Shea Moisture is a skincare company that sustainably sources a myriad of natural ingredients that go into product development.
They also call themselves one of the fairtrade pioneers. This means we shouldn’t see any traces of human exploitation within their supply chain.
Shea Moisture does not hold a Fairtrade Foundation certificate, but note that the Fairtrade Foundation, although reputable, is not the only “fairtrade” entity in the world.
If we take a closer look at their website, we can see a different set of “certificates”. For example, Shea Moisture shows that they are B certified at the bottom of their homepage.
What Does It Mean To Be “B” Certified?
The B Corporation, like the Fairtrade Association, is an entity that oversees companies.
Their mission is to ensure the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose are being met.
When you are “B” certified, the overall impact you had on workers, customers, community, and the environment should be positive.
A report is also released on the B Corporation website showing the overall impact score of each company and the specific data that contributed to that score. (Note that this score goes from 0 to 200.)
To show you what I mean, here’s a visual demonstration:
This is a screenshot of the overall impact score.
This is a screenshot showing the different areas they evaluate.
From what I can muster, there are four areas: Governance, Workers, Community and Environment. The maximum score for each one is 50, and you can get an idea of what the weakest points for each company are by exploring each small tab.
If you’re interested in knowing about Shea Moisture’s report, you can find it under the name Sundial Brands, which is essentially the parent company of the brand.
Shea Moisture Also Partakes In “The Community Commerce.”
Community Commerce is a program that connects Shea Moisture with distributors focused on the sustainable production of traditionally handcrafted ingredients.
In this particular case— shea butter.
One such distributor is The Savannah Fruits Company.
This distributor based in Ghana is responsible for the collection and delivery of nuts from the shea parklands of West Africa to the end of the supply chain in Europe.
From what I’ve grasped TSFC was built to financially support rural Ghanaian woman, and it’s one of the companies Shear Moisture is involved with.
According to their website, they are certified by EcoCert, USDA Organic, and Agence Bio. Entities that promote the development of social and sustainable practices.
From a vegan’s standpoint, the more you read, the more you fall in love with Shea Moisture, because A LOT of the ideals we preach appear to be present.
Is Shea Moisture Truly Cruelty-Free?
According to what is stated within the website — Shea Moisture should be cruelty-free.
However, questions were lifted in this blog post by The Ethical Elephant blog.
Apparently, a writer from the Ethical Elephant blog asked customer support at Shea Moisture if their products were truly cruelty-free… and he/she received this response:
This is merely a screenshot of what was written in the “supposed” email.
“While there are ways for companies to obtain our product to do what they want with them, those users are not affiliated with us and we cannot control what they do with the products.”
Whatever this meant… it doesn’t seem like a very compelling answer. To which the person at the Ethical Elephant responded:
Then Shea replied with:
Are other companies using their products to test on animals? I’m not going to make an unfair assumption… so I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from this.
However, and this is an important fact… Sundial Brands (which is Shea Moisture’s parent company) was acquired by Unilever. And if you don’t know, Unilever is basically a juggernaut who owns multiple brands. Unilever still conducts tests on animals to this day.
Here are some familiar brands they own:
And there are even more if you visit their website and take a look at their portfolio.
Finally… Is Shea Moisture Vegan?
With the way my brain is wired, I tend to think cruelty-free and vegan as two different words with the same meaning. Rather… since it’s cruelty-free — it should also be vegan, right?
From my perspective, cruelty-free should not be restricted to experiments. It should also reinforce the idea that no animal or exploitation of animal resources should ever be present on a product label. (i.e: Animal parts and honey)
In other words, cruelty-free and “vegan” could go hand in hand!
One stupendous fact about Shea Moisture is that most (if not all) of their products contain more than one organic ingredient. We vegans… we love this…yet… I found out that a few of their products contain some non-vegan ingredients. 🙁
This butter soap contains honey. But another more interest finding lies ahead. This time the name seems far more complex.
Sodium lauroyl lactylate is a sodium salt that is created after mixing lauric acid and lactic acid together. Lauric acid is saturated fatty acid obtained from coconut oil, while lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that is obtained from milk. Whenever you see a name like “lactylate” on a label… give a step back and think about it.
Another name you may encounter is sodium palmate. This is an ingredient created from palm oil — which is also somewhat of an “excluded ingredient” in the vegan community.
It’s an ingredient I found in one of their shampoos:
The scary bit is how these complicated names are mixed in a list of 12 to 15 ingredients, and you have no idea about their origin unless you dive a bit deeper.
Now you might say… “well if it was vegan, it would say so on the label”.
That should be 100% true. But let me give you an example.
This product here does not contain any “vegan” stamp on its label, yet it is free from animal-derived properties. (According to the support team at Shea).
If you’re a fan of Shea Moisture, that is one suggestion you could make — because it would save them a lot of time by not having to answer the same questions time and time again.
My Verdict: Shea Moisture Has Vegan And Non-Vegan Products.
For me, it’s hard to view Shea Moisture as a brand vegans “should” buy from.
Yes, it’s a brand that works with ethically sourced ingredients, but at the same time, some of the products contain animal-based ingredients.
Adding to that, Sundial Brands was bought by Unilever, which is a company that still sells products in China. And China is a territory where animal experimentation is still required.
I hope this blog post was enough to answer your question. When I think “vegan”, I always try to look at and beyond animal ingredients. Animal ingredients might not be on a label — but they still may be affected in the process — which is why I tried to give you those answers.
Thanks for reading! And stay vegan! 🙂