How far should a company go in mixing business and social issues? That's a question being asked in the cosmetics industry, where animal testing has become a hot topic.

"Look, as a company with some position and influence, it's our duty to help raise people's consciousness about the senseless random killing" of animals in product tests, says John Paul Jones DeJoria, cofounder and CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems, the hair-care company and two-time INC. 500 honoree. Accordingly, he's putting up $100,000 to sponsor a record album featuring top rock stars who will deliver an animal-rights message with their music. The album, due out early next year, will credit Paul Mitchell Professional Salon Products as the sole sponsor and carry a coupon for a hair-care product. "For the cost of a two-page spread in Vogue, the album will get a higher return," says DeJoria, "if only in terms of creating goodwill."

It's "a cheap ploy," says John Sebastian, president of Sebastian International Inc., another hair-care and cosmetics company. He agrees that animal testing is in-humane and does not test his products on animals. "I also don't beat my mother. I don't need to advertise that as a reason to buy my product. Business is about new discoveries and new achievements, not about taking advantage of a tragic situation."

"My business is also about my personal beliefs," counters DeJoria. "We're going to come out with biodegradable bottles in the next few months, and I'll yell about that, too. I care about my business, I care about my customer, and I care about this planet."

"Nobody deserves ac-colades for using common sense," says Sebastian, who is also looking into biodegradable packaging. "I suppose it may get to the point where we're wasting too much time and money explaining to customers we don't experiment on animals. Then I may be forced to label our bottles. But I will never stoop to promoting this."

-- Elizabeth Conlin