Greenwash Of The Week: Avon’s Palm Oil And A Rainforest Charity.

August 4, 2010

This week’s Greenwash comes from my friend Keith over at The Unsuitablog, where the tagline is “Exposing Ethical Hypocrites Everywhere!”. Keith and I have a similar viewpoint on greenwashing, and have taken it upon ourselves to spread awareness of it. Last week he dissected a press release from Avon, the cosmetics giant, to expose their greenwashing attempt.

Here’s an excerpt of the initial press release from Avon:

Avon Products, Inc. has launched Hello Green Tomorrow, a unique global grassroots mobilization in over 65 countries worldwide. The first goal of this environmental movement is to restore trees in the Atlantic Rainforest, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.

– With just $1 per tree, you can join this unique global mobilization and help save the Atlantic Rainforest for today and for the next generation.
– Imagine breathing with only seven percent of your lungs. The Atlantic Rainforest in South America helps serve as the lungs of the earth,but only seven percent remains, making it one of the world’s most critically endangered ecosystems. This is important to all of us, wherever we live.
– As the lungs of the earth, tropical forests such as the Atlantic Rainforest are vital to our survival. Rainforests help reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and support a vast array of wildlife, including many species found nowhere else. Already 93% of the Atlantic Rainforest has been destroyed, but with just one dollar, you can help us restore it.

Sounds good, right? I mean, who doesn’t want to help out the rainforest by donating $1! However, Keith wrote them back and asked a pretty simple question:

Dear Jennifer

Could you please tell me if Avon use palm oil in any of their products?

Thank you

Keith

Jennifer then replied:

Hi Keith,

I hope this finds you well. Hello Green Tomorrow is a cause initiative to help rebuild the Atlantic Rainforest -there is no product tie-in.

Well, that certainly is strange… no product tie-in even though the Avon brand is all over the press release. Hmm. Could that be because Avon still uses palm oil in their products, the very ingredient that the harvesting of is a leading cause of the destruction of the rainforest? And here they are asking for a donation to help save it, while with their other hand they are contributing to it’s demise? So, Keith writes them back:

You cannot separate the initiative from the sponsor – not only are Avon involved in this, they founded Hello Green Tomorrow, so any hypocrisy lies squarely on their doorstep.

Yes, it appears Avon do use palm oil: http://www.avon.com/1/1/512-mark-dew-drenched-moisturlicious-lip-color.html

“contains shea butter and palm oil to help moisturize and protect”

Gosh, rainforest destruction so lips can be kept nice and moist!

Head on over to The Unsuitablog to read all the emails back and forth and more of Keith’s dissection – you won’t be sorry.

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Comments (5)

  1. Wow, they deny any affiliation when there is blatant connections across the internet about it. Thank you for this information :)

  2. Bebe73 says:

    Hi:
    You have a wonderful website! :)
    This article is great. I especially love your friend Keith’s response to them. Very clever!

    One little thing though… I notice you’re using Ads by Google, and I don;t know anything about this stuff, whether or not ads are automatically generated or not, but they’re inviting people to buy Avon’s products?!… It’s a bit contradictory to see them on this page… Just a friendly suggestion. :)

    Keep up the good work! :)) Love your site!

  3. Holly says:

    Thanks for this post!

    I went over to The Unsuitablog, and found THIS part especially terrifying, which is written at the end of the post: “*at the time of writing this was 153 [number of Avon products containing palm oil, which has DECREASED since communication with the Avon/greenwash people], suggesting that someone has been carefully re-editing ingredients pages.”

    Clearly they”™re not re-working ingredients (that would take a LONG time to do for that many products), but rather doctoring ingredient LISTS. So what else are they putting in products that we don”™t know about?

  4. Chrissy says:

    hi,

    i was wondering if anyone knows from where AVON gets the palm oil…who is the supplier?

    i am currently working on a project called Branding Sustainability and i’m researching Mark.AVON products, basically trying to trace from where they get the ELAEIS GUINEENSIS (PALM) OIL an ingredient which is listed in mark Dew Drenched Moisturlicious Lip Color.

    i find it very hard to trace AVON’S palm oil supplier so if someone could help, it would be great!

    thanks
    Chrissy :)

  5. I was looking at their ingredients today to write a response to this greenwashing by Avon published on Just Means
    http://www.justmeans.com/index.php?action=showarticledetails&articleid=7826&type=company&utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

    I don’t see any palm-derived ingredients in the lipstick mentioned, so it looks like they’ve taken it out (by law they must list all ingredients except fragrance). I haven’t gone through all their products yet to confirm if they’ve taken it out of every product, but it looks like they responded to the critism.

    However, they still have many petroleum-based ingredients and were slapped down for claiming to be fair trade when only 2-5% of the ingredients were certified. Also, they are one of the worst Pinkwashers in the industry. Despite their walk for cancer and other claims to be advocates for breast cancer, they refuse to take known carcinogens and hormone disruptors out of their products.