Racial justice advocates Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are facing questions after inking a deal to become “global ambassadors” for the multi-national consumer goods corporation, Procter & Gamble after critics pointed out that P&G manufactures, markets, and sells controversial skin-whitening creams in Africa and Asia.
Meghan and Harry recently announced the “multi-year partnership” with P&G, Yahoo News reported, through their Archewell Foundation website — the website the couple uses as a hub for information following their decision to quit as working members of the British royal family and move to the United States with their son, Archie. The partnership will center around the couple’s commitment to social justice, according to a statement, and “will focus on gender equality, more inclusive online spaces, and resilience and impact through sport.”
The pair will “elevate the voices of adolescent girls to ensure their point of view and lived experience is heard at the tables where decisions are made,” and will be “undertaking a joint effort in support of building a better online environment that unlocks positive, compassionate, and creative spaces. The partnership, the statement added, will be “focused on doing more (and doing better, together) for communities, for equality, and for our global collective wellbeing—one compassionate act at a time.”
Vanity Fair noted that Meghan Markle has a history with P&G. As an 11-year-old, Markle wrote into the company after seeing what she considered to be a “sexist” commercial for Ivory soap, demanding that the company replace the word “women” with the word “people” in its advertising.
Following the announcement, though, critics were quick to point out that P&G still has issues — at least as far as social justice is concerned.
“[T]he deal has thrown a spotlight on P&G’s hugely controversial sale in Asia and Africa of skin-lightening creams, which reduce the concentration or production of melanin – the natural pigment that gives human skin its color,” The Daily Mail reported. “Campaigners have demanded that P&G and other major firms stop selling such creams.”
The issue goes to the heart of racial justice on a global scale, critics say, because the creams, marketed in Asia under the brand name “White Radiance” suggest that lighter, whiter skin should be the standard of beauty, according to the Daily Mail. The creams and the cosmetic industry that encourages their use, critics claim, promote the “‘toxic belief’ that ‘a person’s worth is measured by the color of their skin’ and that light skin is better than dark.”
Other companies, including French cosmetics giant L’Oreal, announced plans to discontinue skin whitening products last year, following a global outcry over racial justice. L’Oreal removed “‘white/whitening’, ‘fair/fairness’ and ‘light/lightening’ from the names of its products,” the Daily Mail noted, “while Unilever announced plans to rename Fair & Lovely – a popular brand in India.”
A former P&G executive told the Daily Mail that while many of P&G’s celebrity partners are unlikely to face questions about individual products the mega-corporation markets in specific countries, Meghan and Harry’s decision to ink their partnership with P&G “sticks out like a sore thumb” because the pair have been so vocal about racial justice issues.
Critics also pointed out that Harry and Meghan, who are outspoken environmental activists, are risking claims of hypocrisy for pairing up with a mega-corporation. Like other producers of household products, cosmetics, and food items, P&G has fallen under scrutiny for its suppliers’ use of natural resources and cheap labor.
This is, of course, hardly the first time the pair have been accused of hypocrisy. One of the driving factors in the “Megxit” decision, reportedly, was coverage of Harry and Meghan’s travels; while the pair preached a carb0n-neutral and environmentally conscious lifestyle, British outlets reported on their many vacations using carbon-spewing private jets.
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