A Joint statement by the Vegan Society and Ecover
Ecover respects the mission and values of the Vegan Society who acknowledge that Ecover has 27 years of history as a company dedicated to protecting the environment. The Vegan Society recognizes Ecover as a company of integrity. As such the Vegan Society and Ecover are working together to ensure both organizations’ principles are adhered to.
As a pioneering ecological company, Ecover’s responsibility is to continuously improve the environmental performance of its products. A major challenge in developing an ecological washing and cleaning product is minimizing the effects of its use on aquatic systems. Therefore, the toxicity of these products on aquatic life must be measured.
The Vegan Society was founded in 1944 and seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. The Society understands the word “animal” to refer to the entire Animal Kingdom, that is all vertebrates and all multicellular invertebrates.
The Vegan Society Trademark is an established mark of trust that is recognised everywhere, by all. For products to obtain Trademark registration they must meet the following criteria:
• No animal ingredients. The manufacture and/or development of the product, and where applicable its ingredients, must not involve, or have involved, the use of any animal product, by-product or derivative.
• No animal testing. The development and/or manufacture of the product, and where applicable its ingredients, must not involve, or have involved, testing of any sort on animals conducted at the initiative of the manufacturer or on its behalf, or by parties over whom the manufacturer has effective control.
• Genetically modified organisms. The development and/or production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) must not have involved animal genes or animal-derived substances. Products put forward for registration which contain or may contain any GMOs must be labelled as such.
To establish the impact on the aquatic environment Ecover uses aquatic toxicity testing which uses water fleas (Daphnia), as they are present throughout the world in any freshwater system. As far as Ecover is aware there are no alternative tests available that will more accurately measure the impact of cleaning products on the aquatic environment. Ecover far exceeds the EU definition on what constitutes animal testing as Daphnia are invertebrates. The EU definition defines animal testing as the use of vertebrates, past a specified embryonic stage, (or larval stage in the case of fish and amphibians).
Ecover also uses a red blood cell test (Invittox RBC) on a non-systematic basis that uses blood from rabbit farming to test the effect of detergents on mucus membranes (to test skin compatibility).This test is used only in those cases where alternative testing methods are unavailable. Given the shortage of human red blood cells Ecover believes the use of human blood would be unethical. However, as alternative testing methods are continuously investigated, Ecover is confident that the RBC test shall become obsolete over the next few years. The Managing Director of Ecover has stated that if blood is needed for this test in the future he will donate his own blood!
Ecover continually strives to improve its product range against all of their exacting criteria. To achieve this, Ecover is continually developing and testing new ingredients. Ecover do not perform those tests on animals and employ alternative methods. For those ingredients to be included in a product, ingredient suppliers are forced by international law to prove their innocuity.
The introduction of a fixed cut off date at this stage would prevent Ecover from using these new ingredients and advances in their products which are developed in order to further benefit the environment. This is because a fixed cut off date prevents a company from introducing any ingredients that have been developed after this date. Ecover believes that by operating the five year rolling rule, by default, we are upholding our beliefs – we are honest and integral in our approach and will continue to pioneer for the future.
The Vegan Society does not permit the use of the five year rolling rule for Trademarked products and so would not permit any ingredients to be sourced under this system.
Ecover respects the values of the Vegan Society and its members. Yet, as part of the company’s core values, Ecover owes its customers transparency and will continue to hold on to its principles as it has done so for the past 27 years. Thus, our organizations have mutually decided to disagree on these points of principle and consequently, Ecover shall no longer carry the Vegan Trademark. However the Society is happy to let Ecover use existing stocks of packaging printed with our logo.
The Vegan Society assures its members that we will not compromise on our criteria for Trademark registration.
We hope that Ecover will continue to develop non-animal test methods and environmentally sound products which will enable us to work together again in the future.
Both Ecover and the Vegan Society will continue to work on improving ways to promote respect for our environment and society.
A Brief Summary of Facts:
1. Aquatic Toxicity Testing: Ecover undertakes Daphnia testing, as part of aquatic toxicity testing to establish impact on the aquatic environment. This is a recognised test that allows us to monitor our products against one of the key criteria for an ecological product, i.e. its impact on the aquatic environment.
2. Invittox (RBC) Test (Protocol 99): On a non-systematic basis, Ecover has adopted this test as part of its product testing of skin compatibility of detergents. This test is a variation of the red blood cell test (RBC) and allows us to measure the effect of detergents on mucus membranes. The techniques used to conduct this testing can be found on the web site of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods, under Protocol 99 (http://ecvam.jrc.it/index.htm). A mere 0.5 milliliters of rabbit blood is used as the source of red blood cells to conduct one complete test of a new product. In 2006 and 2007, Ecover performed 0 tests.
3. Ecover Annual Output. In 2006, Ecover’s annual output consisted of 19,625,296 units in liters (l) and 2,587,935 units in kilograms (kg) giving a total of 22,213,231 units produced.
4. Fixed cut off date vs Five year rolling rule.
Some companies operate to a fixed cut off date for ingredients which means none of the ingredients they use have been tested on animals after a certain date. The companies are free to choose that date and may have different dates for different products.
Other companies choose to use the five year rolling rule which means none of their ingredients used in a new product will have been tested on animals in the previous five years. However this is a continually moving date for new product development.