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Purposeful change takes time

7 March 2013

Recently, with friends from the RSPCA, The Body Shop and the wider animal welfare movement, Forster finally celebrated the EU Directive banning the marketing of cosmetics tested on animals. This was the culmination of over three decades of purposeful activity.

While much of Forster’s client communications work can be instantly measured, evaluated, refined and adapted, it’s important to note that real, enduring change takes time to bring about.

From our work at Forster, we know that attitudes towards mental ill-health are on a very long change cycle – while awareness is simple to raise, stigma can take generations to influence. The prevalence of recession and obesity means that persuading people to walk or get on a bike can happen much more quickly. Somewhere in between the two on the time frame comes planning for old age. Just as a minority in the UK have personal pensions anywhere near what they will need in later life, society as a whole is still coming to terms with the so-called ‘demographic time-bomb’ set to hit us over the coming years.

Forster’s work on positive social and environmental change has sat at the heart of these different time cycles for the past sixteen years. As we’re looking for outcomes, rather than output, our whole approach recognises that change takes place at different speeds.

Monday 11 March 2013 saw the 20th anniversary of the adoption of EU Directive 93/35, prohibiting the testing of cosmetics ingredients on animals as long as there are sufficient non-animal alternatives.

Finally, after 20 years, the EU is satisfied that there are enough non-animal alternatives to enable the Directive to become law. All the work that has gone into this – the resources, time and effort from colleagues and like-minded organisations – made this an event worth celebrating.

Back in 1993, Against Animal Testing was synonymous with The Body Shop, where I was then Director of Communications, Campaigns and Culture. One of The Body Shop’s most successful campaigns, Against Animal Testing did not stop with the 1993 EU-wide ban on animal testing in the cosmetics industry. After all, this ban was not due to come into force until 1998, and only then if there was a non-animal alternative. Many battles ensued, with the legislation postponed in 1997 and again in 2009.

Forster has been the next step for many of The Body Shop’s old campaigners from those heady days. Others have gone on to great things in the commercial and not-for-profit sectors. As we proudly marked the final banning of animal testing in the cosmetics industry coming into legal force, many of us can say we played a big part in that.

For Forster, celebrating the passing into law of something we campaigned for 20 years ago gives us more impetus and strength to continue our work with clients in areas where positive outcomes take time, patience and resilience to achieve. Whether that be the importance of revitalising sustainable food production, or getting people to plan ahead for their later years, or persuading policy makers to act now on climate change. All change starts today.