Can Green Companies Keep Their Soul When Sold?

Migrated Image

In the past year several iconic green companies have been bought out by large multi-nationals, keen to take advantage of the booming ethical market. Body Shop, Green & Black Chocolates, Rachel's Organic and Tom's of Maine toothpaste spring to mind immediately. The question is whether these companies can keep their ethical principles after they are absorbed into corporations not built on the same set of values. There was an uproar when the Body Shop was sold to L'Oreal. The company claims that sales of its products have not been affected but others feel that its ethical reputation has been besmirched. Ethical Consumer magazine rates companies and their products on their ethical credentials. They have dropped Body Shop's rating from 11 (out of 20) to 2.5 since the sell-out. Tom's of Maine, recently taken over by Colgate-Palmolive, has fallen from 16 to just 5 because of Colgate-Palmolive's poor reputation. Green & Black organic chocolates are especially dear to many Treehugger's hearts. Taken over by Cadbury's, it is run as a separate operation and according to its market director "it was a bit of an anticlimax because absolutely nothing happened". However Ethical Consumer magazine has reduced its score from 16 to 6.


Are the products less ethical when they are part of a multi-national? Ruth Rosselson, of Ethical Consumer says that depends on the consumer: "Many consumers simply don't know who owns their favourite brands, and others don't care: it really depends on what your reasons for buying ethical are". She believes there will be longer-term damage to brands swallowed by multinationals. "The real 'deep green' consumer does feel betrayed." Dr Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University, also urges caution. " Everything is dependent on how the relationship with the movement is retained by these companies. For the movement that gave birth to these values, eternal vigilance is required. :: Guardian