Cosmetics: Is it Possible to be Cruelty-free in China? A Guide for International Companies
Many Western cosmetics companies considering China are facing a dilemma: seek revenue or stick to their principles? On one hand, China represents the single greatest market in the world for cosmetics. On the other hand, China still requires animal testing for cosmetic products which is not only problematic ethically but may also lead to a consumer backlash in established Western markets. The two solutions used by international brands to avoid animal testing on cosmetics in China are local manufacturing; and selling overseas products to customers directly via cross-border e-commerce. There is a clear trend in China away from animal testing. This is due mainly to changing sentiment on the part of Chinese consumers. Local authorities across China are developing cruelty-free programs to entice international brands into China. However, the system in China tends to allow authorities broad discretions. Accordingly, those awaiting a clear legal prohibition across the whole country may be waiting a long time. However, brands torn between revenue and conscience may consider whether cross border e-commerce or producing locally are possible solutions. Any brand with great ambitions for China will likely need to pursue domestic production. In addition, domestic production may allow brands to tweak products for Chinese consumer trends. The risk in this regard is that product localization may not receive a warm welcome from Chinese consumers. Many still have great enthusiasm for imported cosmetics. This is especially the case in respect of luxury or organic cosmetics brands.