Innisfree criticised for 'false advertising' after plastic found within paper bottle

South Korean cosmetic brand Innisfree has been criticised for "greenwashing" the eco-friendly packaging of its Green Tea Seed Serum. According to an image circulating online on a Facebook group called "No Plastic Shopping", as well as in a four-second video posted on Innisfree's Facebook page last August, the paper bottle contains a plastic bottle when the packaging is cut open. Ironically, the words on the packaging read: "Hello, I'm paper bottle".

One netizen claimed to feel "betrayed" upon finding out that the allegedly eco-friendly bottle contains plastic, daily English-language newspaper The Korea Herald said, while another user reportedly filed a complaint to a consumer centre regarding Innisfree's supposed "green washing labelling". Meanwhile, some netizens recently commented on its Facebook post dated August 2020 that the packaging is "full of fraud", "false advertising" and "misleading". One netizen added that the paper bottle is "cheap underhanded marketing" and it is "insulting to customers".

This led to Innisfree apologising for "failing to deliver information in a precise way", The Korea Herald reported. The brand added in a statement to the media outlet that the term "paper bottle" was used to explain the role of the paper label wrapped around the bottle. It added that it "overlooked the possibility" that the naming could "mislead consumers" to think the whole packaging was created from paper.

Innisfree's spokesperson told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the product was named "paper bottle" to ensure it was easier to explain the role of paper labels wrapping the outside of the bottle. "We tried to provide detailed information on the product package box but we overlooked the fact that the entire container can be recognised as a paper material because of the product name. We sincerely apologise for the confusion caused and will try to deliver more accurate information," the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Innisfree Singapore also addressed similar concerns last year. The brand apologised for not "fully satisfying [consumers'] expectations" and though it is not completely there yet, Innisfree said the Green Tea Seed Serum Paper Bottle embodies Innisfree's new initiatives to reduce impact on the environment caused by plastic waste.

In a bid to do so, it reduced plastic usage by 51.8% compared to the plastic bottle used for the standard 160mL Green Tea Seed Serum, and also included 10% of recycled plastic to the cap and shoulder parts of the pump.

"The thin, flimsy inner plastic liner [was] used to maintain the serum’s stability up to its expiration date, while reducing over 50% of plastic usage. Also, both the outer paper mold and inner plastic components are virgin materials that are not colour-coated, making them easier options to be separately discarded and recycled," the brand explained.

It added that it will continue to study, develop, and further expand more sustainable packaging options. "We also apologise for missing out on the claim on this post and have added it in to prevent misinformation. We would like to assure you that it is not our intention to mislead the audience," it said.

Last July, Innisfree's parent company Amorepacific Group rolled out several eco-friendly products as part of its "Less Plastic" policy to reduce the use of approximately 700 tons of plastic packaging by 2022 and increasing recyclability. These included the paper bottle packaging, a "metal zero" pump which no longer uses a metal spring and therefore, the product can now be thrown out for recycling without having to separate the parts. Innisfree also changed its previous capsule-type packaging for VITAL BEAUTIE’s Meta Green from PVC to a recyclable bottle and pouch-type packaging.

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