Homethings-Unilever’s U-Turn: Empty Eco Promises

Unilever’s U-Turn: Empty Eco Promises

Unilever’s U-Turn: Empty Eco Promises

From airlines promising to find a way to ‘offset’ their emissions to Boohoo developing an ‘Agenda for Change’ - big businesses spend big money writing long documents that promise rapid change for the better. But how can we be sure that promises are being kept, and that targets are realistic? 

Last month it came out that Unilever, creator of products ranging from Cif to Cornetto and Persil to Pot Noodle (and one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters) can’t stick to their word. They’re officially scaling back - and in some cases completely dropping - their environment, social and governance pledges. It’s time to Dish the Dirt…




In a world where consumers care more about the kind of businesses they’re supporting, companies know they can win customers by promising big changes for the better. For the past decade, this has usually been done by making a ‘pledge’. 

Although it sounds super legitimate, a pledge is just a fancy word for a promise – which means that there is no legal obligation to follow through with their actions. And whilst false promises never go down well, in the short term it's a powerful way of gaining consumer trust (rather than just calling it a ‘plan’). Older pledges aimed to meet targets by 2025 and 2030… and now it’s crunch time. With 2025 on the horizon, we’re seeing companies starting to backtrack and admit that maybe they can’t keep the ‘pledges’ they made.




Unilever has been making sustainability pledges for the past 10 years, being one of the first giant companies to put time into talking about their goals… which got them a lot of good press. BUT, as we found out last month, these dreams won’t be becoming a reality. Not only have a large proportion of these goals now been watered down, but some have been dropped altogether. Just a few of these shocking changes are:

Plastic: The initial pledge of reducing non-recycled plastic usage by 50% by 2025 has been reduced to almost half the original goal – now aiming for a 30% reduction by 2026 this difference will account for more than 100,000 tonnes of new plastic annually.

Food Waste: The pledge to halve food waste by 2025 has been completely dropped

Ingredients: The pledge for 100% of their ingredients to be biodegradable by 2030 has been completely dropped

Social: The pledge to have all staff that are employed by direct suppliers being paid at least living wage by 2030 has been completely changed. Instead they’re aiming to have just 50% of their suppliers sign a ‘Living wage promise’ (aka making their suppliers make ANOTHER pledge and taking it out out of Unilever’s hands)

Environment: The pledge to be actively protecting and regenerating 1.5 million hectares of land, forests, and oceans has been modified to make it harder to hold Unilever accountable. Now, they’re pledging to just help protect and restore 1 million hectares of natural ecosystems by 2030.

It’s been called virtue-signalling gone wrong. It’s been called greenwashing. And it’s broken the trust of eco-conscious consumers. 




Whilst Unilever is in the spotlight at the moment, this won’t be the last company to make last-minute changes to their pledges (or drop them completely). And it’s not just us thinking this. The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor (a bit of a mouthful) is a group that keeps tabs on the eco strategies of 24 of the biggest corporations that are branding themselves as ‘climate leaders’. At the end of last year, the CCRM’s biggest prediction was a wave of companies going back on their word.

And it’s escalating even further. The Secretary-General of the EU (aka… the big guns) has assembled an eco avengers team. Their one mission: to develop stronger and clearer standards for environmental pledges.

Steps are being taken to stop big businesses from making empty promises but, for the time being, eco-conscious consumers are going to be looking for companies that are fighting the good fight now. Hell hath no fury like an environmentalist scorned.


Here at Homethings, we develop products that are as sustainable and ethical as possible, right from the get go. By making our Things waterless we massively reduce their carbon footprint. It was also means that we can remove the need for single-use plastic. From sourcing of ingredients to deciding who delivers our parcels, we're proud that we choose the best possible options for you and the environment. It makes sense.