Unilever is to be investigated by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) for environmental claims as part of the authority's wider investigation into greenwashing and follows concerns of Unilever's marketing of certain products as environmentally friendly.
In January of 2023, the CMA expanded its work on environmental claims to include fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). These are essential items that include food and drink, cleaning products, toiletries and personal care items.
The CMA’s initial review uncovered a range of concerning practices, and, as part of that work, the CMA has today launched a formal investigation into Unilever. Regarding certain products, the investigation will focus on the following:
- Certain statements and language used by Unilever appearing vague and broad, potentially misleading shoppers regarding the environmental impact of those products.
- Claims about some ingredients 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 that may suggest it is environmentally friendly as a whole.
- Certain green claims – particularly in relation to recyclability – that may be unclear, as they fail to specify whether they relate to all or part of a product or packaging.
- Unilever’s use of colors and imagery – such as green leaves – may create the overall impression that some products are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
The CMA has contacted Unilever and will set out its concerns in writing on Dec. 12, 2023. Following this, the CMA will obtain further evidence to progress its investigation, potentially leading to 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.
Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, commented: "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."