Earth Island Sues Coca-Cola Over Greenwashing Claims & False Advertisement

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Environmental organization Earth Island Institute has filed a lawsuit against beverage giant Coca-Cola for falsely advertising that it is sustainable and environmental-friendly despite it being the largest plastic polluter in the world.

Earth Island Institute has sued the Coca-Cola Company on World Oceans Day demanding answers from the American multinational on why it is misleading audiences to believe that it follows sustainable practices when it is far from the truth and instead is causing irreversible damage to marine life, oceans, and coastal communities.

On the beverage firm’s website and in its advertising campaigns, it claims that “our planet matters” with another one saying “scaling sustainable solutions….and investing in sustainable packaging platforms to reduce our carbon footprint,” with another marketing campaign carrying the headline – a “World Without Waste”.

However, according to Break Free From Plastic Global Cleanup and Brand Audit report, despite these claims, Coca-Cola was named the top plastic polluter in the world three years in a row with 13,834 of its discarded plastic bottles found lying in beaches, rivers and parks in 51 out of 55 countries that were surveyed as part of the study in 2020, a number much higher than its previous number of 37 countries recorded in the audit back in 2019 and higher than the next top two plastic polluters combined.

Read: ‘Green’ Claims Are Fake, Potentially Illegal: New EU Study Says E-Stores Rife With Greenwashing

In a press release seen by Green Queen, general counsel of the Institute, Sumona Majumdar said that Coca-Cola has always displayed its ‘supposed’ care for the environment and has blamed consumers for continuing to plastic pollution. “But it is Coca-Cola, not consumers, that chooses to use chart-topping amounts of plastic for its products. It is time this company is held accountable for deceiving the public. The more consumers become aware of plastic pollution, the more the company doubles down on its purported commitment to the environment to appease those concerns, but the actual results of their efforts tell a very different story. The company needs to come clean and be honest with consumers.”

Read: Coca-Cola Insists People Still Want Plastic Bottles. Is This True?

It is Coca-Cola, not consumers, that chooses to use chart-topping amounts of plastic for its products. It is time this company is held accountable for deceiving the public. The company needs to come clean and be honest with consumers

Sumona Majumdar, general counsel of the Institute

The Institute has filed the lawsuit in the District of Columbia Superior Court and is represented by Richman Law & Policy, which specializes in consumer protection law. The lawsuit states that the company is in direct violation of the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA) that safeguards the interest of the consumers against deceptive business practices. On behalf of the consumers, a public-interest organization, like Earth Island, can file action and if they win, Coca-Cola will no longer be able to greenwash the public by stating itself sustainable in its advertising.

We want the Coca-Cola company to stop greenwashing, be transparent about the plastic they use, and be a leader in investing in deposit and refill programs for the health of humans and our environment

Julia Cohen, co-founder and managing director at Plastic Pollution Coalition

Co-founder and managing director at Plastic Pollution Coalition, a project of Earth Island Institute and a global alliance of over 1,200 organizations and people in 75 countries, Julia Cohen, MPH said: “For 12 years we have advocated for a more just, equitable world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts, driving corporate responsibility to stop plastic pollution at the source. We want the Coca-Cola company to stop the greenwashing and false claims, be transparent about the plastic they use, and be a leader in investing in deposit and refill programs for the health of humans, animals, waterways, the ocean, and our environment.”

The Plastic Pollution Coalition aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution and advocates for the impact that plastic has on the environment as well as human health.

In hopes to make amends, Coca-Cola announced that it would be trialing its new 100% recyclable paper-based bottles in Hungary which will have a paper shell made with a bio-based water-resistant barrier lining. Apart from this, it is working with Dutch biochemical company Avantium to ditch fossil fuels and develop all-plant bottles that are biodegradable and recyclable, derived out of plant sugars.

Still, the damage the beverage giant causes far outweighs the scope of the projects it proposes, with another report highlighting that the company alone produces 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste in countries like China, India, the Philippines, Brazil, Mexico and Nigeria which is equivalent to 8 billion plastic bottles that can be used to cover 33 football pitches each day.

From being dumped into our coastlines to disintegrating into microplastics and then entering into our food chain by consumption of seafood, neither its new projects nor its recycling initiatives can compensate for the disposable culture Coca-Cola has created and the devastating impact it has left on our planet.


Lead image courtesy of Will Rose / Greenpeace.


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