• Stephanie Ann Ferguson

Green Beauty Buyouts: Big Deal, or Big Bummer


Times have changed. Consumer knowledge is growing, as is the demand for safe and natural products. For this reason, the Indie Brand market has been booming for the last several years, gaining cult-like followings and earning the respect of big box retailers.

Unilever was founded in 1930. Their portfolio contains thousands of companies in the personal care, hygiene, consumer goods and nutrition sector. According to Forbes, Unilever is currently worth $155.8 billion. You may recognize some of their mainstream portfolio which includes some veterans like Suave, Axe, Dove, Hellmann's, and Lipton. Some of their recent acquisitions may be less mainstream, but just as famous to those of us in the green beauty realm. I'm talking about some of our favorites like Schmidt's, True Botanicals, Seventh Generation, Sir Kensington's and Dollar Shave Club.


This acquiring of the heroes of the green beauty sector is all the rage right now, and equally causing rage among loyal fans. Many are concerned that these buyouts from large investors and retailers means a product other than what we have come to love. This has happened with some of the Schmidt's deodorant formulations, and we saw a similar fate after Crest bought Toms of Maine, whose formulas now contain SLS, fluoride and "natural flavors". Many of us are still waiting on pins and needles to be sure that our beloved Garden of Life wellness products won't be tainted after their buyout from Nestle in 2017.


So, why should we care when our favorite indie beauty brands are financially supported or bought out from these mega investors? Here's a few points to consider:

CHILD LABOR: Several reports state that Unilever profits from palm oil production without regard to human rights or the environment. Unilever says: "All the palm oil we buy is certified as sustainable and, as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we aim to make sure it all comes from a traceable source. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to eliminate deforestation, protect peat lands, and drive positive impacts for people and local communities".

They do, however, take an active stance against modern slavery and human trafficking.

PRO GMO: Unilever says they are committed to sustainability but then outlines that as supporting genetically modified and conventional crops.

LOBBIES AGAINST GMO LABELING: Reports show that in 2015 Unilever spent $640,000 to fight mandatory labeling of GMO foods, even though they claim to be committed to sustainability.

ANIMAL TESTING: Unilever’s website says, “We do not test our products on animals and are committed to ending animal testing….” but they add a backpedaling statement in almost the same breath of, “Occasionally when there are no suitable non-animal approaches available, some of the ingredients we use have to be tested by our suppliers to comply with relevant regulations; and some governments test our products on animals as part of their regulatory requirements.” I can think of a few emojis that would be super helpful here.

CHILD LABOR: Several reports state that Unilever profits from palm oil production without regard to human rights or the environment. Unilever says: "All the palm oil we buy is certified as sustainable and, as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we aim to make sure it all comes from a traceable source. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to eliminate deforestation, protect peat lands, and drive positive impacts for people and local communities".

They do, however, take an active stance against modern slavery and human trafficking.

These points all seem to be a "yes, and no" situation, and definitely raise some eyebrows. What does that mean for us as clean consumers? Should we continue to support our favorites, even after big ticket buyouts?

The short answer is, yes, I believe so.

There are benefits in these unions for these small, indie brands that we love.

Big money means more room for research and development, more ground breaking technology in their respective genres, more funding for proper ethical testing, and the clout to back it all up.

I also think it is helpful that companies like Schmidt's, True Botanicals and others have been transparent in their alignment with large parent companies like Unilever.

How often do you think that actually happens? Do all companies we support take on funding that they make public knowledge? It is likely ignorant to assume that other brands we have fallen in love with have not taken on big money like this also.


Do I actively support Unilever and everything they stand for? Not at all.

Do I take the side of large companies over small indie businesses? No way.

But, I refuse to boycott my favorite brands and those who are making great strides in the clean beauty industry, simply because they chose to propel their impact with an investment.

Green beauty is not a fad, its a movement into the future. There are so many other things we could take a stand against, that would actually impact change. Let's choose to get behind these indie brands and support them and their cause, as long as their brand continues to uphold the ethical values they started out with.

Be Healthy. Live Beautifully.

#Unilever #greenbeauty #cleanbeauty #personalcare #buyout #investment #schmidts #truebotanicals

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919.798.3124

Raleigh, NC

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©️2005 by Stephanie Ann Ferguson