By Ariana Nieves,
Sustainable Investment Group (SIG)
As the new year is just beginning, U.S. courts are becoming increasingly busy. As the climate change movement continues to soar in popularity, many companies are following suit with climate pledges and sustainability efforts. However, some companies are jumping the bandwagon with different intentions by portraying their practices and products as more sustainable than they are – a practice known as greenwashing.
This practice is considered harmful as it can mislead consumers and does not aid protection efforts. It is even considered false advertising in some instances, and many consumers have begun to file lawsuits against big corporations. Recently, there has been a huge increase in lawsuits for greenwashing. Conglomerates such as Shell and Exxon Mobil are among many being accused.
Many of these issues are being brought to court as climate consumer protection becomes more widely supported. The current litigation regarding greenwashing has allowed many companies to create loosely worded statements and pledges regarding their emission plans and efforts to increase sustainability.
It is highly predicted that this year, there will be increased scrutiny over these generalized statements and stricter litigation will be created and enforced. There will be a legal crackdown on Net-zero pledges, the wording in advertisements, and risk disclosure failures. The Federal Trade Commission announced it will be reviewing its Green Guides (Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims) in 2022 (the last update occurred ten years ago in 2012).
Additionally, there are thoughts that a disclosure rule could become mandatory in the future. This would require companies to disclose climate risks in their financial filings. In doing so, it would increase legal liability.
There is no doubt greenwashing is becoming an increasingly popular and highly debated topic. It will be interesting to see how exactly this new litigation will unfold as the year progresses.
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