More

    Unilever’s ‘green’ claims under scrutiny

    Representative iStock image

    Unilever, the maker of Marmite, Domestos and Vaseline, is to be investigated by the UK’s competition watchdog over concerns that consumers are being misled by the company’s “green” claims on some essential household products.

    The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said today (12) Unilever may be overstating how green certain products are through the use of “vague and broad” claims, unclear statements about recyclability, and natural-looking images and logos such as green leaves.

    The move comes as part of the CMA’s wider investigation into greenwashing and follows concerns around how Unilever is marketing certain products, within some brands, to customers as environmentally friendly.

    In January this year, the CMA expanded its work on environmental claims to include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). These are essential items that people use on a daily basis and are repurchased regularly, such as food and drink, cleaning products, toiletries, and personal care items. Last year, shoppers paid out more than £140 billion in total on FMCG products.

    The CMA’s initial review uncovered a range of concerning practices, and, as part of that work, the CMA has today (12) launched a formal investigation into Unilever. Regarding certain products, the CMA’s concerns include whether:

    • certain statements and language used by Unilever appear vague and broad, and may mislead shoppers regarding the environmental impact of those products.
    • claims about some ingredients are presented in a way that may exaggerate how ‘natural’ the product is, and so may create an inaccurate or misleading impression.
    • claims focusing on a single aspect of a product may suggest it is environmentally friendly as a whole.
    • certain green claims – particularly in relation to recyclability – may be unclear, as they fail to specify whether they relate to all or part of a product, or packaging.
    • Unilever’s use of colours and imagery – such as green leaves – may create the overall impression that some products are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

    Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said, “Essentials like detergent, kitchen spray, and toiletries are the kinds of items you put in your supermarket basket every time you shop. More and more people are trying to do their bit to help protect the environment, but we’re worried many are being misled by so-called ‘green’ products that aren’t what they seem.

    “So far, the evidence we’ve seen has raised concerns about how Unilever presents certain products as environmentally friendly. We’ll be drilling down into these claims to see if they measure up. If we find they’re greenwashing, we’ll take action to make sure shoppers are protected.”

    The CMA has contacted Unilever and will set out its concerns in writing. Following this, the CMA will use its information-gathering powers to obtain further evidence to progress its investigation. How the case unfolds will depend on what the evidence shows. Possible outcomes include securing undertakings from Unilever that commit the firm to change the way it operates; taking the company to court; or closing the case without further action.

    The CMA has seen some positive changes in the FMCG sector since announcing its compliance review, including amendments to and removal of some green claims made by a number of suppliers. However, its review identified a range of concerns and, while the CMA has not opened official investigations into other companies at this point, its work is ongoing and new investigations may follow.

    Latest

    McCain Foods acquires plant-based frozen food brand

    McCain Foods has acquired Strong Roots, a plant-based frozen...

    Vape restrictions in Tobacco and Vapes Bill undermine public health goals, says Responsible Vaping APPG

    Government should take a comprehensive evidence-based approach to vaping...

    SPAR South West partners with FareShare to fight hunger

    In the fight against food waste and hunger, SPAR...

    Don't miss

    McCain Foods acquires plant-based frozen food brand

    McCain Foods has acquired Strong Roots, a plant-based frozen...

    Vape restrictions in Tobacco and Vapes Bill undermine public health goals, says Responsible Vaping APPG

    Government should take a comprehensive evidence-based approach to vaping...

    SPAR South West partners with FareShare to fight hunger

    In the fight against food waste and hunger, SPAR...

    Major new Lucozade masterbrand platform unveiled

    Marking the biggest relaunch in Lucozade’s history, the brand...

    Post Office scandal: Ex-boss apologises for ‘subbies with hand in the till’ comment

    A former boss at the Post Office said he will “regret for the rest of his life” writing in an email suggesting “subbies with...

    McCain Foods acquires plant-based frozen food brand

    McCain Foods has acquired Strong Roots, a plant-based frozen food manufacturer based in Ireland. The move builds on a deal announced in 2021 that saw...

    Vape restrictions in Tobacco and Vapes Bill undermine public health goals, says Responsible Vaping APPG

    Government should take a comprehensive evidence-based approach to vaping regulation, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Responsible Vaping has said, ahead of Second Reading...