-Cola is another example of a company that does not use ingredients and additives of animal origin in its products, however, hypocritically, sponsors one of the biggest rodeos in the United States, the Houston LiveStock Show, and Rodeo, where animals are raped and sometimes exploited to death.
- Plastic is garbage!
According to the report made by the organization Tearfund, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé occupy the top of the list of the companies that most pollute the world with plastic, being responsible for the annual production of half a million tons of pollution for this material in six developing countries.
The three companies acknowledged their mistakes and made some commitments about their packaging for 2025. Coca-Cola said that all its packaging will be recyclable, Nestlé has ensured that it will be recyclable or reusable and PepsiCo said that it will be recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. In addition, Coca-Cola has issued a statement guaranteeing that is committed to collecting and recycling a bottle for each one it sells by 2030.
- The pollutant cosmetic industry
It’s estimated that the worldwide conventional cosmetic industry uses about 10,000 chemicals in its formulations. They are called POPs — Persistent Organic Pollutants, which take a long time to decompose, disrupting the food chain, polluting rivers and seas, and causing disturbances to aquatic life and the human organism.
The face scrubs and other products with microspheres, because they are composed of polyethylene, when they are dumped in sewage networks, can be destined to rivers and oceans, and later be ingested by aquatic animals, configuring an example of a harmful component.
For this reason, many of the industries that are already Cruelty-Free, such as Natura, have been investing in the development of sustainable products, which have the Eco-Friendly characteristic. The brand is part of the B-Corp movement, a conglomerate of companies that combine profit with socio-environmental benefits. Natura also has the line Ekos that has the UEBT seal (Union for Ethical Biotrade) on their products, which, in a way, guarantees the use of sustainable ingredients in production.
- Eco-friendly, organic and natural
With this same thought, the organic and natural concept has been gaining more and more space in the cosmetics industry, but it’s necessary to pay attention to what is actually in the composition of these products, as there is a minimum percentage to be recognized as Eco-Friendly.
Although the prices of sustainable products are higher, precisely because they don’t use chemical compounds in their formulas and the cost of production, which often involve the use of sophisticated technologies — such as software and state-of-the-art computer systems that simulate the possible reactions of the human organism to the investigated substances —, it’s an investment that is worth making. This is because they don’t harm the environment. They are natural, more durable, and promote long-term benefits for human health.
Therefore, to revert the bad current scenario, mainly caused by the cosmetic industry, it’s necessary to train consumers, who will start to demand from companies a review of all manufacturing processes, considering all possible impacts associated with the life cycle of their products, from manufacture to the final destination of the materials after consumption, since only the Cruelty-Free seal is not enough.
- Activist perspective
In a conversation with the Brazilian climate activist Catarina Lorenzo, who in 2019 was present, with Greta Thunberg, at the United Nations Children's Rights Committee, the young woman says: ''if companies adapt to sustainability goals, we will have goals to be fulfilled and, gradually, things will be better. It’s necessary that the government complies with the goals and agreements focused on sustainability and also ensures that society receives guidance and education. And then, later, there will be a demand and, consequently, a pressure for things to evolve’’.
‘’As long as there is no focus on an education that emphasizes the importance of sustainability, and public policies that guarantee the transfer of responsibility to all those who are truly responsible for the degradation of the ecosystem, and the establishment of specific legislation to be followed by the adaptation of companies to the current environment preservation scenario — such as the creation of standardization of packaging that is 100% recyclable — the situation will not lead to a positive context'', says the activist.
- Problems and advances
It’s possible to conclude that preserving the environment is one of the greatest difficulties faced by business and political leaders nowadays. The global challenges related to sustainability remain enormous, and, incidentally, they have been exacerbated by environmental crimes, whose incidence has increased exponentially in recent years. In addition, the hypocrisy of brands that rely on important topics such as Cruelty-Free to hide their neglect and non-concern for the environment is evident and deserves more relevance in the media.
Recently, an important advance in the improvement of environmental policies in Brazil took place with the publication of Law 14.119, on January 13, 2021, which instituted the Política Nacional de Pagamento por Serviços Ambientais (PNPSA) and the Programa Federal de Pagamentos de Pagamentos por Serviços Ambientais (PFPSA).
With the new law, new compensatory possibilities and opportunities to expand a sustainable market are opened up for those who keep their businesses in line with environmental legislation. It also creates an additional stimulus for those who need to adapt their activities for the environment’s preservation, or even encourage the formation of a parallel market for investors in this area, regardless of government actions.
- How can we help?
While laws to protect the integrity of animals and the environment are not created, requiring by regulation products from the cosmetics, hygiene, cleaning, and pharmaceutical industries to be Cruelty-Free and Eco Friendly and packaging the products are reusable or biodegradable, there are some habits to be adopted by consumers that can be transformers for the planet.
Reading the product labels to check if any of the ingredients harm the ecosystem, the avoidance of the use of packaging, or the practice of its correct disposal are important habits that we can adopt. In addition, these good habits agree with the global movement called Clean Beauty, which is based on conscious consumption, involving everything from the cultivation cycle of natural raw materials, through manufacturing without harmful assets, to post-disposal.
The road to a sustainable world is still long and full of obstacles, but, step by step, there will be a difference in the long run.
The article above was edited by Bárbara Vetos.
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