by Marc Gunther

Hard-hitting activist campaigns against big corporations have become part of the sustainability landscape. Some change the world. Some change little. Telling the difference between one and the other isn’t easy.

Consider this example of a victory that is less than it seemed at the time: when the Breast Cancer Fund accused Revlon of using chemicals linked to cancer in its cosmetics, the company called the charges “false and defamatory”, demanded a retraction and threatened to sue.

Instead, last month, Revlon for the first time published an ingredients policy. The activists declared victory. “It is now one of the most comprehensive cosmetic-safety policies,” says Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund. Renee Sharp of the Environmental Working Group, which also campaigned against Revlon, says: “They’re definitely a leader.”

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