The consumer organization foodwatch has spoken out in favor of a ban on misleading climate advertising on food. Terms such as "CO2-neutral" or "climate-positive" say nothing about how climate-friendly a product actually is. A research by foodwatch shows: In order to market a food with climate claims, the manufacturers do not even have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. None of the seal providers examined, such as Climate Partner or Myclimate, made specific specifications in this regard. Instead, even manufacturers of non-ecological products could simply count on the purchase of CO2 credits for questionable climate projects in a climate-friendly manner, criticized foodwatch.
"Behind the climate-neutral label is a huge business from which everyone benefits - just not climate protection. Even manufacturers of beef dishes and water in disposable plastic bottles can easily present themselves as climate protectors without saving a gram of CO2, and label providers such as Climate Partner cash in on the brokerage of CO2 credits.", said Rauna Bindewald from foodwatch. The organization called on Federal Food Minister Cem Özdemir and Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke to campaign in Brussels for a ban on misleading environmental advertising. At the end of November, the EU Commission intends to present a draft for a "Green Claims" regulation, and a consumer directive is also currently being discussed - green advertising promises could be regulated more strictly in this. “Özdemir and Lemke have to greenwashing put a stop to climate lies”, according to Rauna Bindewald.
In a new report, foodwatch analyzed how the system behind the climate advertising works: In order to label products as climate-neutral, manufacturers buy CO2 credits from supposed climate protection projects via seal providers. This is intended to offset the greenhouse gas emissions generated during production. Officially, the providers have taken up the principle: "First avoid emissions, then reduce them and finally compensate". In reality, however, they did not give the food manufacturers any mandatory requirements to actually reduce their CO2 emissions. The reason can be guessed at: foodwatch criticized that the seal awarders would make money from every credit note sold and thereby earn millions. The organization estimates that Climate Partner earned around 2 million euros in 2022 just by brokering CO1,2 credits from forest projects to eleven customers. According to foodwatch research, Climate Partner charges a surcharge of around 77 percent per credit for arranging credits for a Peruvian forest project.
In addition, the benefit of the alleged climate protection projects is questionable: According to a study by the Öko-Institut, only two percent of the projects keep their promised climate protection effect "very likely". foodwatch research into projects in Peru and Uruguay shows that even certified projects have glaring deficiencies.
“The climate advertising business is a modern indulgence trade that can do more harm than good to the climate. Instead of spending money on misleading climate labels, manufacturers should rather invest in effective climate protection measures along their own supply chain.", said Rauna Bindewald from foodwatch. "If climate seals lead consumers to see meat and single-use plastic as ecologically beneficial, this is not only a setback for the environment, but also a brazen deception."
foodwatch uses five examples to illustrate how misleading climate labels are advertised on the German market:
- Danone advertises of all things Volvic-Bottled water as “climate neutral”, packed in disposable plastic bottles and imported hundreds of kilometers from France.
- Hipp markets baby porridge with beef as “climate positive”, even though beef causes particularly high emissions.
- granini offsets just seven percent of the total emissions for its “CO2 neutral” label on fruit juice.
- Aldi sells “climate-neutral” milk without knowing exactly how much CO2 is actually emitted during production.
- Gustavo Gusto adorns itself with the title "Germany's first climate-neutral frozen pizza manufacturer", even if the pizzas with salami and cheese contain climate-intensive animal ingredients.
foodwatch is in favor of clear regulation of sustainable advertising promises. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers are currently discussing a proposal for a directive to empower consumers for the ecological transition ("Dossier Empowering Consumers"). The directive would offer the opportunity to ban misleading advertising claims such as "climate neutral". In addition, the European Commission is expected to draft a “Green Claims Regulation” on November 30th. This probably does not place any demands on the advertising, but on the products. At best, environmental advertising would be banned on non-organic products, according to foodwatch.
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Photo / Video: foodwatch.