Bimbo Banter

Honestly, it was just a matter of time…

  • Crisis
  • March 11, 2016
  • by Emily Turner


Today’s Wall Street Journal’s Twitter headline caught my eye because I love a good pun. It read, “Trendy Detergent Caught in Spin Cycle.” It also caught my eye because I have been following the Honest Company’s rise to success with a skeptical eye. I have friends who swear by the company’s eco-friendly diapers; for their convenience, naturally-derived odor blockers (again skeptical) and bonus, adorable prints (where else can you get daisy or puppy prints adorning your diapers?).

Unfortunately, the WSJ uncovered more than a punny headline. They sent out two samples of the Honest Company’s laundry detergent to independent testing facilities and discovered both samples contained sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS. Even though SLS can be found in everything from Colgate and Tom’s of Maine toothpaste to Tide, the Honest Company guaranteed that SLS was not in its detergent and they continue to make that claim, even stating that the WSJ has “been reckless in the preparation of this article, refused multiple requests to share data on which they apparently relied and has substituted junk science for credible journalism.” From a public relations standpoint, it is never a good idea to accuse the WSJ of junk science. That’s harsher than the chemicals the Honest Company tries to avoid.

Spaeth readers know the power of words and this company took the good word drill to heart and made it their brand. Honest, promise, guarantee—these are some of the most powerful good words in the lexicon and they are used liberally by the Honest Company.

The real issue here with the SLS debacle is that there are several outsourced manufacturing plants that are involved in the mass production of the Honest Company’s laundry detergent, so while the company’s denial might be earnest, they needed to go a step further. When you build your brand on being honest you must be diligent in ensuring that you are in fact living up to your claims. Honest Company supporters should rally for more testing instead of settling for soundbites from its celebrity founder, Jessica Alba. Last fall the Honest Company was sued by multiple plaintiffs claiming that its sunscreen was ineffective. Alba’s response was the promise to “launch a safe sun education platform around sunscreen and the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens, and the importance of reapplication and how to apply and all of that." Not comforting to the folks who claimed they reapplied and still suffered blistering and burns.  

We stand by our advice to use good words like honest, promise and guarantee—with the caveat that you must live up to them. Rest assured, it’s easy to do when you’re the one in control of the outcome.

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