We’ve won an important battle, states The Danish environmental organisation, Forests of The World, who lodged the complaint against Coca Cola.
- It is an important victory in the battle against greenwashing, says Kristian Jørgensen, spokesperson in the danish NGO “Forests of The World” - as a response to the fact that the Danish Ombudsman for consumer issues has ruled in favor of the complaint, Forests of The World have lodged against Coca-Cola Enterprises.
Forests of The World considered the marketing of Coca Colas so-called “plantbottle” to be greenwashing - and it has now been established that they were right, according to the Danish and European Marketing Practices Act.
- We are very pleased with the decision from the Danish Consumer Ombudsman. Coca-Cola's launch of "plantbottle" is one of the most obvious examples of greenwash seen in Denmark and to put it frankly, the company has sinned against almost all principles when it comes to guidelines for good and fair marketing concerning environmental claims, Kristian Jørgensen explains.
He points out the importance of transparency in a time, when many companies want to brand themselves as being “green”. For consumers it is often impossible to know whether a product actually is sustainable or if the green advertising is merely a marketing stunt.
- We are on the edge of a bio-based society where products and energy based on fossil fuels are replaced by plant-based technologies. It sounds good, but there are numerous examples of hugely negative environmental impacts linked with bio-based products. Therefore, the basic principle of being able to provide documentation for any environmental claims is vital, when companies engage themselves in green marketing - This is where Coca-Cola has failed completely.
Major greenwashing at Copenhagen Climate Summit
It’s been more than three years since Coca Cola marketed the ”plantbottle” which - according to the company itself - contained several environmental advantages being produced of recyclable plastic og plant-materials.
With posters of flowers and greens coming out of a bottle, Coca Cola launched their campaign at the same time as the Climate Summit was taking place in Copenhagen in 2009. Since then “plantbottle” has been launched in several countries with similarly green campaigns using big events like the London Olympics to promote it.
This resulted in Forests of The World lodging a complaint to the Danish Ombudsman for consumer issues, claiming that the campaign was illegal according to Danish marketing Practices Act.
In fact, there was no proof of the “plantbottle” having any positive effect in regards to reducing CO2-emissions.
- If Coca-Cola can’t document that this new bottle actually is “greener” than other bottles, then their advertising is violating the principles of good marketing practice as well as the Danish legislation in Consumer Protection, Forests of the World stated back then. And as it turns out, they were right. The Danish Ombudsman for consumer issues has come to the conclusion that Coca Cola has acted illegally by focusing solely on environmental effects in their campaign without actually being able to document the environmentally claims of using plastic based bioethanol.
And it is an important conclusion, Kristian Jørgensen explains:
- No matter the potential in the technology of the ”plantbottle”, Coca Coca still need to keep their marketing levelled according to the actual environmental benefits of the product. We sincerely hope that companies who market themselves as being extremely “green”, even though they only make small changes in order to benefit the environment, will soon be a thing of the past.
If You claim to be “green” You need to document it!
This case is definitely point of principle, Kristian Jørgensen states. The reason being that it substantiates several paragraphs that have been stressed by the Ombudsman in his review of the principles of fair marketing practices regarding ethical and environmental statements.
This line of principles were published in 2011 in the wake of a series of greenwash-cases.
But that doesn’t mean that companies in general will stop trying to become greener, even though some may fear that the complications of having to document everything will be a hindrance, Kristian Jørgensen gauges.
On the contrary, Kristian Jørgensen believes that the firms that actually do make an effort will gain a higher credibility, when they don’t have to compete with self proclaimed “green” companies:
- We’ve been blamed that our campaign against greenwash puts a spanner in the works on the companies' commitment to green initiatives. Nothing could be more wrong - on the contrary, we believe that green marketing should be reserved for companies that make a real difference and can prove it. The worst scenario is that we as consumers are made to believe that we are making a real difference without actually doing it.