Misleading environmental claims create liability risk

Companies making false claims and commitments about their products might breach consumer protection laws, research by ClientEarth has found.

This could include environmental claims that are likely to influence consumers and companies’ buying decisions about, for example, the geographic origin of products like wooden furniture or palm oil.

Together with Climate Advisers, we have found that, in specific circumstances, companies that do not act on their commitments could be in breach of two EU directives. The Misleading Advertising Directive and the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive protect consumers and traders against misleading advertising, prohibiting commercial practices that deceive consumers or traders.

ClientEarth forests lawyer Diane de Rouvre said: “Companies need to be aware that information on their products, like where ingredients come from and other factual claims, should be specific and based on robust, up-to-date evidence that can be verified by national authorities. If not, they could be held legally accountable.”

With the rise of the ‘conscious consumer’ and ‘zero-deforestation’ commitments, members of the public and companies are becoming increasingly concerned with the negative impacts that come from producing goods. If they fail to do this, they could deceive and mislead the public and could risk legal action.

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Sebastian Unrau