Is Clinique Clean or Sustainable? Let’s Find Out.

4 min reading time

A subsidiary of Estee Lauder, Clinique is a luxury brand founded in 1968. Operating in 107 countries, the company is known for its 3-step (cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize) skincare program.

The focus of the company is very much on the efficiency and effectiveness of their products rather than animal-rights, sustainability and safe ingredients.

As such, the FAQ section is devoted overwhelmingly to the purchasing, delivery and use of their products. While the website does offer personal consultancy services, this again seems to be restricted purely to the purchasing and application of their products rather than the processes and ingredients that go into the production of products.

Having dug a bit deeper, how does Clinique do with regards to our three pillars?

Ingredients (Rating: Bad)

Estee Lauder write that “[C]linique’s mission has always been to provide the safest, most effective formulas in simple routines that bring remarkable results. No parabens. No phthalates. No fragrance”. Nonetheless, there are a number of ingredients used in their products that are potentially harmful. Clinique is far from a clean beauty brand, and should be regarded as such.

Sustainability (Rating: Good)

Clinique is currently facing a class-action lawsuit over false claims of using probiotics in skincare products. This is not the first time that the company has been accused of such practices, having in 2013 claims of anti-aging properties called into question. So do the sustainable claims made by the company hold water?

While the Clinique website does not feature much information on sustainability, their parent company does. Estee Lauder has a page devoted to sustainability, in which the long-term growth of the company is recognised as contingent upon the well-being of populations and the protection of the environment. They write that sustainability is central to their approach, mentioning the importance of “[C]limate action, sustainable building operations, waste reduction and water stewardship”, as well as reducing waste and recycling.

The company notes that they have achieved zero industrial waste-to-landfill for 100% of their global manufacturing, distribution, and innovation sites. Any materials used by the company that cannot be recycled are converted to energy by power plants and cement kilns.

This is a somewhat tricky area. Whether the company can be expected to use 100% recyclable raw materials at a global scale is questionable, as is the extent to which they are responsible for the sustainable use of their products once received by third party energy companies.

That being said, the chances are fairly high that a portion of said non-recyclable materials are incinerated in order to create energy. This raises questions with regards to carbon emissions as well as whether the supply chain can be described as truly “circular”.

Nonetheless, the company also writes that they “celebrated several important milestones” in 2020 with regards to climate change, such as net-zero carbon emissions and 100% renewable electricity sourcing for direct operations. In addition, it should be noted that Estee Lauder notes many other impressive investments, such as a large solar plant in New York, and a large upgrade of a water softening system in Blaire, Minnesota which purportedly will lead to an annual 600,000-gallon reduction in water use. This in comparison to the competition is a much larger and visible investment in sustainable practices, and while not perfect, should be followed by the industry.

Animal Welfare (Rating: Bad)


Clinique pays and allows others to test their products on animals when required by law. In addition, Clinique does sell its products in mainland China where animal testing is mandatory for most imported cosmetics. It should also be noted that Clinique is owned by Estee Lauder, a parent corporation that also does test on animals when required by law.


Clinique is not a vegan company. However, the brand uses beeswax, lanolin, carmine, and other animal-derived ingredients when making some of the products which makes them non-vegan.

Brand Ratings

Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Bad” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated Clinque as follows.

INGREDIENTSBad – This company uses ingredients known to lead to allergic reactions and other negative effects.
SUSTAINABILITYGood – Whilst Clinique does not market itself as sustainable, the parent company has a sizeable (and therefore complex) sustainable angle. The steps that the Estee Lauder have taken appear to be fairly major and measurable.
ANIMAL WELFAREBad – The company is present in countries that test on animals.

Overall Rating: Iffy

The parent company under which Clinique operates – Estee Lauder- has clearly invested effort and resources into sustainable programs. It is likely that the company has a way to go with regards to being truly sustainable, nonetheless, from the information available, the company is investing energy and resources into being carbon neutral, as well as working on recycling.

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