The retailer, which has 930 stores around the world, said at the start of the campaign that it did not intend to criticize Britain’s police force as a whole, or day-to-day police officers.
“It is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed,” the company said in the statement.
Founded in 1995 by two entrepreneurs who had been suppliers to the Body Shop, another retailer with a history of activism, Lush markets products that do not undergo animal testing and that use fresh ingredients.
Its campaign was the latest example of increasing attempts by consumer brands to champion social causes. The effort, however, also illustrated the potential downside.
“If it doesn’t resonate, you put yourself at risk,” said Julio Hernandez, the global head of customer advisory at the professional services firm KPMG. “There’s a balance between how involved you want to be and how broad a reach you have to your customers.”
Other companies have made similar missteps:
■ Starbucks attracted derision in 2015 over its efforts to stimulate conversations about race relations by encouraging its baristas to write “Race Together” on coffee cups. Reaction ranged from video parodies to hostile online attacks.
■ The skin-care brand Dove — which has built much of its marketing around “real beauty,” promoting women of different shapes and sizes — caused a swift outcry last year with a body wash advertisement in which a black woman removed her brown shirt to reveal a white woman in a light shirt underneath. The company quickly apologized.
■ Pepsi also apologized last year after a commercial for its flagship soda borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement. Critics said it trivialized protests over the killings of black people by the police.