EFF protest outside a Clicks store in Cape Town. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
EFF protest outside a Clicks store in Cape Town. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Unilever admits Tresemmé hair advert was racist, staff to be subjected to ’unconscious bias’ training

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Sep 11, 2020

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Johannesburg – Unilever South Africa has admitted that the controversial Tresemmé advert which described black women’s hair as frizzy, dull, dry and damaged, was racist.

The company will be subjecting all staff to ’unconscious bias’ training, will be reviewing all marketing material and establishing a new diversity and inclusion advisory board.

Last Friday, Unilever apologised for the Tresemmé advert and has been in a media blackout since.

At the time, the company apologised for the ad which it said had been intended to celebrate all hair types. Unilever said it would investigate why the offensive advert was not picked up and promised to take steps to ensure this did not happen again.

The Tresemmé advert, which was published on the Clicks website, led to EFF protests at Clicks stores this week. The three-day long protests ended on Thursday after the retailer met with the leadership of the EFF.

More than 400 Clicks stores were closed on Monday alone.

The racist Tresemmé advert which has rocked the country.

In its latest statement, released on Friday, Unilever said it was “shocked” by the incident.

“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,” said Unilever.

It said an investigation was instituted as soon as the matter was brought to their attention and the company began a review of all its marketing campaigns to ensure they “match our commitment to celebrate all beauty and promote diversity and Inclusion”.

Unilever executives met the EFF on Thursday at the party’s Braamfontein headquarters and the company agreed to sponsor a donation of 10 000 sanitary pads for poor young women of the party’s choosing.

The company also agreed to withdraw Tresemmé brand from retailers for 10 days.

“As agreed with the EFF on September 10, we have asked our retailers to remove Tresemmé from 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,” said Unilever.

The company has not disclosed what their investigation into the processes that led to the advert being created has uncovered.


Unilever said it would establish a diversity and inclusion assets committee, which would be representative of its consumers in a bid to ensure future advertising campaigns and publicity materials reflect the company’s values.

It would also review its diversity and inclusion training and would be accelerating training on ‘unconscious bias’ to all staff.

Unilever said it would also set up an advisory board with internal and external experts to review its haircare products sold in South Africa which could offer consumers the solutions they want in positive and empowering terms.

Unilever said the advisory board would also work with black hair stylists and small professional salons to develop programmes to deliver immediate support.


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