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Published on April 19th, 2021

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Earth Day 2021: Companies Accused of Greenwashing

A growing number of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products with a sustainability message. But when ads make something sounds better for the environment than it actually is, that is called greenwashing.

Here’s a roundup of companies and their products consumers should be mindful of this Earth Day 2021 that have been accused of not being as environmentally friendly as advertised:

Type of Inquiry (Date) Product/Company Allegation(s) Outcome
National Advertising Division (NAD) inquiry (October 2020) Blueland cleaning products Marketing “[e]very piece of packaging” as 100% recyclable when certain materials are compostable, not recyclable Company discontinued its 100% recyclable claim, as recommended by NAD
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) inquiry (September 2020) Quorn Foods Misrepresenting a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint ASA told Quorn to make the basis of any environmental claims clear to consumers
NAD inquiry (August 2020) Tide purclean Representing that the laundry detergent is 100% plant-based when the product is only 75% plant-based Company agreed to modify plant-based claims appearing on product label, per NAD’s recommendation
Class-action lawsuit (May 2020) Simple Green cleaning products Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Dismissed pursuant to settlement agreement in related case
Class-action lawsuit (May 2020) Krud Kutter cleaning products Marketing products as non-toxic and earth friendly when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Pending
Class-action lawsuit (May 2020) Method household cleaning products Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Voluntarily dismissed without prejudice
Class-action lawsuit (May 2020) Windex Vinegar Marketing product as non-toxic when window cleaner contains potentially harmful and toxic ingredients Pending
Class-action lawsuit (May 2020) Windex Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Pending
Class-action lawsuit (September 2019) GreenPan cookware Claiming cookware is good for the environment when it is made of metal that does not biodegrade Settled
Class-action lawsuit (April 2019) Nestlé chocolate Marketing chocolate as sustainably sourced when company’s cocoa supply chain in West Africa has “virtually no environmental standards in place” Dismissed without prejudice
Class-action lawsuit (March 2018) BMW X5 and 355d Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
Class-action lawsuits (early 2018) Ford F-250 and F-350 Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
NAD inquiry (May 2017) Kauai coffee pods Advertising coffee pods as 100% compostable while noting in the fine print that they’ve only been certified to decompose at “industrial facilities” Company agreed to prominently disclose that coffee pods are not certified for backyard composting, per NAD’s recommendation
Class-action lawsuit (July 2016) Chevrolet Cruze Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicle as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
NAD inquiry (March 2016) LEI Eco Alkaline batteries Claiming batteries are carbon neutral without providing information on when emissions reductions occurred or will occur Referred to FTC
Class-action lawsuits (early 2016) Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Settled
Class-action lawsuits (2016) Natural American Spirit cigarettes Marketing tobacco as earth friendly in connection with false claims that cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes Pending
Class-action lawsuits (late 2015/2016) Volkswagen and Audi Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending (some claims settled)
Class-action lawsuit (April 2015) Charmin Freshmates Marketing moist towelettes as flushable when the wipes are not suitable for flushing down a toilet Settled
Private lawsuit (April 2015) Rainforest Alliance Misrepresenting how earth friendly the products it certifies (such as Chiquita bananas) really are Settled
Class-action lawsuits (early 2015) SeaWorld Representing that it creates a fun, interesting and stimulating environment for its killer whales when the captive animals lead “unhealthy and despairing lives” Dismissed
FTC complaint (October 2013) Nature’s Own Green Label paper plates Marketing products as biodegradable, compostable and recyclable without competent and reliable scientific evidence in violation of an FTC consent order Settled
NAD inquiry (June 2013) Nest thermostats Claiming other programmable thermostats waste energy (and thus are less eco-friendly) without sufficient evidence Nest agreed to discontinue the claim, among others, as recommended by NAD

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing here.

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