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By the Numbers: Greenwashing Class-Action Lawsuits has tracked more than 100 lawsuits alleging greenwashing.

Consumer News

By the Numbers: Greenwashing Class-Action Lawsuits

A majority of U.S. consumers prefer environmentally friendly products, and are even willing to pay more for them. But when ads make something sound better for the environment than it actually is, that’s called greenwashing. has tracked more than 100 class-action lawsuits accusing marketers of making misleading environmental claims. A breakdown of everything from the green claims and products at issue, to when and where the complaints were filed, to the status of the cases as of October 2023, follows.

Environmental claims at issue

A majority of the class-action lawsuits have alleged that marketers make deceptive environmental claims using words and phrases, such as environmentally friendly, recyclable and sustainable. Other lawsuits have alleged that marketers misleadingly imply products are “green” using eco-friendly imagery.

Of the greenwashing class-action lawsuits:

  • At least 30 percent have alleged false and/or misleading environmentally friendly, earth friendly, eco-friendly or environmentally responsible claims.
  • 18 percent have alleged false and/or misleading sustainable claims.
  • 14 percent have alleged false and/or misleading recyclable claims.
  • 11 percent have alleged false and/or misleadingly compostable or biodegradable claims.
  • 5 percent have alleged false and/or misleading carbon reduction claims.

Products and companies

35 percent of the greenwashing lawsuits cite false and/or misleading environmental claims for home and garden products. Items range from dishes and cookware, to household cleaners and laundry detergents, to trash bags, paints and even charcoal briquettes. For example, lawsuits have alleged that:

  • Hefty and Glad recycling bags are not made of recyclable materials.
  • Disposable dishes from Chinet, Amazon and others marketed as compostable do not break down into usable compost.
  • Gain and Arm & Hammer laundry detergents represent that they are environmentally friendly using green containers and images of nature when the products contain an ingredient harmful to the environment.
  • Poland Spring, Dasani and other bottled waters are marketed as “100% Recyclable” when certain parts of the bottles – including the cap and label – are not recyclable.

23 percent of the greenwashing complaints relate to food and beverages. There are lawsuits alleging that:

  • Fast food restaurants – including McDonald’s and Burger King – market burgers and other menu items as sustainable when they come in packaging that contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are harmful to the environment.
  • Keurig Green Mountain advertises coffee pods as recyclable when they end up in landfills.
  • StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, Bumble Bee and others market tuna products as dolphin safe when the tuna is caught using fishing methods that seriously injure and kill dolphins, in addition to other marine life.
  • Evian advertises its bottled water as “carbon neutral” when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere during manufacturing.

15 percent of the class actions concern personal care products and cosmetics. For example, lawsuits have alleged that:

  • Products bearing the “Target Clean” label contain ingredients that harm the environment.
  • Colgate and Tom’s of Maine toothpaste tubes marketed as “recyclable” are not recycled at a majority of facilities in the United States.
  • Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic and other sunscreens marketed as reef friendly contain ingredients that harm coral reefs and marine life.

10 percent of the lawsuits relate to clothing and textiles. These complaints have alleged that:

  • Nike, H&M, Canada Goose and REI falsely market clothing as sustainable.
  • Walmart and Kohl’s falsely advertise products as environmentally friendly because they are made of bamboo when they are actually made of rayon, the manufacturing of which emits hazardous pollutants into the air.
  • Allbirds’ misleadingly claims that its running shoes have a “Low Carbon Footprint.”

Greenwashing lawsuits have also alleged that automakers falsely market “clean diesel” vehicles as environmentally friendly, the makers of dog poop bags falsely advertise their products as compostable, and airlines falsely market that their purported carbon offset programs reduce the environmental impact of flying.

Location of courts


Greenwashing class-action lawsuits have been filed in 15 states. Nearly half of the complaints — 49 — were filed in California. The remaining lawsuits were filed in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.

Original filing date


Since began tracking greenwashing class-action lawsuits, in 2015, the number of complaints has steadily risen. The largest increase so far came in 2020, when the number of lawsuits more than doubled, from 7 to 17. Since 2020, more than a dozen lawsuits have been filed each year.

Status of cases

62 percent of the greenwashing class-action lawsuits have been settled and/or dismissed. Appeals were filed regarding the approval of one settlement agreement and the dismissal of two lawsuits. Claims remain pending in 38 percent of the lawsuits.

Of the 12 cases in which the terms of settlement agreements were disclosed, class members were awarded monetary relief in 11 cases and the company agreed to make changes to marketing materials in 10 cases.

Federal courts dismissed:

  • 2 cases regarding recyclable claims on various brands of bottled waters (Haggerty and Duchimaza).
  • 2 cases regarding environmental claims made by clothing and apparel companies (Allbirds and H&M).
  • 2 cases regarding carbon offset programs (Royal Dutch Airlines and Etsy).
  • 1 case regarding reef-friendly claims on sunscreens.
  • 1 case regarding environmental claims made by a grocery store.
  • 1 case regarding “Clean Diesel” claims.

What’s the takeaway?

As wrote in a September 2023 complaint to the FTC regarding deceptive “recyclable” claims for Tom’s of Maine and Colgate toothpaste tubes, “consumers are generally at the mercy of brands’ representations when seeking environmentally friendly products.”

But these class actions show that consumers are fighting back. So when companies green it, they better mean it.

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing here.

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