The organisation helping Aussie beauty brands access China

With a history spanning over 100 years, Cruelty Free International leads initiatives dedicated to ending the use of animals to test cosmetics and other consumer products around the world. Over the past decade in particular, the team has made real progress around the world in their mission to end animal testing everywhere, forever.

Highlights include seeing entire nations ban the sale of newly animal-tested products including New Zealand, Switzerland and Turkey. The company has also witnessed success with individual brands including COVERGIRL, which announced back in November that it is entirely cruelty-free, meaning none of its products or ingredients are tested on animals, nor are those of the brand's suppliers.

Last week saw Cruelty-Free International CEO, Michelle Thew, host a presentation – in collaboration with COVERGIRL – to show Australian beauty media how the company provides pioneering scientific and legal expertise to brands and government organisations. One current area of interest for the company is China, a country that has proven near-impossible for cruelty-free brands to access given its law that requires cosmetics to be tested on animals.

In the past, beauty brands have used workarounds such as cross boarder e-commerce (the law is only for brands that physically retail in the country), however, this option is handicapped by restricted cross-boarder spending limits. 

But a change is afoot. In 2018, Cruelty-Free International launched it's Leaping Bunny China Pilot Program, which enables leaping bunny approved brands to enter the Chinese market without animal testing, for the first time.

"Historically it's not been possible for brands and it's still not possible to import directly to China. But our program makes use of the unique agreement we've struck with Shanghai Gengpu Industrial Park, Oriental Beauty Valley and Knudsen&CRC," Thew explained to BEAUTYDIRECTORY. "This enables brands to make use of domestic manufacturing and then, supervised by us, launch onto the market."

"We want Australian brands to know this market is actually open to leaping bunny brands," she continued. "If there are brands not currently selling in China who are interested in that market, they can talk to us about getting leaping bunny approval and joining the pilot program."

Mens skincare brand, Bulldog, is the first to leaping bunny brand to reach the Mainland Chinese market and according to WWD, five others are also involved in the project. These include fellow British label Neal’s Yard Remedies, the Croatian line Azena, face masks brand Seventh Heaven, as well as Subtle Energes and Brighter Beauty.

Thew hopes that the pilot program will significantly speed up overall regulatory changes in China.

When it comes to the cruelty-free state of play in Australia, Thew believes there is still work to do in educating consumers...often the attitude in progressive countries is that if a product is clean or organic, it must also be cruelty-free. With a lack of transparency about supply chains this is often not the case.

Earlier this year, however, the Australian Government committed to prohibiting reliance on animal test data for ingredients in cosmetics with introduction of the Industrial Chemicals Act 2019. From July 1 2020, the IC Act 2019 will give effect to a ban on the use of new animal test data for ingredients used solely in cosmetics.

"This is an important signal from the Government," said Thew, "it's very future-looking and it's very specific to cosmetics ingredients. We know that here in Australia there are a huge number of brands that have an organic, ethical feel so we know animal testing is also an interest of concern with Australian consumers."

Should any Australian beauty brand wish to know more about how the IC Act will effect them, Thew recommends getting in touch with Cruelty-Free International for advice on how to prepare.

For any further information on this or the Leaping Bunny China Pilot Program, please contact Michelle Thew directly -