When Is a Sell-Out a Sell-out?

The news that Abel & Cole have sold their organic vegetable delivery company to a private equity firm brings brings to mind other high profile buy-outs such as Ben & Jerry's, Green & Black's chocolate and the Body Shop. All claimed that their core values would not change but does it always work out that way? Ethical Consumer magazine has rated a few of the big ones on their ethics before and after.

Ben & Jerry's was one of the first to go, back in 2000. Factories have been closed in Vermont and hundreds of jobs lost. However, Ben & Jerry are back on the scene in a very activist way; American Pie ice cream has a chart showing military spending in the US budget on its lid so there is some hope. Rachel's Organic was the first organic farm in Britain. Sold in 2003 to Dean Foods, the U.S. Organic Consumers Association is now calling for a boycott of them because of their failure to meet organic standards. Ooops.


Seeds of Change was sold to Mars in 1997. Starting as a small seed company in New Mexico, the company has expanded to sell food. But Mars sources 90% of its cocoa from the Ivory Coast where children under 14 work on the farms. Bad score on that one too.

The Body Shop was bought out by L'Oréal last year and sales were up by 7% six months later. However Ethical Consumer has concerns that some of the chemical ingredients are still tested on animals and Nestle owns 26% of L'Oréal. Nestlé is one of the most boycotted companies in the world because it sells baby milk powder in third world countries. Ooops again.

Pret a Manger, a favourite British sandwich maker, sold one third of its stake to McDonald's. The owners admitted that it was "a very strange decision" but the relationship has been beneficial in that McDonald's has helped to find a new biodegradable sandwich box.

And lastly, Tom's of Maine, sold in March to Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate's name isn't on the package and the company is still to be run independently from the state of Maine. The former owner did acknowledge "some of our customers are obviously going to wonder". :: Guardian

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