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February 17, 2022
Policies & Claims

What "Cruelty Free" Actually Means

Yashi Shrestha

52% of US consumers oppose animal testing.

This percentage grows each year, prompting many businesses to transition their manufacturing practices to become cruelty-free. In fact, cruelty-free brand launches have doubled in the past five years.

Despite this, 88% of the top cosmetic brands still test ingredients and formulations on animals. This is partly due to the difficulty and time-consuming nature of obtaining cruelty-free and vegan certifications for large businesses. However, there is some good news: smaller businesses and indie brands actually have an easier and faster time getting such statuses verified.

To make your products more accessible to consumers searching for cruelty-free products, it’s important that you understand what the label means and how certification works.

What makes something "cruelty-free"?

The term “cruelty-free” is not regulated by any governmental entity. However, a cruelty-free status does have a generally recognized definition, even if different certifications vary in verification processes.

In essence, cruelty-free brands, products, and product ingredients do not test on animals, commission animal testing (third-party or not), or source their ingredients from manufacturers that conduct animal testing.

Veganism is always cruelty-free

Photo by Claudio Schwarz via Unsplash

The term “vegan” is also unregulated, but veganism is generally recognized as a lifestyle that avoids harming animals in any way— including during the manufacturing process. For that reason, vegan brands/products are assumed to be inherently cruelty-free.

But— don’t equate veganism with “plant-based". Though plant-based consumption is a large and almost mandatory part of the vegan lifestyle, the term simply describes products/foods that are only formulated with plant-derived ingredients. Ultimately, this means that plant-based products have no animal-derived ingredients, nor ingredients of other origins. However, ingredients in plant-based products may still be tested on animals, which means they aren’t cruelty-free.

Third-party certification

Photo by Agence Olloweb via Unsplash

Many companies claim to be “cruelty-free” on their site, a marketing tagline, or even with a self-made logo. However, many companies may also choose to get certified by a third-party organization. Many indie brands form and abide by their own strict standards for “cruelty-free.” But by receiving third-party certification, companies let consumers know that their products have objectively met the standards of an unbiased entity.

Once again, cruelty-free status is not officially regulated — but there are a few certifications that are more globally recognized than others.

PETA Certification

PETA offers two certifications — one for just cruelty-free status, and one for cruelty-free and vegan status. To be certified, companies must sign PETA's statement of assurance. By doing so, they pledge that they do not conduct/commission any animal testing on any of their products’ ingredients and that they will not do so in the future.

Vegan Certified

To be “vegan-certified” by, companies must not use animal-based ingredients in their products. They must also ensure that none of their ingredients are tested on animals and that no animal products are used in any part of the manufacturing process. Companies can prove that they meet all of these requirements by providing third-party supplier verification.

Leaping Bunny

Leaping Bunny certifies cruelty-free status to companies that conduct no animal testing. They must also purchase no ingredients, formulations, or products that have been tested on animals.

Companies can verify that they’ve met these standards by showing evidence of a “supplier monitoring system”. Leaping Bunny defines this system in two ways:

  • Option 1: Third-party manufacturers and suppliers offering CCIC Declarations of Product Compliance and Declarations of Raw Material Compliance
  • Option 2: The following statement being published on the company’s (and third-party manufacturers’, if possible) purchase orders for ingredients, formulations, and products:
    The supplier affirms by fulfilling this order that it does not conduct or commission animal testing of any cosmetics and/or household products, including without limitation, ingredients or formulations of such products, supplied to [relevant entity] after [Company's Fixed Cut-off Date].

Some other organizations and entities that offer cruelty-free certification. But the organizations mentioned above are most popular and globally recognized. Consumers may feel more confident buying from brands certified by these organizations, which is why many companies choose to get certified from them.

Becoming cruelty-free with Novi

Businesses seeking cruelty-free status might find the verification process a little elusive. But by using Novi’s ingredient database, businesses can filter ingredients by various cruelty-free certifications, including those involving the PETA and certification. This feature allows businesses to easily source ingredients already vetted as cruelty-free.

In fact, the Novi platform offers animal welfare standards that users can select to filter materials on the marketplace.

Vegan Suitable and Free of Animal/Animal-By-Product Derived Ingredients

The Novi platform offers animal welfare standards that users can select to filter materials on the marketplace.

For example, “Vegan Suitable” surfaces ingredients that are not tested on or derived from animals. Novi verifies ingredients’ adherence to “Vegan Suitable” through acceptable documentation in the form of an animal content-free statement, origin statement, and others. Additionally, official PETA and Vegan Certification documents count towards Novi’s “Vegan Suitable” filter option.

Additionally, “Free of Animal/Animal-By-Product Derived Ingredients” surfaces ingredients that do not contain materials derived from animals, and instead come from plant-based or other origins.

Cruelty-free isn't as simple as it seems

With zero regulation on the “cruelty-free” label and cruelty-free certification, sending a clear animal-friendly message to consumers isn’t a cut and dry process. But putting in the work to do so can help you tap into a growing audience concerned about sustainability and animal rights.

With Novi’s database, get access to thousands of ingredients, all at your fingertips — ingredients that you can filter according to different sustainability standards. Using Novi’s ingredient database can be a business’s crucial, accessible first step in reaching cruelty-free status.

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