As the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is set to convene an inquiry into the advertising industry and its adherence to human rights, Unilever says it was “shocked to discover” the material they had supplied to Clicks.
The London-based multinational consumer goods company said it was also reviewing all its marketing campaigns and images in South Africa.
“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.
“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 said.
As agreed with the EFF last Thursday, Unilever has asked all retailers to remove TRESemmé products from shelves for 10 days.
The move comes as Clicks announced it would be dumping TRESemmé with immediate effect and would work with local brands instead.
Unilever said it would establish a new Diversity and Inclusion Assets Committee, representative of consumers; set 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; work with the new Advisory Board to develop programmes to deliver immediate support to black hair stylists and small professional salons; and review its mandatory diversity and inclusion training.
“We want to reiterate our sincere apologies to all South Africans and for 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 said.
The SAHRC said Unilever’s advertisement was published in contravention of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, which prohibits discrimination in general.
The EFF said that it met Clicks and Unilever management where they all agreed that the advert was offensive and racist.