Leading safety and environmental sustainability sciences

The scientists behind our safe and sustainable products

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Everyone at Unilever has a part to play in making sure that our products are safe and sustainable and that we continue to reduce our environmental impact. The team of scientists at our Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) has a vital role in delivering these commitments.

SEAC is a team of industry-leading safety and environmental sustainability scientists. They use the latest techniques, deep scientific expertise, and an evidence-based approach to ensure that our products are safe for consumers and workers and better for the environment.

Working with teams across Unilever, from the beginning to the end of a product’s life, SEAC scientists ensure that safety and sustainability are built into everything we make and do. In addition to this, SEAC scientists work with leading experts around the globe to continually advance the science we use to assess our product innovations of the future.

SEAC is part of our Research and Development (R&D) facilities based at Colworth in the UK, with a diverse team of over 160 people. SEAC scientists use industry-leading approaches to assure the safety and sustainability of our products. They draw on a wide span of multidisciplinary scientific expertise to carry out robust safety and environmental impact assessments. This includes expertise in consumer, environmental, process and worker safety, as well as ecological sustainability. At the heart of our risk and impact assessments is an in-depth understanding of Unilever’s product formulations and knowledge of how people use our products.

SEAC covers many different fields of science including cell biology, microbiology, toxicology (looks at the potential effects an ingredient could have on the body), computational chemistry (which is used to predict a chemical’s properties from its structure), bioinformatics (using computational approaches to get new insights from Big Data), mathematical modelling, environmental and sustainability science.

Advancing science through partnership

SEAC scientists are at the forefront of modern advances in safety and environmental sustainability science, sharing our work and partnering with many other leading experts around the world to continue to advance this science.

SEAC scientists partner with leading academic groups, government scientists, other companies, trade associations and NGOs around the world. We publish our research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals, talk about our research regularly at international scientific conferences, and discuss our approach to safety risk and environmental impact assessment with policymakers, regulators, and other authorities. For more details about our 21st century safety and sustainability sciences see www.tt21c.org and www.SS21C.org.

Our collaborative approach to safety and sustainability science means we can harness the latest scientific evidence and create approaches to assess the product innovations of the future.

The history of SEAC

  • 1961 - The Unilever Board establishes a mandatory toxicological safety clearance system for all company products.
  • 1964 - A new state-of-the-art toxicology laboratory opens at Colworth, UK.
  • 1973 - First Unilever scientific publication on alternatives to animal testing.
  • 1986 - Unilever’s safety laboratories receive the first certificate of Good Laboratory Practice compliance.
  • 1990 - The Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre (SEAC) is formed, bringing together all Unilever’s safety resources across consumer, occupational and environmental safety and environmental sustainability.
  • 1994 - SEAC publishes its 100th research paper on non-animal approaches for assessing consumer safety.
  • 2001 - Unilever launches a scientific evidence-based IT system for formal safety approval. All SEAC groups co-located at Unilever’s Colworth R&D laboratory.
  • 2004 - Unilever invests in a novel long-term research programme to apply modelling and informatics approaches for non-animal safety assessments.
  • 2009 - Environmental Safety Laboratory scientists in Bangalore, India, become part of the global SEAC organisation.
  • 2013 - SEAC’s Safety Science in the 21st Century website (www.TT21C.org) goes live, enabling Unilever’s safety research to be shared with the global scientific community.
  • 2015 - SEAC celebrates its 25th anniversary with a scientific symposium attended by more than 60 leading scientific partners from across the world.
  • 2018 - SEAC provide underpinning scientific evidence to allow Dove to be the first of Unilever’s core brands to be certified as ‘Cruelty-Free’ by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
  • 2018 - SEAC’s Sustainability Science in the 21st Century website (www.SS21C.org) goes live, enabling Unilever’s environmental sustainability research to be shared with the global scientific community.
  • 2019 - SEAC scientists collect the Corporate Consciousness Award from the Humane Society of the United States in recognition of work on non-animal approaches to safety.
Market scene

We ensure that our products are safe for consumers and workers and have a positive impact on the environment.

Our Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre’s (SEAC) industry-leading safety and environmental sustainability science has been developed and applied in partnership with external experts over many years. We use this science across Unilever, working with our colleagues to ensure that our products and processes are safe and sustainable by design and that our purpose-led brands can be confident in the statements they make about product and ingredient safety, health, environmental sustainability and the planet.

SEAC scientists work closely with other scientists across Unilever at every stage of a product’s life, from discovering and designing new concepts through to fully embedding new technologies in our product innovations and understanding product use and disposal by consumers across the world. By being involved at the very beginning, SEAC scientists can provide essential safety and environmental sustainability guidance throughout the innovation process.

Those partnerships across Unilever allow us to apply the best creative, leading-edge science and to design safety and sustainability into our products. This means new Unilever products and processes are always designed to ensure that they are safe for our consumers to use, for our workers to make, and for the environment. Such an approach also helps us to identify how to minimise the environmental impacts of our products and manufacturing processes, notably regarding energy, water, and waste across their lifecycle.

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