Coca-Cola sued for misleading advertising over sustainability claims


In a lawsuit filed against the company Friday, Earth Island Institute, which publishes the Newspaper, alleges that Coca-Cola’s sustainability-focused statements amount to greenwashing or, in legal terms, false and misleading advertising. He stresses that despite intensive marketing of its so-called green image, the company is the number one generator of plastic waste in the world. Coca-Cola has also been named the number one corporate polluter for three consecutive years by the non-profit organization Break Free from Plastic’s. Global cleaning and brand audit report, which assesses plastic waste collected in dozens of countries.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the District of Columbia Superior Court under DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, does not seek damages, but rather seeks to end the deceptive practices from the beverage giant. “With this lawsuit, we are simply asking Coca-Cola to be honest with consumers about its use of plastic so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions,” said Sumona Majumdar, general counsel for the Earth Island Institute.

In addition to its general statements focused on sustainability, Coca-Cola advertises its recycling initiatives online and is one of the hundreds of companies that have signed the Global Commitment to the New Plastics Economy, committing to contribute to the plastic pollution crisis and aiming for 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable plastic by 2025. But this commitment, too, falls flat. According to Break Free from Plastic, the company has made little progress in tackling plastic waste since signing the pledge in 2018. And in fact, according to the lawsuit, Coca-Cola has actively opposed legislation that would strengthen recycling in the United States.

As the complaint says: “Contrary to Coca-Cola’s claims, the company remains a major plastic polluter, has made no significant effort to move to a ‘circular economy’ or otherwise operate as a ‘sustainable’ business, and has a long history of consistently breaking public promises on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Ideally, advocates say, Coca-Cola and other beverage companies would green their operations by increasing the use of reusable and refillable packaging. They would depend less heavily on the production of recyclable packaging and the promotion of recycling by consumers, tactics which have so far proved rather ineffective in dealing with the plastic pollution crisis and which justify the continuation of the campaign. plastic production.

“We want the Coca-Cola Company to stop greenwashing and false claims, to be transparent about the plastic it uses and to be a leader in investing in drop-off and recharge programs for the health of humans, animals. , waterways, the ocean and our environment, ”said Julia Cohen, co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, an Earth Island project, in a statement.

Greenwashing is nothing new. And it’s not limited to Big Plastic. As consumers’ attention increasingly turns to environmental issues, companies are trying more than ever to present responsible environmental ethics. This tactic is particularly visible in the fossil fuel industry, which has increasingly begun to use climate-friendly buzzwords like “net zero” and “carbon neutral” to describe itself while doing little to actually do so. fight against its enormous climate impact.

Like Big Plastic, Big Oil has been called in for these claims. In 2019, nonprofit environmental law group ClientEarth sued BP, alleging that the company’s advertising promoted low-carbon technologies when nearly all of its spending was on oil and gas. gas. BP has withdrawn its ads.

More recently, several non-profit environmental associations, including Earthworks, Global Witness and Greenpeace USA, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on the similar practices of another oil and gas company, Chevron. The lawsuit, filed in March, alleges that Chevron has been misleading advertising by exaggerating its commitment to reduce pollution from fossil fuels and its investments in renewable energy. In April, ClientEarth also released a big survey compare the advertisements published by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell and several other oil and gas companies, with their overall impact on the climate and their progress towards reducing that impact. The group found, unsurprisingly, that the two did not line up.

“We are currently witnessing a big disappointment, where the companies most responsible for catastrophic global warming are spending millions on advertising campaigns about how their business plans are geared towards sustainability,” Johnny White, one of the ClientEarth lawyers, Told The Guardian.

Perhaps lawsuits like the ones against BP and now Coca-Cola will help put an end to these big disappointments. At the very least, they will hopefully inform consumers about the true nature of the products they are buying.


About Cedric Lloyd

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