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Unilever hit with ASA greenwashing ban for Persil ‘kinder to our planet’ ad

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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

August 30, 2022 | 4 min read

Unilever-owned washing brand Persil has been hit with a greenwashing ad ban after claiming its liquid was “kinder to our planet”.

ASA sanctions Persil for environmental claims

ASA sanctions Persil for environmental claims

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has taken action against Persil for a TV spot that promoted its 50% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles and claimed you could wash with its products at a lower temperature.

The advertising watchdog said Persil had failed to make clear its “kinder to our planet” claim and penalised it for lacking evidence that proved the full life cycle of the liquid was more sustainable than its previous product.

The ad was seen in March but first rolled out in 2020. It featured children picking up litter from oceans and rivers and showed a boy cleaning his muddy hands on his t-shirt. It ended with the voiceover saying: “Tough on stains, kinder to our planet. Dirt is good” over a backdrop of kids running through white sheets and then a field with trees.

Persil said it did not breach any advertising codes. For its defence, it provided evidence for the two features that it said made it's liquid ‘kinder’; that washing at 30 degrees rather than at 40 degrees uses 38% less energy and that its new bottles use less fossil fuels.

Persil also explained how the children litter picking were a visual reference to Unilever’s ‘Dirt is Good’ projects aimed at getting ages 6-13-year-olds involved in the environment. The ASA also took umbrage at Persil for featuring too many “various strands” of its wider environmental messaging confusing viewers as to which claim linked to “kinder to our planet”.

“In the context of the entire ad with several messages relating to environmental issues, we considered the meaning and basis of the claim “kinder to our planet” was unclear,” the ruling said.

TV’s ad-clearance body Clearcast approved of the spot and said the environmental claim was “fully justified”. “Clearcast believed the product benefits were set clearly within the context of Persil’s own development in the ad,” Clearcast’s evidence said.

However, the ASA upheld the complaint for breaching the Broadcast CAP code for misleading advertising, and failure to substantiate environmental claims.

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