Urban Decay on why they’re going to sell their products in China

Straight from the horse’s mouth, verbatim, in full: I’ve copy-pasted the whole statement, to be completely fair, as any editing would result in highlighting what’s not been edited out, which could reflect bias on my part and could result in a greater chance of misreading and misinterpretation (from me, and from any other reader).

Source: http://www.urbandecay.com/Urban-Decay-China/Urban-Decay-in-China%2Cdefault%2Cpg.html

The statement:

Urban Decay is going to sell our products in China. Because of China’s policies on animal testing, we know that this will not be a popular decision with some of our loyal customers. But the decision is a thoughtful one.

For 16 years, we have been committed to two key causes: women’s rights, and the fight against animal testing. Our dedication to those causes will not waver.

For those of you unfamiliar with China’s policies, the sticking point is this: the Chinese government reserves the right to conduct animal testing with cosmetic products before the products are approved for use by Chinese citizens. The government has not told us if they have exercised this right with our products. So, our brand does not test on animals, but the Chinese government might conduct a one-time test using our products. Do we like China’s policies? No…and that is really the point. Going into China was a huge decision for Urban Decay. But, we believe that change cannot and will not happen by outside pressure alone in a closed market. Change can only happen from within. When we enter the Chinese market, we will do our part to help make those changes.

When we were considering expanding into China, a group of marketing consultants told us to remove the section of our company history that describes our crusade against animal testing. “It doesn’t mean anything to the Chinese beauty customer,” they said. Of course, we refused. Our “no animal testing” policy is part of who we are, and has been since day one. The news that animal issues don’t even register with the average Chinese consumer was one of the biggest factors in our decision to go there. During Urban Decay’s infancy, we worked hard to inform consumers about animal rights in the United States and Europe. The battleground for animal rights is now in China, and we want to be there to encourage dialogue and provoke change.

We also hope to shed some light on women’s rights issues in China. As a company that caters to a female customer, this is extremely important to us. For one thing, going into China is a way for us to advance women into important professional positions. We will help grow the cosmetics industry, which primarily employs and creates career paths for women. Although workers’ employment rights are a relatively new concept there, progress has been made partially because of pressure from businesses, consumers, and advocacy groups from other countries. Based on this, our belief is that both an outside force and inside pressure for change can result in helping transform both the importance of women and animal testing policies in China. And more importantly, we hope to influence the perspective of the citizens on both of these issues.

If we don’t go to China, other companies without our beliefs will, and the culture will never change. We want to encourage a culture of consumers who care enough to buy cruelty-free products, and who view professional women as role models who influence their lives on a daily basis.

Yes, we are a for-profit company. And yes, we would eventually like to make money in China. But we don’t stand to turn a profit in China for quite a while, partially because the market isn’t quite ready to sustain an untraditional brand like ours. If it were only about the money, we would wait a few years. But our foray into this market is also about participating in an amazing time of change in China. We don’t like animal testing (and neither do the 13 dogs in our office), but we are trying to change the world… even if it is one eye shadow at a time! Sitting on the sidelines isn’t our style. We understand that you might not like our decision, but we hope you can respect it.

Any editors or advocacy groups interested in interviews with Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir may contact us at publicrelations@urbandecay.com.

For any advocates or Urban Decay fans interested, Urban Decay founding partner Wende Zomnir will host a live chat in 2 weeks to answer questions about our entry into China. Please click here if you would like to sign up to be notified.


  1. Sakara

    What utter rubbish, they want to sell in China to make money. If these companies made a very public statement as to why they WOULDN’T sell to china then i think that would be a far stronger stand against China’s animal testing policies.

    • gingerama

      Amen to that, sister!

      Great minds think alike: your comment appeared for me to approve while I was writing a comment myself. Having realized that, yes, fair’s fair, I should report the UD press release verbatim BUT BUT BUT couldn’t just let it stand!!

      The Body Shop has a decent counter statement, a nice simple one: you can’t both be against animal testing AND on a market that tests (or might test, however remote that probability might be) on animals. The two positions are plain simply incompatible. And, heaven help them, TBS must have been under pressure from their parent group. Who were one of the first international companies to go into the Chinese market and have therefore been one of the companies to have been there the longest, throughout which TBS has resolutely stayed out.

