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Unilever Faces UK Investigation Over Alleged Greenwashing in Advertising

 |  December 12, 2023

Global consumer goods conglomerate Unilever is under scrutiny by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for potential “overstating” of environmental claims in its advertisements. The investigation, part of the CMA’s broader crackdown on greenwashing, focuses on a range of practices employed by Unilever in marketing its well-known brands, including Dove, Lynx, Marmite, and Vaseline.

The CMA’s interest was piqued after an initial review revealed a “range of concerning practices” that could mislead consumers. The regulator expressed worries that Unilever might be overstating the environmental friendliness of certain products through the use of “vague and broad” claims, along with unclear statements about recyclability. The CMA specifically highlighted concerns about sustainability-focused claims that may suggest an entire product is environmentally friendly based on a single aspect.

Furthermore, the competition watchdog is investigating whether Unilever’s depiction of ingredients in ads exaggerates the natural aspects of the products. The use of colors and imagery, such as green leaves, in Unilever’s advertising is also under scrutiny, as the CMA believes it may create an impression of greater environmental friendliness than the products actually possess.

Neither the CMA nor Unilever has disclosed specific ads, brands, or products that are subject to the investigation. This inquiry is part of the CMA’s expanded efforts, initiated in January 2023, to scrutinize environmental claims in the consumer goods sector. Previous targets of this wider investigation include Asos, Boohoo, and Asda’s George brand.

Read more: UK’s CMA Increasingly Hostile to Business, Says INEOS Chair

In response to the investigation, a Unilever spokesperson expressed surprise and disappointment, asserting that the company “refutes” any suggestion that its claims are misleading. The spokesperson emphasized Unilever’s commitment to responsible and transparent product claims, with robust processes in place to ensure the substantiation of such claims. Unilever has pledged full cooperation with the CMA and is prepared to comply with any further requests for information.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, emphasized the importance of protecting consumers from potentially deceptive environmental claims. She stated, “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.” Cardell assured that if the investigation uncovers evidence of greenwashing, the CMA will take decisive action to ensure the protection of consumers.

Source: Campaign Asia