[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (596)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (38)
    • Antimicrobial (17)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (32)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (50)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (32)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (25)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (29)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (1)
    • Children (105)
    • Children/Schools (239)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (28)
    • Climate Change (82)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (4)
    • Congress (13)
    • contamination (144)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (17)
    • Drift (9)
    • Drinking Water (11)
    • Ecosystem Services (10)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (160)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (487)
    • Events (87)
    • Farm Bill (18)
    • Farmworkers (186)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (23)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (9)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (29)
    • Holidays (37)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (5)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (67)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (245)
    • Litigation (339)
    • Livestock (8)
    • men’s health (1)
    • metabolic syndrome (1)
    • Metabolites (3)
    • Microbiata (20)
    • Microbiome (26)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (14)
    • Oceans (7)
    • Office of Inspector General (2)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (157)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (8)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (5)
    • Pesticide Regulation (765)
    • Pesticide Residues (178)
    • Pets (35)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Plastic (1)
    • Poisoning (18)
    • Preemption (40)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (3)
    • Resistance (117)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (2)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (9)
    • Superfund (3)
    • synergistic effects (15)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (14)
    • Synthetic Turf (1)
    • Take Action (579)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (11)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (453)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (8)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts

Daily News Blog

02
Feb

The European Union Takes on Greenwashing with a Broad Brush

Last March, the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a measure to prevent greenwashing in the EU. As public concern about both human and ecosystem health rises, so does greenwashing—corporate efforts to mislead the public with label and marketing language for products and services that is outright dishonest or contains misrepresentations.

(Beyond Pesticides, February 2, 2024) Last March, the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a measure to prevent greenwashing in the EU. As public concern about both human and ecosystem health rises, so does greenwashing—corporate efforts to mislead the public with label and marketing language for products and services that is outright dishonest or contains misrepresentations. And so, there has been an explosion of products or practices that are characterized in the market as “eco-friendly,” “green,” “carbon-neutral,” “regenerative,” “sustainable,” “natural,” and “safe”—all with a lack of uniform definition, compliance criteria, and enforcement. To the contrary, in crop/plant production and processing, “organic” does have a legal definition, subject to public review, certification, and enforcement. However, with greenwashing, many corporations aggressively try to gain a share of the $60 billion organic food market and nearly $22 billion organic personal care product market in the U.S.

According to ESG Today, the new law passed by the EU Parliament arose because a European Commission-sponsored study found that more than half of green claims are vague or misleading, and another 40% could produce no supporting evidence at all. EU member states have two years to incorporate the measure into their own laws.

There is already an EU law stating that “bio” and “eco” can be used only with reference to organic products, according to Organic Insider Newsletter. However, the EU has seen a proliferation of so-called certifiers that both violate EU law and provide weak or non-existent standards. The new law will permit sustainability labels only if the certifiers are approved by official authorities.

Europe is by no means alone with respect to greenwashing. The U.S. has the same problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) prohibits the use of most synthetic pesticides and soil amendments and requires that livestock environments be humane. Of course, these provisions, and enforcement of the organic standards, are less than perfect in their application, and deceptive claims do occur, as advocates call for more aggressive enforcement.

Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman says, “We take the position that the mislabeling of products as ‘natural’ even though that are produced with pesticide inputs, or categorizing such products as safe for the environment,” misleads people into thinking there is no difference between “organic”-labeled products” and those not so labeled. Beyond Pesticides supports organic land management using a systems management approach that builds organic matter and sustains biological organisms as the best way to manage recreational areas, lawns, and croplands without using life-threatening chemicals.”

Beyond Pesticides and numerous other advocacy groups have sued companies over agencies’ weak enforcement and sued companies for their greenwashing practices. In 2020 Beyond Pesticides sued TruGreen for misrepresenting the chemicals it uses on lawns. The company has claimed it uses only products that are not carcinogens, do not disturb immune systems, and are generally known to be safe. The complaint in the suit stated that TruGreen uses the likely carcinogen glyphosate, the allergen chlorophenoxy, (Tri-Power), and the neurotoxic organophosphate triclorfon (Dylox). TruGreen withdrew the language in its advertising.