      • Sakara

        True, though i refuse to buy anything from TBS because of who owns them, In the end all the profits end up with who owns TBS. Those kind of brands are green fronts to appeal to ethical consumers who dont know who really owns them

        • gingerama

          Kind of a non-issue for me, as I don’t buy anything from them for a banal reason: they have nothing that I’d like to buy. Nothing that someone else doesn’t do better, cheaper. Next to nothing that’s sensitive-skin-appropriate. I’ve bought next to nothing from TBS in years. I have a wood hairbrush from about ten years ago, and some makeup brushes. (Bought at a time and in a place where they were the most ethical available option: the others being Boots or non-synthetic. Long story. Afterwards, I kept them rather than throwing them out, which would have been wasteful.)

          But, to be fair: TBS profits don’t in fact all go back to L’Ucifer Corp. That’s not true. I know some of what the conditions of the sale to L’Ucifer were (worked on the legal translation, loooooong time ago). If they’ve been broken, the TBS Board is entitled to take their parent company to court, get repayments and damages, and legally re-separate themselves.

          This was a completely different situation from a company being taken over, on more or less hostile (and corporate-colonising) terms. Then and later, the status of TBS within the L’Oréal stable is different: independent and self-governing. It’s not a “child” or “colony” or “slave” company.

          • Sakara

            Still cant believe It was sold to L’oreal though..and some of the profits obviously do otherwise why would L’oreal buy the company, except to try and appeal to the ethical consumer.
            See i like some of tbs’S perfumes, always been a sucker for their white musk. But i’ve found alternative since then 😀

          • gingerama

            Long story on why sold to L’Oréal. Short version: reform (and subvert) the industry from within; reformation and evolution rather than radicalism and revolution. There’s some in the official TBS histories etc. Can’t provide much further information than that without breaking professional rules re. translation work way back when, have to maintain client confidentiality on anything that’s not public domain open-access publicly-available information. Sorry 😦

          • Sakara

            lol and yet i know so many myself included that as soon as L’oreal took over, i stopped buying from TBS.
            totally understand the confidentiality thing, not a problem 😀

  2. anna3101

    I wonder though how can TBS say they don’t sell to China while they actually do – they sell in Hong Kong: http://www.thebodyshop.com.hk/en/index.aspx

    I’m still at a loss as to what to make of (so many) so-called cruelty-free companies, with BDIH and other certificates, that are officially present in Hong Kong. I’ve searched far and wide but was not able to find any information as to whether Hong Kong’s requirements are any different from that of mainland China. And there’s a loophole even in the best of certificates: although they ban any testing of anything both by the company itself, its partners etc, this does not include third party testing the company has nothing to do with. And well, they can always say they have “nothing to do” with Chinese officials testing their products…

    • gingerama

      While Hong Kong is part of China, they have a special status (Macao ditto) and certain differences including legislative ones. Products sold in Hong Kong are subject to different regulations (and very few of them) from those sold in mainland China. They are NOT subject to the Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service and their requirement for the Registration of Imported Cosmetics in China. They are only subject to the Hong Kong Department of Justice’s Ordinances, to Chapter 456: Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance. That is: skincare & cosmetics (and other beautification products) are NOT treated as special sorts of product and subject to special regulations on them: they are treated as general consumer goods.

      Hong Kong’s special status = Special Administrative Region, as a free port, a duty-free free-trade zone (the 2003 CEPA, etc.).

      More + more links coming up in next post… in the meantime, see briefly this post from 27 March, where the matter of legal difference was touched on.

      That loophole on third-party testing: actually, if a company has signed up to any of the European (national and EU-wide) and international certification programmes on cruelty-free-ness, that is included. This was one of the reasons precisely why these international coalitions against animal cruelty were set up in the first place…

      • anna3101

        I’m looking forward to some links – I’m not lazy, but I really couldn’t find anything, and I’ve been searching for some time already.

