Unilever investor slams Lux brand’s purpose-driven message

By Julia Wray | Published: 12-Jan-2023

Terry Smith said soap was ‘for washing’ not ‘inspiring women to rise above everyday sexist judgements’

Bath and body label Lux is the latest Unilever brand to incur the wrath of Terry Smith, the owner of Unilever investor Fundsmith, for ‘virtue signalling’.

In Smith’s annual letter to shareholders, published 10 January, he called out Lux, stating: “When last I checked it [soap] was for washing.”

Instead, he continued, Lux says it is about “inspiring women to rise above everyday sexist judgements and express their beauty and femininity unapologetically”.

“I am not making this up; you can read it here,” he added.

Smith made headlines last year when he accused the brand owner of having “lost the plot” over its efforts to “define the purpose of Hellmann’s mayonnaise”.

Lux’s mission statement on Unilever’s website reads: “Since 1925, Lux has been serving women who take pride and pleasure in their beauty.

“We offer them not just quality beauty soaps at an affordable price but also an unapologetic expression of beauty and femininity, built around pleasure and modern glamour.”

Lux has also been active in campaigning against sexism.

In a 2021 statement, Lux voiced its support for South African athlete Caster Semenya when she was banned from defending her 800-metre gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

In the same year, it launched a campaign with online platform City Walks, which allowed men to virtually experience the casual sexism that pervades the everyday lives of women.

In Tuesday’s letter, Smith also shared his belief that longstanding Unilever investors “tend to get ignored”, with preferential treatment received by newcomer and activist shareholder Trian Fund Management’s Nelson Peltz.

Cosmetics Business has reached out to Unilever for comment.

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