As environmental advocates witnessed the spread of greenwashing, they began working out ways for consumers to separate the healthy sheep from the toxic goats. For example, the Regenerative Organic Alliance created a regenerative organic certificate in 2019 to complement USDA organic policy by incorporating soil health, animal welfare and social fairness into the regenerative standard. The Alliance has certified nearly 6 million acres, almost 400 crop types, and more than a thousand products. Sustainable America maintains a list of certification labels for consumer goods such as food (USDA National Organic Program), textiles (Global Organic Textile Standard and Oeko-Tex), personal care and household products (Leaping Bunny).

The National Organic Program began in 2002, but there has been significant erosion of its power since. In 2021 the Cornucopia Institute issued a Guide to Domestic USDA Accredited Certifiers, which reveals that many certifiers either violated some standards or failed to provide information about some or all of their certification criteria. The Institute also released a report on the inhumane practices in many organic dairy operations. In 2017 and 2023, the Washington Post published articles detailing the sorry state of organic standards enforcement. Finally, in 2023, USDA revised its guidelines for organic labeling. The new rules expand the types of businesses that must be certified to include brokers and traders. It also increases inspections of certified operations and requires certification of all imported products claiming to be organic.

One of the more egregious “fake names” that triggered deceptive labeling litigation was the 2012 case of Werdebaugh v. Blue Diamond Growers, in which the plaintiff alleged that Blue Diamond violated California’s consumer protection laws. Blue Diamond claimed its almond milk products were “all natural” when they actually contained numerous artificial colors, ingredients, synthetic chemicals and preservatives, according to the watchdog group ClassAction.org. Specifically, the ingredient list for Blue Diamond’s almond milk included “evaporated cane juice.” According to Beverage Daily, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already instructed companies that the term is false and misleading—several times. A spate of similar lawsuits followed against Trader Joe’s, Wallaby Yogurt Company, Odwalla, Chobani, and others, all of which had listed “evaporated cane juice” as an ingredient. The FDA’s 2016 guidance states, “the term “evaporated cane juice” is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener…[it] is false or misleading because it suggests that the sweetener is “juice” or is made from “juice” and does not reveal that its basic nature and characterizing properties are those of a sugar.”

There are some initiatives among companies, investors and even regulators to clarify and stabilize their commitments to sustainability. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) leaves regulation of “organic” to the USDA’s National Organic Program, but it publishes Green Guides to help businesses avoid violating the FTC’s anti-greenwashing policies regarding false advertising, consumer protection, and unlawful business practices. The FTC last revised the Green Guides in 2012, and is currently updating them. It is expected to address the use of terms including “sustainability,” “climate change” and “carbon,” “recyclability,” “compostability,” “non-toxicity,” and misleading claims about product origins. According to a National Law Journal article, the FTC may revisit terms like “recyclable,” “reusable,” “renewable,” and “net zero” that it declined to consider in 2012.

In addition to the agriculture sector, change is emerging at the level of businesses and investors in the form of environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards. Training programs for individuals to earn a certificate in ESG are burgeoning. But again, as in product labeling, ESG certification could devolve into window dressing. How the ESG movement directly affects consumer labeling is unclear, but there is an effort to establish international standards for living up to environmental claims so that investors can trust the sustainability statements of the projects they invest in. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, a nonprofit group, includes a “Selling Practices and Product Labeling” component in its Sustainable Industry Classification System.

There is political pushback against attempts to adopt transparency and commitment to environmental values in publicly traded companies, pension funds, asset managers and the like. In an attempt to drag the world into the past and return to the policies of Milton Friedman, ESG opponents argue that companies are obligated to privilege profitability over all other values and goals. The solution to this toxic deception is the same as the one that environmental advocates press for in agriculture and consumer products: regulation of “eco” claims and enforcement of anti-greenwashing policies. Advocates, while endorsing corporate responsibility and the value of companies that are making a difference, state that anyone who identifies a practice or product as “green” in some way must be required to prove it, and should not be able to procure a spurious and weak certificate of virtue if they are not practicing what they preach.

