Recently Too Faced were bought out by Estee Lauder. As is normally the case when these things happen, the online community started to debate what this actually means. Parent companies and animal testing splits opinions in the cruelty free world. There are some who choose not to buy from brands whose parent company test on animals. Then there are others who do buy from them. I thought a post on this may be helpful for those just starting out, or even those who have been buying cruelty free for a while but are still unsure. Both sides have very valid points and I have tried to outline them as fairly as I can below, although I am biased to one side!
What is a parent company?
As the world has become more global and less local due to inventions like the internet, so too have the products and companies within it. Even when I was little most companies were only selling in their own country, but this has changed and now products are imported all over the world. If I want to buy something online from a guy in a basement in Melbourne at 2am, I can! Fabulous! This has also meant that the companies producing and developing these goods have become global. With that it is now common for companies to buy other companies. The company which buys another company is known as the “parent” company. The company they own is known as a “subsidiary”. For example L’Oreal own The Body Shop. L’Oreal is the parent company, The Body Shop is the subsidiary. They are two separate companies with separate policies and practices but The Body Shop is ultimately owned by L’Oreal.
Why would they continue to test on animals?
Companies will be testing on animals for one of three reasons. One, it is generally cheaper than alternatives. Two, they would have to invest in changing their testing methods. Three, they would not be able to sell in China. (It is a law in China that all imported cosmetic goods must be tested on animals). For the most part, companies continue to test on animals for the third reason, it allows them to sell and therefore make profit in China.
Does buying from a cruelty free subsidiary send a positive message to the parent company?
People who buy from subsidiaries believe that the parent company will see the cruelty free brand selling lots of product. This in turn will encourage them to make more of the subsidiaries they own, as well as their own products, cruelty free. In other words the parent company see value in changing their brands to being cruelty free. This may sometimes be the case. In my opinion though business does not work this way. I believe instead, it sends the message that no matter what policies the parent company have, people will continue to buy from the brands they own. Regardless of whether they test on animals the parent company make money so they do not have to change anything. The only point at which they will change their other subsidiaries and indeed their own products to cruelty free is when they start losing money.
One of the mean reasons a parent company own multiple subsidiaries is to have diversification. Different brand names, different products, different policies (and the consumers they bring) and perhaps most importantly, different markets. When all is said and done most brands only test on animals now to sell in China. Regardless of whether their cruelty free subsidiary is making profit they will not be pulling another brand out of the Chinese market to make it cruelty free. As long as the parent company sees the subsidiaries which do test on animals making profit they will not change any policies. They are essentially having their cake and eating it. They are getting money from both types of consumers, those who shop cruelty free and those who don’t. They do not have to change anything.
But the profits from the cruelty free brand don’t always go to the parent company?
Some brands claim their profits do not go up to the parent company but I just don’t believe this. Why would a company buy a brand if they do not get something out of it. They will be getting their money somehow, whether that is dividends or something else they will be getting it. Keeping The Body Shop as an example, the profits from The Body Shop are The Body Shop’s own. The directors of The Body Shop are in control of these profits and will use them as they see fit. However, they answer to their shareholders who are L’Oreal. All decisions The Body Shop board make are ultimately decided by L’Oreal. Presumably L’Oreal would like a share of that profit so will ask for dividends to be paid. They are getting profit from The Body Shop, but to anyone who asks, they are not taking any profit.
Surely buying from companies who sell meat or products tested on animals is the same thing though?
This is a very difficult one. To me, in the UK we have very few vegan shops or restaurants. This means that if we were to boycott all companies who sell meat or products tested on animals we would not have an alternative for most products. If I could go somewhere wholly vegan, I would but there is not an option here. There are however so many fantastic, independent beauty brands that I just cant justify buying from a company owned by one that tests. Hopefully one day there will be a completely vegan supermarket and you can bet I will be first in the que!
I hope this has helped answer questions you may have and please if you have anything to add, or indeed a counter argument comment below.