Unilever investigated in the UK over ‘green’ claims

The Competition and Markets Authority will be scrutinising the consumer goods group’s environmental claims as part of its wider investigation into greenwashing

Big Zero Report 2023

Unilever is to be investigated by the UK competition watchdog over “green” claims made by the company.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be scrutinising the consumer goods group’s environmental claims as part of its wider investigation into greenwashing.

It follows concerns around how Unilever, known for its brands including Cif, Dove, Comfort and Lynx, is marketing certain products, within some brands, to customers as environmentally friendly.

Earlier this year, the CMA expanded its work on environmental claims to include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and its initial review uncovered a range of concerning practices and has therefore launched a formal investigation into Unilever.

The competition watchdog’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 and whether claims focusing on a single aspect of a product may suggest it is environmentally friendly as a whole.

It is also concerned whether claims about some ingredients are presented in a way that may exaggerate how ‘natural’ the product is and therefore may create an inaccurate or misleading impression.

In addition, whether certain green claims – particularly in relation to recyclability – may be unclear and whether 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.”

A spokesperson from Unilever said it is “surprised and disappointed” with the CMA’s announcement and “refutes” that its claims are “in any way misleading”.

The spokesperson added: “Unilever is committed to making responsible claims about the benefits of our products on our packs and to these being transparent and clear and we have robust processes in place to make sure any claims can be substantiated. We will continue to co-operate with the CMA and fully comply with further requests for information.”

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