The issues of these deceptive practices and greenwashing certification would be serious enough if they were merely everyday consumer product manipulation. But the cynical exploitation of social instruments that are important ways to effect a real paradigm change makes the effort to develop a truly healthy food system and preserve ecosystem functionality much more difficult.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources:

EU Parliament Approves New Law Banning Misleading Product Sustainability Claims. ESG Today January 18, 2024, https://www.esgtoday.com/eu-parliament-approves-law-banning-misleading-product-sustainability-claims/; EU Launches Green Claims Rules to Protect Consumers from Greenwashing. ESG Today March 22, 2023, https://www.esgtoday.com/eu-launches-green-claim-rules-to-protect-consumers-from-greenwashing/; “Sustainable” Certifications are Siphoning Billions from Organic. Business Insider May 10, 2023, https://organicinsider.com/newsletter/sustainable-certifications-leading-harvest-eco-score-your-weekly-organic-insider/; Regenerative Organic Alliance
https://regenorganic.org/; Lawsuit Challenges TruGreen Chemical Lawn Care Company for Deceptive Safety Claims; Pesticide Applications Stopped by Some States During COVID-19 Crisis as Nonessential Beyond Pesticides March 30, 2020, https://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2020/03/lawsuit-challenges-trugreen-chemical-lawn-care-company-for-deceptive-safety-claims-pesticide-applications-stopped-by-some-states-during-covid-19-crisis-as-nonessential/; Unnatural Products: “Natural” Mislabeling Roundup. October 15, 2013, https://www.classaction.org/blog/unnatural-products-natural-mislabeling-roundup; SASB Standards Materiality Finder,  https://sasb.org/standards/materiality-finder/

Overview

Not What You Think → Your Weekly Organic Insider

 

Regenerative Organic Alliance

https://regenorganic.org/

 

Lawsuit Challenges TruGreen Chemical Lawn Care Company for Deceptive Safety Claims; Pesticide Applications Stopped by Some States During COVID-19 Crisis as Nonessential Beyond Pesticides March 30, 2020

https://beyondpesticides.org/dailynewsblog/2020/03/lawsuit-challenges-trugreen-chemical-lawn-care-company-for-deceptive-safety-claims-pesticide-applications-stopped-by-some-states-during-covid-19-crisis-as-nonessential/

 

Unnatural Products: “Natural” Mislabeling Roundup. October 15, 2013

https://www.classaction.org/blog/unnatural-products-natural-mislabeling-roundup

 

SASB Standards Materiality Finder

Overview

Share

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (596)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (38)
    • Antimicrobial (17)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (32)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (50)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (32)
    • Biomonitoring (37)
    • Birds (25)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Canada (10)
    • Cannabis (29)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (9)
    • Chemical Mixtures (1)
    • Children (105)
    • Children/Schools (239)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (28)
    • Climate Change (82)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (4)
    • Congress (13)
    • contamination (144)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (17)
    • Drift (9)
    • Drinking Water (11)
    • Ecosystem Services (10)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (160)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (487)
    • Events (87)
    • Farm Bill (18)
    • Farmworkers (186)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (23)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (9)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (29)
    • Holidays (37)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (5)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (67)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (245)
    • Litigation (339)
    • Livestock (8)
    • men’s health (1)
    • metabolic syndrome (1)
    • Metabolites (3)
    • Microbiata (20)
    • Microbiome (26)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (14)
    • Oceans (7)
    • Office of Inspector General (2)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (157)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (8)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (5)
    • Pesticide Regulation (765)
    • Pesticide Residues (178)
    • Pets (35)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (1)
    • Plastic (1)
    • Poisoning (18)
    • Preemption (40)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Repellent (3)
    • Resistance (117)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (2)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (9)
    • Superfund (3)
    • synergistic effects (15)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (14)
    • Synthetic Turf (1)
    • Take Action (579)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (11)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Wildlife/Endangered Sp. (453)
    • Women’s Health (25)
    • Wood Preservatives (34)
    • World Health Organization (8)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts