Unilever facing CMA investigation over ‘green’ claims

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever was "surprised and disappointed" by the launch of the investigation. Credit: Unilever
Unilever was "surprised and disappointed" by the launch of the investigation. Credit: Unilever

Related tags Sustainability

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it will investigate “green” claims made by consumer goods group Unilever.

The probe concerns how Unilever markets fast-moving consumers goods (FMCG), which includes food and drink, cleaning products, toiletries and personal care items.

A formal investigation was launched on 12 December 2023 and follows an initial review which “uncovered a range of concerning practices​”. The probe will look into “vague and broad​” statements about the environmental impact of products, “unclear​” claims about recyclability, the use of colours and imagery and the presentation of ingredients in way that “may exaggerate how natural the product is​”.

The CMA said it would contact Unilever to set out its concerns in writing before using its information-gathering powers to obtain further evidence. Possible outcomes include securing commitments from Unilever to change the way it operates, taking the firm to court or closing the case without further action.

Explaining the decision to the launch the investigation, CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said: “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.”

In response, a Unilever spokesperson said that the firm was “surprised and disappointed​” with the announcement and refuted that its 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​,” the spokesperson continued.

We use the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) to provide consumers with information on how to dispose of our packaging after use, and Unilever is a founding signatory of the UK Plastics Pact, which brings together the entire plastics packaging value chain to tackle the challenges around plastic waste.

We will continue to co-operate with the CMA and fully comply with further requests for information​.”

In other news, almost 190 jobs have been saved after JF Renshaw was rescued from administration.

Related topics Environment Packaging & Labelling

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