Despite being a petroleum product, the overarching company of Unilever is striving to become more sustainable through their Sustainable Living Plan. Vaseline Healing Jelly Original jars are clearly labeled as recyclable (not a huge sustainability win, but good to note) and the product is a byproduct of oil refining which would happen regardless of if the Vaseline byproduct was going to be used or not. However, the oil refining process still emits large amounts of greenhouse gasses and continues to power an unsustainable world through fossil fuels. There is also not a lot of information that is readily available that directly answers how Vaseline is made and who makes it. Despite Unilever’s efforts towards sustainability, I have to give this product 0/3 earths due to the lack of specific information and the lack of sustainability in the oil refining process.
Vaseline has a link to “Smartlabel” under each product which lays out the ingredients. Vaseline Jelly Original is 100% white petrolatum, a byproduct of oil refining, or the cleaning and distilling of crude oil. Petrolatum is safe to use on skin as any carcinogens are removed during the refining process. However, there have been some concerns with whether or not petrolatum is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which occur naturally in oil. PAHs are essentially a carcinogen that with long term exposure have been shown to cause cancers.
Vaseline describes its petroleum jelly a “triple-purified” and “a blend of mineral oils and waxes”. I cannot find any information regarding the specific mineral oils and waxes used in Vaseline Healing Jelly which is a little concerning.
Harmful substances such as carcinogens are (supposedly) removed from the product during the refining process, so white petrolatum is safe for use on skin. Since petrolatum is a byproduct of the oil refining process, the demand for Vaseline itself is not directly impacting oil drilling and refining. It is difficult to find specific information regarding how Vaseline is processed aside from oil refining. In 2011, oil refineries were the third top emitters of greenhouse gasses in the world as the refining process is extremely energy intensive.
I wonder if humanity did not have such a dependence on oil for fuel if we would then embrace alternative products to petrolatum based items (like Vaseline) that would not be as readily produced in a less oil dependent world.
Vaseline as a brand is owned by Unilever, a multinational company that sells consumer goods from food to personal care items. I have not been able to find any specific information regarding where Vaseline products are made and by whom; although, some Vaseline products are marketed as “Made in USA”. Many Unilever brands, including Vaseline, are not cruelty-free.
However, Unilever appears to be improving company sustainability by setting three goals as a part of their Sustainable Living Plan: improving health and well-being for more than 1 billion people by 2020 (pretty vague if you ask me), reduce environmental impact by half by 2030 (looking at greenhouse gasses, water use, packaging, sustainable sourcing), and enhancing livelihoods for millions (promoting workplace equality, but also a little vague). Although, Unilever does cite the UN Sustainable Development Goals as inspiration for their Sustainable Living Plan. However, I think it is still important to recognize that Unilever products, such as Vaseline, are still made with single use plastics and are shipped all around the world as a means to benefit a large corporation.