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It’s not our fault – we had to do it.

Ignoring the historical undertones of this heading, I read with interest recently that a group of women in the US are suing two international cosmetics companies for misleading them over the claim that their products were not tested on animals.

This is a really interesting development, because it implies that the women made a conscious decision to select the products of these companies specifically on ethical grounds; their decision to buy was based on a pledge from the companies not to test their products on animals.  By the companies’ own admissions, there are certain areas where they operate that insist on their products/ingredients being tested on animals.  So, the issue may well come down to one of intent and transparency;  did the companies know that the statement was incorrect, or did they genuinely consider the statement to be true, where the products were being sold.

If the former, then the decision of the courts would seem to be pretty cut and dry.  If the latter, then here we enter the realms of transparency; surely a company making a claim via a medium such as a web site, would need to be very clear that its claims were valid wherever the reader is based and that the claims, if they appear to cover everything, genuinely do cover every areas that the company operates in.  Otherwise, a caveat would be needed along the lines of….”this statement is true if you are buying products in XYZ countries but may not be true in ABC countries”.

Now, in itself such a caveat would be a good thing as it provides clarity for those buying the company’s products. It does, however, raise a number of other issues in relation to claims made by companies which imply “commitment to ” and “dedicated to”.  Any impression a company gives that a particular policy is company wide needs to make absolutely sure that every single division and area of option is covered by that policy.

Moving on from the animal testing issue, this legal actions will, I hope, make other companies sit up and take notice.  It seems that most companies now claim that they operate ‘ethically’ or are ‘committed to the environment’ which is great from a marketing perspective but might now have to stand the test of the courts.  In which case, we might find that large numbers of companies are a bit less ‘committed’ or ‘dedicated’ and will have to start being a little bit more honest and transparent about their social, ethical and environmental stance.

Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

For more detail on the legal actions, please see the following article:

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