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Ethics of human research


The Central Research Ethics Advisory Group (CREAG) advises the company on the ethics of involving human subjects in research studies.

Its aim is to ensure that this remains an intrinsic part of Unilever’s R&D culture, and that Unilever operates to the highest ethical standards in this area.

Consumer insight

Man reading the label on a Knorr stock pot

Successful innovation is based on deep consumer insight. Consequently, we seek to build on our global strength in R&D with local knowledge of people’s habits and behaviours, and the benefits they gain from using our products.

As such, in order to deliver the products that people want, we need to involve those people in the research and development process.

In addition to raising awareness of the ethical issues involved with using human subjects in research, CREAG (previously known as the Central Ethics Compliance Group) advises teams on ways of working and the quality of ethical processes.

Specifically, the Group ensures that:

  • the rationale for doing research including human subjects is clear and the benefits articulated
  • any risks to volunteers are minimised, understood and acceptable
  • individuals give their consent voluntarily based on adequate information

CREAG ensures that research teams and Unilever as a whole understand why ethics is so important. Its remit includes shaping internal guidance and anticipating issues that may arise from, or impact, the organisation’s research programme.

CREAG members:

Professor Frans Brom (Chair)

Head of the Department of Technology Assessment of the Rathenau Institute and a Chair for the Ethics of Technology Assessment at the Department of Philosophy, Utrecht University. He focuses on the ethical and societal impact of science and technology and the interaction between ethics and political theory.

Professor Denis Fischbacher-Smith

Professor of Risk and Resilience at the University of Glasgow. His main research interests are in the areas of risk and crisis management, adverse events in health care and complexity and organisational performance.

Ms Claire Foster-Gilbert

Chief Executive of the Ethics Academy, a new educational charity. Formerly Director of the St Paul's Cathedral Institute for Ethics (which she co-founded), a lay canon at St Paul's Cathedral, and ethics adviser to the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. She is a member of the British Medical Association's Medical Ethics Committee, and the UK's Gene Therapy Advisory Committee.

Professor Sian Griffiths

Professor of Public Health, Director of the School of Public Health and Primary Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Right Reverend Richard Holloway

Writer and broadcaster. He was Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus (Archbishop) of the Scottish Episcopal Church until he stood down in 2000.

Professor Pali Hungin

Dean of Medicine and Professor of Primary Care and General Practice at Durham University, UK.

Mrs Els Olsthoorn-Heim

An expert in health law with experience in policy research and scientific advisory work for several organisations in the medical field.

Dr Marcel Verweij

Associate Professor at the Ethics Institute and the Department of Philosophy of Utrecht University. He co-ordinates the international master programme in Applied Ethics, and teaches bioethics and ethical theory. His research focuses on ethical issues in public health and preventive medicine.

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