Unilever issues 'sincere' apology over racist hair care campaign

Consumer giant Unilever has issued a formal statement of apology in the wake of the furore involving Clicks and the racist hair care images that were used in an online advertisement.


The campaign was put out by TRESemmé South Africa, which is a product range within the Unilever stable.

Says sorry to black women, in particular


In its statement released on Friday and posted on the Unilever SA website, the company apologises to South Africans, to black women in particular, and also to Clicks.


The latter has borne the brunt of public anger as the advertisement was posted on the Clicks consumer website and caused not only widespread outrage, but also led to attacks on certain of its retail stores.


"We were shocked to discover that we had supplied images for the Clicks website that portrayed Black hair as inferior. This was racist and we apologise unreservedly," the statement reads.

Reviewing marketing campaigns and images


"We immediately began an investigation to understand what happened. At the same time, we began reviewing all the marketing campaigns and images in our South Africa portfolio to make sure they match our commitment to celebrate all beauty and promote Diversity and Inclusion."


Unilever says that, going forward, it will be implementing a number of measures.


Among them is the establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Assets Committee, which will be representative of the company's consumers, to ensure future advertising campaigns and publicity materials reflect the company's values.

Establishing an advisory board of experts


In addition, it is setting up an Advisory Board comprising internal and external experts to "review how our hair care products in South Africa can offer consumers the solutions they want in positive and empowering terms".


This board will help to develop programmes that will deliver immediate support to black hair stylists and small professional salons.


Unilever also promises to review its mandatory Diversity and Inclusion training and to accelerate its training on Unconscious Bias for all staff.

TRESemmé taken from shelves for 10 days


"As agreed with the EFF [at our meeting] on the 10th September, we have asked our retailers to remove TRESemmé from shelves for 10 days," the statement adds.


"We want to reiterate our sincere apologies to all South Africans and to the offence caused to Black women in particular. We also apologise to the Clicks group.


"We will learn from this failing and we will accelerate our efforts to support the transformation of society, represent all communities and celebrate all beauty."

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