Unilever Makes Major Move by Disclosing Fragrance Ingredients to Consumers by Chryso D'Angelo, February 27 2017, 34 Comments

On February 7, UK consumer goods giant Unilever announced a new transparency initiative. The company will voluntary disclose the fragrance ingredients included in its products (down to 0.01 percent of the product formulation).

This is exciting news for anyone concerned about the products they are using. Fragrance suppliers are not required by law to provide full ingredient disclosure to manufacturers or regulators, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Therefore, personal care product manufacturers often use the term "fragrance" in their ingredients list to hide chemicals and other harmful ingredients, which is permitted by the FDA.

That means that lemon-fresh smell you love is rarely derived from actual lemons. So, the fact that Unilever is listing their fragrance ingredients is a big deal, especially if you suffer from allergies. The company's US Web site will include an online search tool to help those with allergies find safe products..

“We are committed to ensuring people have the information they need to choose the right product for them," said Unilever’s Chief Research and Development Office, David Blanchard. "So that’s exactly what we’re doing, going the extra mile beyond what is already on the label."

“We strongly believe that providing this transparency will help build further trust in Unilever and our brands," said Blanchard.

In addition to food brands (like Breyers and Lipton), Unilever produces a number of beauty brands, such as Caress, Degree Deodorant, Dove, Lever 2000, Pond’s, St. Ives, Suave, TRESemme and Vaseline.

“Unilever’s action is a game-changer for transparency in the personal care product market, and we expect other major companies to follow suit,” says Environmental Working Group (EWG) President and Co-Founder Ken Cook.

The initiative launches in the U.S. and Europe and includes a “What’s in Our Products” section on the Unilever Web site. The new section explains the company's approach to developing safe products and what function each ingredient plays for the product.

My favorite part of this initiative is the company’s collaboration with SmartLabel. This digital tool, accessible through a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, allows consumers to access information about the product beyond what is on the label. When used on a mobile device, the app can scan UPC barcodes at the store. That way, you can view the fragrance ingredients list before you check out.

As of this writing, the SmartLabel app has not been updated to include all ingredients under “fragrance.” Unilever aims to complete the updates by the end of 2018.

“Fragrance chemicals ultimately end up in and on the bodies of virtually everyone who uses personal care products, including babies," says Cook.

“With this impressive display of leadership, Unilever has broken open the black box of fragrance chemicals and raised the bar for transparency across the entire personal care products industry—and beyond."

I hope this is the first of many companies that put the health and safety of their consumers at the forefront.