Consumer News

Companies Accused of Greenwashing

When companies green it, they better mean it.

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Consumer News

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 that have been accused of not being as environmentally friendly as advertised (Note: NAD is the National Advertising Division and ASA is the Advertising Standards Authority).

Product/Company (Date and Type of Inquiry) Allegation(s) Outcome
Thinx

(May 2022 class-action complaint)

Advertising products as sustainable when they contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment Pending
Gorton’s

(April 2022 class-action complaint)

Marketing tilapia as sustainably sourced when the fish comes from industrial farms that use practices that destroy the environment Pending
Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)

(April 2022 class-action complaint)

Marketing waterproof apparel as sustainable when they contain substances that are harmful to the environment Pending
Transitions2Earth

(April 2022 class-action complaint)

Marketing utensils as biodegradable when they aren’t Pending
Burger King

(April 2022 class-action complaint)

Marketing the Whopper as sustainable when product packaging contains substances that are harmful to the environment Pending
Burt’s Bees Cosmetics

(April 2022 class-action complaint)

Advertising that ingredients come from nature and are obtained using responsible sourcing methods when they contain chemicals that harm the environment Pending
Walmart

(April 2022 FTC complaint)

Falsely marketing dozens of rayon textile products as bamboo and claiming that the “bamboo” products were made using eco friendly processes when converting bamboo into rayon requires the use of toxic chemicals and results in hazardous pollutants Settled
Kohl’s

(April 2022 FTC complaint)

Falsely marketing dozens of rayon textile products as bamboo and claiming that the “bamboo” products were made using eco friendly processes when converting bamboo into rayon requires the use of toxic chemicals and results in hazardous pollutants Settled
McDonald’s

(March 2022 class-action complaint)

Marketing the Big Mac and other menu items as sustainable when product packaging contains substances that are harmful to the environment Pending
Simply Gum

(February 2022 NAD inquiry)

Marketing gum as natural and biodegradable and then declining to participate in a self-regulatory inquiry into those claims Referred to the FTC
Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver

(February 2022 NAD inquiry)

Marketing drain cleaner as green via the claim “power meets green” without sufficient evidence to back up the claim NAD said the claim should be discontinued and the company said it will comply with NAD’s recommendations in future advertising
Whole Foods

(January 2022 class-action lawsuit)

Touting its commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship when its slack-filled packages use more raw materials and create more waste when packaging is discarded Pending
Oatly

(January 2022 ASA inquiry)

Overstating what one climate expert said about cutting dairy and meat from your diet to reduce your environmental impact. In addition to banning the ad, ASA told Oatly to make the basis of any environmental claims clear to consumers.
Banana Boat sunscreens*

(September 2021 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as reef friendly when they contain ingredients that are harmful to coral reefs and marine life Pending
Dasani, Poland Spring and other bottled water brands

(June 2021 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as 100% recyclable when the type of plastic used to make the caps and labels is generally not recyclable Pending
Red Lobster

(June 2021 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing Maine lobster and shrimp as sustainable when its suppliers use practices that are harmful to the environment and inhumane Pending
Allbirds running shoes

(June 2021 class-action lawsuit)

Claiming that shoes have a low carbon footprint using a tool that doesn’t assess all environmental impacts Dismissed with prejudice
The Coca-Cola Company

(June 2021 private lawsuit)

Marketing itself as sustainable and environmentally friendly while generating more plastic pollution than any other company in the world Pending
Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags

(May 2021 ad alert)

Encouraging consumers to use compostable dog poop bags such as theirs in an Earth Day blog, while acknowledging (in the fine print of its website) that the composting facilities where the bags must be taken don’t exist in the U.S. After TINA.org reached out to the company, it added a disclaimer to the Earth Day blog
Hefty Recycling Bags**

(May 2021 class-action lawsuit)

Claiming on product packaging that bags are designed to handle all types of recyclables when products actually contaminate would-be recyclable waste Pending
Blueland cleaning products

(October 2020 NAD inquiry)

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
Quorn Foods

(September 2020 ASA inquiry)

Misrepresenting a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint ASA told Quorn to make the basis of any environmental claims clear to consumers
Tide purclean

(August 2020 NAD inquiry)

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
Simple Green cleaning products

(May 2020 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Dismissed pursuant to settlement agreement in related case
Krud Kutter cleaning products

(May 2020 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as non-toxic and earth friendly when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Pending
Method household cleaning products

(May 2020 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Voluntarily dismissed without prejudice
Windex Vinegar

(May 2020 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing product as non-toxic when window cleaner contains potentially harmful and toxic ingredients Pending
Windex

(May 2020 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing products as non-toxic when they contain ingredients harmful to people, pets and the environment Pending
GreenPan cookware

(September 2019 class-action lawsuit)

Claiming cookware is good for the environment when it is made of metal that does not biodegrade Settled
Nestlé chocolate

(April 2019 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing chocolate as sustainably sourced when company’s cocoa supply chain in West Africa has “virtually no environmental standards in place” Dismissed without prejudice
Keurig Coffee Pods

(September 2018 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing plastic single-serve coffee pods as recyclable when the pods cannot be recycled and end up in landfills because recycling facilities cannot separate the pods from the general waste due to their small size Settled
Kirkland Signature cleaning products (May 2018 class-action lawsuit) Marketing products as environmentally responsible, green, natural and non-toxic when they contain unnatural, harmful and toxic chemical ingredients Voluntarily dismissed pursuant to settlement agreement
BMW X5 and 355d

(March 2018 class-action lawsuit)

Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
Ford F-250 and F-350

(Early 2018 class-action lawsuits)

Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
Kauai coffee pods

(May 2017 NAD inquiry)

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
Chevrolet Cruze

(July 2016 class-action lawsuit)

Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicle as clean and environmentally friendly Pending
LEI Eco Alkaline batteries

(March 2016 NAD inquiry)

Claiming batteries are carbon neutral without providing information on when emissions reductions occurred or will occur Referred to FTC
Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC

(Early 2016 class-action lawsuits)

Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Settled
Natural American Spirit cigarettes

(2016 class-action lawsuits)

Marketing tobacco as earth friendly in connection with false claims that cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes Pending
Volkswagen and Audi

(Late 2015/2016 class-action lawsuits)

Using emissions-cheating software (so-called defeat devices) to deceptively advertise diesel vehicles as clean and environmentally friendly Pending (some claims settled)
Charmin Freshmates

(April 2015 class-action lawsuit)

Marketing moist towelettes as flushable when the wipes are not suitable for flushing down a toilet Settled
Rainforest Alliance

(April 2015 private lawsuit)

Misrepresenting how earth friendly the products it certifies (such as Chiquita bananas) really are Settled
SeaWorld

(Early 2015 class-action lawsuits)

Representing that it creates a fun, interesting and stimulating environment for its killer whales when the captive animals lead “unhealthy and despairing lives” Dismissed
Nature’s Own Green Label paper plates

(October 2013 FTC complaint)

Marketing products as biodegradable, compostable and recyclable without competent and reliable scientific evidence in violation of an FTC consent order Settled
Nest thermostats

(June 2013 NAD inquiry)

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

*Additional brands accused of falsely marketing their sunscreens as “reef friendly” or having a “reef-conscious formula” include Hawaiian Tropic, Kroger, Alba Botanica and Up & Up.

**In June 2022, the Connecticut attorney general sued Reynolds Consumer Products alleging, among other things, that the company falsely and deceptively marketed Hefty recycling bags as recyclable despite knowing the bags were incompatible with recycling facilities in the state.

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing here.


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