24 Nov 2022, 13:46
Sören Amelang

“Climate neutral” product claims are deceptive and must be banned – consumer NGO

Clean Energy Wire

Food product labels such as “climate neutral,” “CO2-neutral” or “climate positive” do not indicate that these are climate-friendly at all and should be banned, consumer NGO foodwatch has said. The companies making these products don’t have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, as certificate providers, such as German Climate Partner or Swiss myclimate, do not make it mandatory for use of their labels, foodwatch said. Instead, even manufacturers of particularly damaging products, such as water in plastic bottles, can market these as climate-friendly without saving a single gram of CO2, by buying credits from questionable carbon offsetting projects. “The climate neutral label is a huge business from which everyone profits - except climate protection,” the NGO’s Rauna Bindewald said. With a view to the European Commission’s pending proposal for regulating green claims, foodwatch called on the German agriculture and environment ministries to push for a ban on deceptive environmental claims at the EU level.

Foodwatch said organisations providing “climate neutral” labels in principle call for first avoiding, then reducing and lastly compensating emissions. “In reality, however, they do not make any binding requirements on food producers to actually reduce their CO2 emissions,” because licensing labels is good business for them, foodwatch said. “The ‘climate neutral’ label can give consumers the false impression that products are environmentally friendly, when in fact they are worse for the environment and the climate than alternatives,” a report by the NGO said. The report singles out mineral water brand Volvic, which claims that its single-use plastic bottles transported over hundreds of kilometres from France are “climate neutral.” It also says that discounter Aldi is selling “climate neutral” milk without even knowing how much CO2 was emitted during production.

Environmental Action Germany (DUH), an NGO specialising in fighting environmental cases in court, also argues that products labelled as “climate neutral” deceive consumers and undermine progress in reducing emissions, and has taken several companies to court over their claims. Surveys show that the vast majority of people don’t have a clear idea what the "climate neutral" claim means, with many wrongly assuming that the manufacturing companies are committed to reducing CO2 emissions. It remains virtually impossible to make truly "climate neutral" products in a modern economy, despite the rapid increase of such labels, according to Germany's Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

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