“Greenwashing,” a topic of frequent discussion, actually has dictionary definition. According to Merriam-Webster, greenwashing is “the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc., appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.” A trial court in the District of Columbia recently dismissed a greenwashing case brought by an environmental activist group against a major beverage producer, making some interesting findings in the process. Earth Island Institute v. Coca-Cola Co., No. 2021 CA 001846 B (D.C. Super. Nov. 10, 2022).
Plaintiff, Earth Island Institute, claimed that certain statements by the Coca-Cola Company, on social media, the company’s website and other outlets were false and deceptive and therefore actionable under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA), D.C. Code § 28-3901 et seq. The challenged statements included assertions such as:
• “Our planet matters. We act in ways to create a more sustainable and better shared future;”
• “We’re using our leadership to achieve positive change in the world and build a more sustainable future for our communities and our planet;”
• “[C]omitted to creating a World Without Waste by taking responsibility for the packaging we introduce to markets and working to reduce ocean pollution.”
The court determined that these generalized assertions created no claim under the CPPA:
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