Holland and Barrett

Holland & Barrett:

Company Profile

Holland & Barrett is probably the UK's best know health store. It's on most high streets and sells many brands marketed as vegan and organic.

But how well do you really know this company? Below we look behind the brand and find disturbing facts about the company's ethical policies and ownership.

Last updated: March 2017

Annual Revenue£30.48 million (2016)


Other BrandsHolland & Barrett is owned by the Carlyle Group

One of the world's largest private investment firms, The Carlyle Group owns 250-plus companies in, for example, the energy & power (oil, gas,coal), and defense & aerospace industries.
Holland & Barrett owns the Dr Organic brand 

Company Score4.5 out of 20




Ethical Consumer Best Buy?No


Ethical issues by category

Holland & Barrett owners involved in cluster munitions


According to a report published in 2016, the Carlyle group, the private equity group that is the ultimate owner of Holland and Barrett, had shareholdings in cluster munitions producers Textron.

The report 'Worldwide Investments in Cluster Munitions: a shared responsibility', was published in June 2016 by the campaign group PAX.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) categorically bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. 94 countries signed the convention at the Oslo Signing Conference held 3-4 December 2008. The convention entered into force on 1 August 2010.

The report revealed that many financial institutions, including Carlyle, were still financing cluster munitions producers, despite the international consensus being that such weapons were unacceptable, given that civilians make up 98% of all cluster munitions victims.

The company owned shareholdings to the value of US$132 million managed on behalf of Textron at 31 December 2015. 

Holland & Barrett receives Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its environmental and other reporting


Despite their ethical appearance, Holland & Barrett did not appear to have an up to date environmental policy when their website was searched by Ethical Consumer in 2017. The company also appeared not to have a policy to phase our the use of toxic chemicals or a policy on the use of palm oil in its products. The company therefore scored a worst Ethical Consumer rating in all three categories.

However it should be noted that the website of its own brand product, Dr Organic, did contain additional information (not dated).

This site stated that they "do not use ingredients often criticised for their side effects.We never use parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), perfumes or artificial fragrances." However this only applied to this brand and not to other Holland and Barrett brands or brands that Holland and Barrett sold in their stores. 


Holland & Barrett worst rating for policy on animal testing

Neither Holland & Barrett nor its parent companies appeared to have animal testing policies when their websites were searched by Ethical Consumer in 2017. The company was also 'not endorsed' by animal rights campaign group NatureWatch over their lack of a fixed cut-off date for the animal testing of products or ingredients. 

There was a statement on the website of one of its brands, Dr Organic, that said "Our products are always tested on human volunteers to ensure they are completely safe and effective. No animal tests are ever performed on finished products or raw materials." 

However this did not include a fixed cut-off date and it did not apply to the sale of other brands in its stores. Therefore in 2017 the company received a worst Ethical Consumer rating in this category.


Holland & Barrett owners score a worst rating on likely use of tax avoidance strategies

According to a 2016 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Carlyle Group, which owns Holland and Barrett, had a number of beneficial owners based in the Cayman Islands. There were TC Group V Cayman, L.P., Carlyle Partners V SA1 Cayman, L.P. and Carlyle Partners V SA2 Cayman, L.P.

Ethical Consumer believed this ownership structure indicated a systematic avoidance of tax by registering owners in a known tax haven (the Cayman Islands). The company therefore received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies.


Member of corporate lobby group

According to the World Economic Forum's website www.weforum.org, viewed by Ethical Consumer in 2017, the Carlyle Group was a member of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The WEF was considered by Ethical Consumer to be a high level corporate lobby group which exerted undue corporate influence, to the potential detriment of the environment and human and animal rights.

In-Depth Information

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