05 Apr 2023, 13:19
Carolina Kyllmann

Environmental NGO wins greenwashing lawsuit against TotalEnergies

Clean Energy Wire

Climate Action Germany (DUH) has won a lawsuit against TotalEnergies over “climate-neutral” and “CO2-compensated” heating oil claims, the environmental NGO announced. DHU had sued on the basis that TotalEnergies’ Thermoplus heating oil was advertised to consumers in a way that violated consumer protection law, claiming the product was climate neutral because the company compensated emissions via offsetting schemes in India and Peru. Granting “unprecedentedly clear condemnation” of consumer deception, the Düsseldorf Regional Court ruled that TotalEnergies will have to stop advertising its Thermoplus heating oil as “CO2-compensated” and be specific about the offsetting schemes the company is using to compensate for emissions, according to the NGO. “This is no way to protect the climate if you allow consumers to be persuaded that an oil heating system can be operated in a climate neutral way with an indulgence payment of 40 euros per year to an oil company,” DUH federal director Jürgen Resch said.

The case, filed in 2022, is the first of 15 legal proceedings the NGO has brought against misleading advertising promises claiming that products are “climate neutral” on the basis of doubtful offsetting schemes. Having a “net zero” target or launching a “climate neutral” product is the new normal for companies. But these claims are difficult to verify, and mostly don't add up when checked carefully. In the worst cases, they are pure greenwashing – misleading consumers and investors by hiding continued emissions. The European Commission has recently proposed a set of detailed rules for companies to back up their green claims on products.

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