Over the past decade, plaintiffs’ lawyers have built up a lengthy track record of litigation targeting labeling claims about product features, leading to a rash of class actions for every popular labeling claim. A recent article appearing in Bloomberg Law looks at how plaintiffs’ lawyers are responding to increasing skepticism from courts towards this traditional product-feature-centered litigation model, by shifting their focus to so-called “greenwashing suits.”
These “greenwashing” suits aim at a company’s claims that its practices are “sustainable,” that its materials are “responsibly” or “ethically sourced,” or that its manufacturing processes are “cruelty-free.” If not for these labels, the plaintiffs claim, they would not have purchased the company’s products. In some cases, the consumer plaintiff adds heft to the complaint by joining forces with a nonprofit, such as the Sierra Club.
After taking a close look at “greenwashing” suits and why they are coming into fashion, this article examines the common elements of these cases and assesses whether they might typically be stronger – or weaker – on the merits than traditional product-feature-centered lawsuits.
According to ILR’s recent research paper The Food Court: Developments In Litigation Targeting Food And Beverage Marketing, food companies are facing an ever-growing number of “greenwashing” lawsuits based not only on the labeling of their products but also based on “commitments” stated on their websites and social media platforms.