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Jessica Alba's non-toxic brand The Honest Company got its start selling diapers and baby products, and now it's an empire. The brand stocks everything from vitamins to tampons, and it expanded into beauty last year with an 83-piece makeup line. The Honest Company's success landed Alba on the cover of Forbes magazine's "America's Richest Self-Made Women" issue touting her brand's $1 billion dollar valuation.
But now as The Honest Company is reportedly working toward an IPO, lawsuits are coming out of the woodwork including one filed by the Organic Consumers Association being reported today. Alba's company is dealing with a rash of lawsuits claiming that Honest has violated its promise to produce products without health-compromising chemicals or compounds — a charge the company vehemently denies.
Here's what to know about The Honest Company backlash:
Shampoo and body wash. In February of this year, Fortune reported that a lawsuit filed in a New York District Court alleged that Honest "falsely" and "deceptively" labeled its products as natural and plant-based. Brad and Manon Buonasera said they bought the company's shampoo and body wash based on those claims. Their suit alleged Honest's products actually contained synthetic and toxic ingredients, even though advertising copy claimed "no harsh chemicals, ever!"
Honest wrote in a statement that the lawsuit's allegations were "without merit" and that they would "vigorously defend this baseless lawsuit."
Sunscreen and more. A $5 million lawsuit filed in Northern California District Court in September 2015 claimed that several of Honest's products, including soap, diapers, and cleaners contain "unnatural ingredients," according to ABC News. The suit also called out Honest sunscreen for not being effective.
That sunscreen complaint also went viral when customers started tweeting out photos of horrible sunburns that happened while using Honest sunscreen.
Alba's brand responded with a lengthy blog post apology that included photos of her children and a defense of its sunscreen formula:
We’ve gone through extensive third-party testing in accordance with government regulations and our Sunscreen Lotion passed all SPF 30 testing requirements. It also received the best score possible from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). We care about taking every precaution possible to ensure that your product experience will keep you healthy and happy.
Detergent. In March, WSJ published an article with the results of commissioned lab testing, saying that Honest detergent contained a significant amount of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) — a chemical that the company pledged to avoid.
Honest said that it used Sodium Coco Sulfate (SCS), "a gentler alternative that is less irritating and safer to use," then the company went after the Wall Street Journal's journalistic integrity. "The Wall Street Journal 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," the brand's statement said in part.
Within seven days of the WSJ story, a consumer filed a class-action lawsuit against Honest over the detergent. Inc. reports that the lawsuit alleges that the company is "misleading [consumers] in the extreme" with advertising that mentions its detergent being SLS-free.
Baby food. News just broke about a lawsuit filed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court by the Organic Consumers Association, alleging that 11 ingredients out of 40 in Honest's baby food are synthetic. Fortune reports that the suit claims that the baby food "is falsely labeled as 'organic.'"
The Honest Company might not just be looking at an IPO — WWD reported in April that the brand, which has $222 million in venture capital backing, might be considering a sale as well.
Will all the lawsuits affect Honest Company's future? One analyst doesn't think so. "The brand is almost on the cusp of being bigger than the lawsuits and the negative press around it," Martin Okner, managing director at SHM Corporate Navigators, told WWD. "It’s been in the press now for months and it hasn’t had a material impact on sales at this point."