Unilever admits hair ad was 'racist and we apologise unreservedly'

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Unilever has apologised for a racist advert.
Unilever has apologised for a racist advert.
Unilever South Africa
  • Unilever SA acknowledges that the hair advert published on Clicks website was racist and apologises unreservedly. 
  • It says that it was "shocked" to discover that it supplied the images in question.
  • Unilever SA said it would set up a new Diversity and Inclusion Assets Committee.

Unilever South Africa says that it was shocked to discover that it had supplied images for a TRESemmé advert on the Clicks website that portrayed black hair as inferior.

"This was racist and we apologise unreservedly," Unilever SA said in a statement on Friday.

This comes after a hair advert published on the Clicks website sparked outrage. The advert described white women's hair as "fine and flat" and "normal" while the black women's hair was described as  "dry and damaged" and "frizzy and dull".

This resulted in a protest by the EFF which shut down Clicks stores across the country.

The protest was called off after the EFF leadership met with Unilever and Clicks management on Thursday.

READ: EFF, Clicks bury the hatchet, Unilever to pull all TRESemmé products for 10 days

Unilever SA - which licenses TRESemmé products - says that it 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 SA added.

Unilever SA says it will be:

- Setting up a new diversity and inclusion assets committee, representative of its consumers, to ensure future advertising campaigns and publicity materials reflect its values.

- Setting up an advisory board with internal and external experts to review how its hair care products in South Africa can offer consumers the solutions they want in positive and empowering terms.

- Working with the new advisory board to develop programmes to deliver immediate support to black hair stylists and small professional salons.

- Reviewing its mandatory diversity and inclusion training, accelerating its training on unconscious bias for all staff.

News24 reported that following its meeting with the EFF on Thursday, Unilever SA agreed to its retailers removing TRESemmé from their shelves for 10 days.

"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," Unilever SA concluded.

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