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Unilever under investigation for allegedly misleading shoppers with false product claims: ‘The evidence we’ve seen has raised concerns’

“We’ll take action to make sure shoppers are protected.”

"We'll take action to make sure shoppers are protected."

Photo Credit: iStock

United Kingdom regulators are now conducting an official investigation into the company Unilever and its supposed eco-friendly claims on products, as CNN reported

The investigation is set to question the company’s credibility when it comes to “green” advertisements and whether these claims may be misleading to shoppers who choose and, in many cases, spend a bit extra for environmentally friendly products.

What’s happening?

In December, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority opened an investigation into Unilever — the parent company of many food, cleaning, and self-care brands — after reviewing environmental claims for several months. Around that same time, the company faced criticism for its so-called commitment to operating more sustainably, specifically with its use of plastics

Unilever is a giant in the industry — owning many well-known brands like Dove and Seventh Generation — which makes this investigation one that could change the face of how transparent companies need to be regarding green product claims. 

The CMA is taking a deep dive into the company’s practices regarding specific green images used on products, recycling instructions, sourced ingredient lists, product packaging, and more.

For its part, a Unilever spokesperson said in a statement the company would cooperate with the investigation but that it denies “that our claims are in any way misleading,” according to CNN

“Unilever is committed to making responsible claims about the benefits of our products on our packs and to these being transparent and clear,” the spokesperson said.

Why is this investigation important?

This investigation is one of many focused on “greenwashing” — a term coined for companies misleading shoppers or exaggerating about products claiming sustainability. 

It’s unfortunate, but Unilever is not the only company guilty of greenwashing. Big retailers like H&M stock their stores with products that claim to be “green” yet prove the opposite. 

The UK regulator has taken a big step forward by holding Unilever accountable and challenging its misleading marketing tools, such as words, phrases, and images on packaging, within certain brands that attract eco-conscious buyers.

What’s being done about the investigation into Unilever?

The CMA is still gathering information to obtain further evidence that will help its investigation, but chief executive Sarah Cadrell shared that, 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,” Candrell said. “If we find they’re greenwashing, we’ll take action to make sure shoppers are protected.” 

Since beginning its probe into Unilever, the CMA has noticed other suppliers changing and even removing certain green claims on their products. It has opened the public’s eye even more to the issue, which, in turn, has caused an uptick on tips and tricks for spotting greenwashing when deciding which sustainable brands to buy. 

It’s possible that the outcome of this investigation could lead to Unilever’s commitment to restructure its operations, ensuring all brand and product claims are accurate, transparent, and eco-friendly.

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