A class action suit was recently brought against Danone Waters of America Inc. The company sells bottled water worldwide under various brand names, including Aqua, Bonafont, and Evian. The lawsuit is specific to its Evian-branded water, which petitioners allege is deceptively and factually inaccurately marketed as “carbon neutral,” a practice referred to as “greenwashing.” The Petitioners’ suit claims violations of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, New York’s Business Law sections on consumer protection and false advertising, as well as breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty, unjust enrichment, and fraud.
The Complaint states technical definition of carbon neutral is a product “having or resulting in no net addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” (Citing Carbon-neutral, MERRIAM-WEBSTER (2022); see also A Beginner’s Guide to Climate Neutrality, UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE, (Feb. 26, 2021), https://unfccc.int/blog/abeginner-s-guide-to-climate-neutrality). Evian labels and packaging do not include a definition of carbon neutral or direct consumers to its website for further information. Petitioners believe that reasonable consumers reading an Evian label would interpret the carbon neutral claim to mean that the manufacturing process does not create carbon emissions, which is factually inaccurate. Beyond the manufacturing process, it has also been found that the companies Danone utilizes to transport its Evian products are not carbon neutral.
Danone will likely argue that many interpret carbon neutrality to include carbon credits which a company can purchase to offset its carbon emissions. Rather than reducing or eliminating emissions, Danone founded and contributed funds to Livelihood Carbon Funds, which invests in agroforestry projects. Instead of a monetary return on investment, Danone will receive credits that, at least theoretically, offset carbon emissions. Petitioners claim that because the offsets created by these agroforestry programs won’t be realized for decades, Danone cannot make a successful carbon offsetting counterargument.
The case is ongoing in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. The full docket can be found here.