Source: Unilever

The CMA said it was concerned over the marketing of Unilever’s household and personal care brands

Unilever is under investigation by the Competition & Markets Authority over whether it has misled consumers with environmental claims about its products.

The CMA today said it was concerned that Unilever may be “overstating” how green certain products in its portfolio of household and personal care brands were, through the use of “vague and broad claims, unclear statements around recyclability, and ‘natural’ looking images and logos”.

After an initial review uncovered “a range of concerning practices” around the marketing of a number of its cleaning products and toiletries, the regulator today launched a formal investigation into the company.

Further evidence will be examined by the CMA to progress the investigation, with possible outcomes include securing undertakings from Unilever that commit the company to change the way it operates; taking the company to court; or closing the case without further action.

“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,” said CMA CEO Sarah Cardell.

“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,” Cardell added.

A Unilever spokeswoman said: “We are surprised and disappointed with the CMA’s announcement and refute that our claims are in any way misleading.

“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,” she added.

Greenpeace UK head of plastics Nina Schrank said: “People have bought into Unilever’s claims of sustainability in good faith, expecting those claims to be more than just smoke and mirrors.

”The truth is Unilever isn’t living up to that promise never will until the company takes real action to tackle issues like the ruinously huge amounts of single use plastic they produce.”

The move forms part of the CMA’s wider investigation into greenwashing, which in January was expanded to include fmcg products.

This isn’t the first time Unilever has been investigated for greenwashing. Last summer, the ASA upheld a complaint made against a TV advert for Persil, for making an unsubstantiated and “misleading” claim that its laundry detergents were “kinder to the planet”.