        I’m starting to be sceptical regarding this whole Hong Kong issue because of the way it is treated by companies such as Weleda, Logona, Lavera etc. When I sent an email with questions, I got normal, straightforward answers. When I asked them about this, they went with generalized “we don’t test and we don’t support that” statements. Why didn’t anyone simply say “dear miss, no need to worry, Hong Kong’s regulations do not require cosmetics to be tested”. End of my bothering them, I’m happy, they are happy, and a general happy end. Most companies are glad to enlighten me and others on EU cosmetic directives and what they allow and don’t allow – but when the questions concern China, it’s a total silence all of a sudden. I want to believe them, I honestly do – it would make life so much easier for me to stick to the brands I know and are easily available on the Polish market. But I’m getting suspicious…

        • gingerama

          Quick version:

          While Hong Kong is part of China, they have a special status (Macao ditto) = Special Administrative Region, as a free port, a duty-free free-trade zone (the 2003 CEPA, etc.). Products sold in Hong Kong are subject to different regulations (and very few of them) from those sold in mainland China. They are NOT subject to the Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service and their requirement for the Registration of Imported Cosmetics in China. The latter being the regulations governing the import of cosmetic products to China.

          NB just to be clear, so as to be sold in China:
          *some* products (= but not all / every single one)
          *may* (= not “will” or “must”) be subject to testing,
          *if* they
          (a) are in certain categories of cosmetic products (which includes sunscreen: the category doesn’t map onto the categorization of a product as “cosmetics” in English or other European languages; these definitions also vary from country to country, and ditto outside the EU ex. the USA, Australia);
          (b) contain new ingredients or formulations, not previously on the Chinese market;
          (c) and this is at the discretion of the CIRS authorities.
          I covered this in an earlier post on here (27 March this year).

          Back to Hong Kong. Different situation. Products (cosmetic and otherwise: actually, *all* products–no different treatment for skincare, haircare, makeup, etc.) are only subject to the Hong Kong Department of Justice’s Ordinances, to Chapter 456: Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance.

          Rapid links:

          general awareness (and keeping oneself informed) of current affairs, international politics, and history
          + awareness of Hong Kong’s situation (I hesitate to say “knowledge” here: only in a vague general-knowledge sense, I’m not a specialist in this area)
          + knowledge of free ports and their history (I can say “knowledge” here but will refrain from boring you: not everyone finds trade history and suchlike that riveting)
          + lateral thinking
          combined into a simple Google search: such as “hong kong cosmetic regulation

          2. and you know you’ve got your search-terms right (hey, searches are always plural: at least, I’ve only very very ver rarely only made one search for anything!) if you find lots of immediately-useful stuff when you click on those links in the very first page. Yep, many to most of my usual searches mean trawling through 10-15 pages of results. Minimum. Sometimes the most useful ones are way down the list. Sometimes that’s how to figure out which better terms to use. But I digress. Add in the element of pure brute luck here, to be fair (and properly modest).

          3. from which search:

      • anna3101

        Here’s the reply I got from Lavera. Either they are not being professional or I am not getting something but this is not what I call a precise, clear reply:

        We have never signed any document in China that we’re testing on animals or allowing anybody to test on animals. It is said that the Chinese FDA is testing on animals during product registration but we have no proof and we have never seen any documents testing it. The Chinese FDA and our representative in China know our position and we’re working hard on rights for animals.

        Or maybe I’m just being totally paranoid??

        • gingerama

          Re. Lavera reply: You’re not being paranoid. That was a pathetic excuse for a reply, which shows ignorance and stupidity; at least there’s no conspiracy to hoodwink customers (that could lead to paranoia, of a medically-certifiable sort), or insult their intelligence, just evidence of confusion and defensiveness.

          I honestly think that reply was written by someone who:
          (a) doesn’t have all the facts at their disposal;
          (b) has no idea how to find anything out: imagination, initiative, research methods, etc.;
          (c) those sorts of intelligence-gathering-skills aside, is lacking in basic intelligence;
          (d) but is probably basically honest, believes in what the company stands for, trusts them (and agents acting on their behalf), and gets a bit angry because there’s no way their company could be *Lavera*, and anti-cruelty, and condone cruelty.

          Your correspondent is guilty of stupidity and naïvety.

          I can just about see the cartoon: “DOES NOT COMPUTE – A FATAL SYNTAX ERROR HAS OCCURRED” in a thought-bubble, as smoke comes out of their ears.

          I would try again, writing a full formal letter, to someone higher up. Keep at them.

Care to reply?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s