News & Insights

Coca Cola Company Accused Of Greenwashing Sustainability Claim

Environmental groups in the United States and Europe have filed complaints against Coca Cola and other companies accusing them of “greenwashing” their environmental sustainability claims. Companies are accused of greenwashing when they make claims that something is more eco-friendly, green, or sustainable than it really is.

In 2021, Earth Island Institute brought a lawsuit against Coca Cola in the DC Superior Court claiming that Coke’s statements on the sustainability of its packaging were deceptive marketing that violated DC’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Earth Island Institute v. The Coca-Cola Co., 2022 WL 18492133, at *1 (D.C.Super. Nov. 10, 2022). The lawsuit took issue with statements by Coke that its plastic bottles were “100% recyclable,” alleging that most bottles end up in landfills or incinerators due to limited recycling capacity. Id.

After removing the case to federal court, Coke filed a motion to dismiss the case. Id. The Court granted the motion, ruling that Coke’s statements did not violate the Consumer Protection Procedures Act because the statements were merely general and aspirational goals. Id. at *2. Earth Island appealed the ruling in March 2023. Oral arguments were held in November 2023, during which DC Court of Appeals judges appeared skeptical of Earth Island’s arguments.

Similarly, the European Consumer Organization, backed by two environmental groups, filed a complaint against Coke, Nestle, and Danone with the European Commission alleging greenwashing by those companies. The complaint alleges that those companies mislead consumers by claiming that their packaging is either 100% recycled or 100% recyclable. Coke has responded that its packaging claims can be substantiated.

Coke has pledged to increase refill and reuse of its bottles by 25% by 2030. However, the amount of reusable containers it has produced has stayed the same since 2021.