Our editor shares his opinion…
Do you remember all the fuss that was made about Iceland’s 2018 Christmas tv advert, when it was ‘banned’ from tv screens because of its political association with Greenpeace?
(If not, read more here: Why the Iceland Christmas advert won’t be on tv)
Were you one of those ‘up in arms’ because you felt that the sentiment behind it – about how the harvesting of palm oil is having a damaging effect on endangered orangutans and the environment – resonated with you?
Did you feel its core message needed sharing far and wide? Did you congratulate Iceland for ‘doing the right thing’?
Well… it very much feels as though we’ve all been taken for mugs!
An investigation by BBC News has revealed that Iceland removed its logo from 17 product labels rather than keeping to its promise of removing palm oil from these products.
The company says it still intends to eradicate palm oil from all of its own brand-products, but by manipulating the branding on the packaging of 17 products (eleven frozen, eight chilled) it has achieved that goal artificially without actually eliminating the palm oil as it promised it would.
In the article, the firm told BBC News that technical issues were to blame, adding that it did not intend to mislead consumers.
Are you ok with that? I’m not.
Here’s why… firstly, if they missed their target then that is incredibly embarrassing and also a failure.
But here’s a firm which more readily hides its own shortcomings instead of coming forward and facing its problems openly and with integrity.
On that basis, how can consumers ever trust a single word they say?
It seems the company’s PR department is now working in overdrive to come up with excuses and explanations, but Iceland is a large organisation and must have known many weeks in advance that it was going to miss its own targets.
In fact, I would venture that Iceland bosses could’ve anticipated back in November that the company was going to break its promise – around the same time they were lapping up all of our adoration and praise for being a champion for endangered species.
Their marketing team undoubtedly also congratulated themselves on a job ‘well done’.
But when a company gets things wrong, it’s quite obviously easier to forgive them when they’re upfront and straightforward about it.
I was always told: “Explain why (before you’re asked to) rather make excuses afterwards.”
This is a lesson I think Iceland executives ought to have been taught (and must learn now).
At worst, their trickery with these product labels could be seen as deliberately dishonest deception; at best it is pretty disgraceful and comes across as very shady behaviour.
On Wednesday this week, the BBC found 28 products containing palm oil for sale on the firm’s website (again, despite its promise to stop selling them by the end of 2018).
Commenting on that discovery, Iceland said it had simply not updated the product descriptions correctly on its website – and later removed them entirely.
So, we must ask ourselves, how flimsy do Iceland’s promises feel?
The firm was willing to airbrush its logo off of its own products rather than confess that it had failed to meet its own deadline.
Why wait until journalists uncovered this before acknowledging its failings?
The firm has even continued to peddle its environmentally-considerate credentials on social media.
Even as recently as today it told customers via Twitter: “We have absolutely removed palm oil as an ingredient from our own label food.
“This promise has been fulfilled. We’ve had a few technical issues with our website where products haven’t been updated. We’re updating now as quickly as we can.”
So, will there be a greater fallout from this? What else aren’t they telling us?
What are your thoughts on Iceland’s product labelling? Let us know in the comments section below, or on our social media channels.