Provenance’s guide to understanding ‘Vegan’

With so many brands now claiming that their products are ‘ethical’ – how can you figure out what really is?

Provenance’s Proof Points are a way for you to compare and trust what brands say about their businesses and products.

This guide will show you how this Proof Point is defined, how it works and where you can see it when you are shopping online.

What should I know about ‘Vegan’?

With an estimated 600,000 vegans in 2018 in the UK alone, it’s undeniable veganism is becoming a steadily adopted way of life. The Economist even declared 2019 as the ‘Year of the Vegan’.

Originally rooted around diets, veganism was mainly associated with health and animal welfare. But recently, there has been an increased focus on the environmental impact of people’s dietary choices and the benefits veganism offers in relation to climate change (more on this here). Veganism has also increasingly begun to shift from just being a diet to a lifestyle. This spillover effect has driven demand for vegan brands and products, especially in the beauty industry since a lot of the same ingredients are used. With the increase in popularity and abundance of vegan products, we need to understand the integrity of some of these vegan claims

For food, intricacies of supply chains and the possibility of cross-contamination can lead to traces of meat or dairy in vegan products – which has sometimes been the case for some ready-made meals. This is why many food retailers now conduct rigorous lab testing on vegan meals before they hit the shelves.

In beauty, this is less of a problem but mistakes do happen with ingredients being misinterpreted for vegan when they are in fact not. Provenance explicitly asks brands to assure that their product(s) exclude ingredients which involve, or have involved, the use of any animal product either directly or indirectly sourced from an animal (living or deceased) or have possible animal origins as per PETA’s ingredients list – a helpful resource.

Aside from the ethical considerations of harming and killing animals, many argue that vegan products have a smaller carbon footprint compared to livestock. Although this is a pretty good rule of thumb it’s not always the case. Indeed, the type and impact of plant-based ingredients should be considered too as they may have a higher carbon footprint even (e.g. palm oil that has caused deforestation). Ultimately, many factors play a role in the environmental impact of a product, not just the absence of animal ingredients.

Not to be confused with…

Cruelty-Free: This is about animal testing and harming animals in the supply chain. Some certifications cover both. If a product claims to be ‘cruelty-free but not vegan’, it means the product was not tested on animals but it does contain some animal-derived ingredients or by-products.

Learn more: Cruelty-free vs. Vegan – What’s the Difference?
Source: Ethical Elephant

Vegetarian: Similar to vegan products, vegetarian products do not contain any animal products resulting from slaughter (e.g. carmine). The main difference comes from the use of animal by-products as ingredients such as eggs, honey, beeswax, and lactic acid. For example, a chapstick that contains beeswax is vegetarian, not vegan. Vegetarian claims in the beauty industry are much less frequent compared to vegan claims assumably due to the continuing debate over animal derivatives such as keratin, gelatin, and collagen.

Learn more: What’s the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian Cosmetics?
Source: Adore Beauty

How does Provenance define ‘Vegan’?

A vegan product claim ensures the product contains no animal products (or derivatives of animal products) and none were involved as part of the production process. 

A vegan business claim ensures all products within the business are verified as vegan per the above.

Our guidance to brands is based on multiple vegan trade association definitions:

Reference sources:


What does the Proof Point look like?

When a brand wants to claim this about their product you will see one of the following on their website or a website they sell on:

Here is an example of this Proof Point on an online shopping page.

Why should I trust it?

Proof Points are designed to be interactive. When you click on a ‘Vegan’ Proof Point you should see an expanded card with supporting information and links:

Types of supporting evidence

Every Proof Point also contains links to evidence, so that brands have to prove what they say with real documentation. For ‘Vegan’ this is the type of evidence and verification you can expect to see:

  • A laboratory report (food only)
    • Strength of this evidence: STRONG
    • Verifiers: Eurofins
  • A certification or product registered with a vegan trade association
  • A signed statement of assurance
    • Strength of this evidence: MINIMUM REQUIRED
    • Requirements: This is a signed statement of assurance from management team member that none of the ingredients are derived from animal origin, proven by a technical ingredients list

What does verified mean?

A verified proof point means an independent 3rd party has confirmed the accuracy of the brand’s statement. This is the verifier.

Provenance has our own list of approved verifiers. Third parties include (but are not limited to):

  • Accredited auditors
  • Accountants or lawyers
  • Laboratories
  • Data providers
  • Sustainability consultancies
  • Assurance providers
  • NGOs and Charities
  • Governmental bodies
  • Supranational organisations

This Proof Point is just one example from our entire framework. As we grow the framework we will publish a full list so you can learn about the key claims businesses are making about themselves and their products.

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