A week or so ago I came across an article that made me feel more than a little disappointed. Ren Skincare; pioneers of affordable luxury natural skincare and cult beauty favourite have been acquired by the international giant that is Unilever.
The official press statement from Unilever on 2nd March 2015 reads:
Unilever announced today that it has signed an agreement to acquire REN Skincare, the iconic British skincare brand. Created in 2000 by Antony Buck and Robert Calcraft, REN pioneered a new type of high performance skin care. REN’s combination of effectiveness, naturalness and pleasurable experience – articulated as ‘performance; purity; pleasure’ – gives the brand a highly distinctive market position that has global relevance. The multi-award winning brand is today sold in 50 countries and has built a committed consumer base. The range is sold predominantly in specialty stores and pharmacies…
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to close in May 2015, subject to customary regulatory approvals.
To read the official press statement in full visit the Unilever website
* * *
Unilever are one of the biggest suppliers of food, home and personal care products in the world with a vast portfolio of companies both here and abroad and an annual turnover of €48.4 billion (approximately £35 billion) in 2014.
Despite a presence in over 50 countries and a bountiful display in some of our leading high street stores, REN are a relatively small (when compared to many other Unilever beauty brands) UK based company with an approximate annual turnover of a meagre £40million (Source: Financial Times).
According to Forbes magazine, Unilever are looking to strengthen their presence in the personal care industry. In addition to a large number of international lines, they currently own a number of beauty brands up in the UK, including Ponds, Dove and Simple; all of whom do not deny testing their products on animals, which automatically leads to the assumption that they do – this is confirmed by looking at the PETA cruelty free list.
Unilever may be looking to jump on the band wagon by adding a clean brand to their portfolio (not wishing to mention the word greenwashing here), however my concern is that REN will lose their way (for want of a better word) amidst all this, despite their best intentions.
So how will this affect REN’s cruelty free status?
With over half of the company’s footprint (57%) is in the faster growing developing and emerging markets (Source: Unilever), the pressure that will surely be on REN to market their products in the China could be immense; with over 700 million women in China (compared to 158m in the US and 32m in the UK), it is a very lucrative market and one that is relatively untapped with regards to natural and organic skincare.
REN are not by any means the first natural or cruelty free company to be purchased by a larger conglomerate and then sure as hell won’t be the last. Looking back, my first major stand in support of animal welfare was my (still active) boycotting of The Body Shop when they were purchased by L’Oreal.
As many of you may remember, I also discontinued my use of MAC in my pro kit a couple of years ago following the announcement from Estée Lauder that they were planning to expand into China – where products produced outside of the country are subject to mandatory cosmetic testing using animals even though those produced within the country are not (Source: Humane Society International).
I have used REN products both personally and in my professional kit for many years and this development does sit uncomfortably with me. Having taken time to reflect upon the situation I have decided that it would no longer be appropriate for me to support REN and as such, will no longer be purchasing their products.
This was not an easy decision as I love the range but there are other amazing companies out there. I want to believe that REN will stand firm on their animal testing stance despite the takeover but ultimately their now-parent company do not have a cruelty-free ethos… I will be keeping an eye on their stance in months and years to come.
What do you think? Will you continue to use REN products in light of this news or will you boycott them? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch on Twitter, Facebook or leave a comment below…