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BGH examines: When are companies allowed to advertise climate neutrality?

BGH examines: When are companies allowed to advertise climate neutrality?

Sustainability is trendy – and is therefore also a strong selling point. But when are manufacturers allowed to advertise their products as “climate neutral”? The highest German civil court is now examining this.

As their customers become more environmentally conscious, companies often focus on sustainability in their advertising. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) will examine this morning whether and when they are allowed to advertise their products as “climate-neutral”.

In this specific case, the Frankfurt Competition Center had filed a lawsuit against the licorice and fruit gum manufacturer Katjes because it had advertised in a food trade magazine that all of the company’s products were produced in a climate-neutral manner. The competition center believes that this is misleading, as the candy manufacturing process itself is not emission-free, but rather the company only financially supports climate protection projects to compensate. (Af. I ZR 98/23)

Action in the lower court was unsuccessful

The Competition Center was unsuccessful in its action for an injunction in the lower courts. The Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court argued that consumers understand the term “climate neutral” to mean a balanced CO2 balance. They would therefore know that neutrality can also be achieved through compensation measures. From the court’s point of view, it was also crucial that Katjes had provided sufficient information online about how the products would be climate neutral. Readers of the trade magazine were able to access more information about this on a website using a QR code.

Since it has not yet been clarified by the highest court whether and under what conditions advertising with the term “climate neutral” is permitted, the OLG allowed an appeal to the BGH. The competition center now wants to clarify that clear information, for example about compensation measures, must be given in the advertising itself, said a spokesman for the German Press Agency. It is not enough if readers only receive the necessary information after visiting a website.

EU wants to restrict “greenwashing”.

There was a similar legal dispute last year at the Karlsruhe Regional Court over the designation of products from the drugstore chain dm as “climate-neutral” and “environmentally neutral” (case no. 13 O 46/22 KfH). In contrast to Katjes, the court decided here, following a lawsuit from Deutsche Umwelthilfe, that dm is no longer allowed to advertise its own brands with the two terms. Consumers should be able to see information on the packaging about the measures that the manufacturer takes to compensate for CO2 emissions during production, for example.

Stricter requirements for companies that advertise their sustainability are in the works at EU level. In January, the EU Parliament gave the green light to ban vague statements about the environmental impact of products if there is no evidence of this. This is intended to significantly limit “greenwashing”, i.e. products being presented as more environmentally friendly than they actually are. A green claims guideline is also currently being worked on.

Source: Stern

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