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Safe spaces for green claims shrink further

Dairy company Arla has been banned from using the claim ‘net-zero climate footprint’ when marketing some of its products.

Both Sweden’s consumer watchdog and the country’s Patent and Market Court said the impression is that “the product does not give rise to any climate footprint at all”. 

Victoria Olsson, head of sustainability at Arla Sweden, told Just Food she was disappointed with the ruling. “It was never our intention to mislead anyone. At the same time, the ruling confirms that sustainability is a complicated topic to communicate on and that clearer guidelines are needed.”

The decision certainly highlights the challenges that businesses face in making net-zero type claims, said Dominic Watkins, a food law expert at DWF. “This is another warning sign to business that it cannot let marketers push claims to the boundary.”

The safe spaces for making green claims appear to be shrinking. Climate claims made by UK brands are now being scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority, which last month announced it is honing in on the food sector. “It is vital to hold substantiation for the claims made and stick to facts and not exaggerate,” Watkins said.

Another golden rule is to avoid ambiguous claims. Examples cited in the CMA’s green claims code include ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’. ‘Regenerative’ could also fall into this basket. The concept is incredibly popular with corporates but the lack of an agreed definition means there is a risk of greenwashing, warned the food and land use coalition (FOLU) in a new report

“Corporates are increasingly setting practice-based targets, such as PepsiCo’s 2030 goal to scale regenerative farming practices over 7 million acres. Such targets lack measurable outcomes at the farm, landscape and global level which limits the understanding of what regenerative agriculture can achieve,” the authors wrote.