Coca-Cola's PlantBottle—the "eco-friendly" packaging the company claims is aiding in reducing its carbon footprint—has been called out as greenwashing by Denmark.
Made with the inclusion of some plant-based materials, Coca-Cola's PlantBottle, which debuted in 2009, exaggerates its environmental benefits but offers no proof, found Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe, the Danish consumer ombudsman, reports International Business Times. "[ Øe] criticized Coke’s use of several marketing ploys, including the use of the word 'plant,' excessive green colors and a circular-arrow logo inspired by the familiar symbol for recyclability."
Coca-Cola claims that its PlantBottle is a step up from traditional plastics because it uses "plant-based material," mainly sugar cane, instead of petroleum (and other fossil fuel products) to create a necessary ingredient in PET plastic called monoethylene glycol. But Coca-Cola also says the percentage of plant material "varies by market," with bottles containing as much as 30 percent of the plant materials, at most. "In essence, we are trading fossil fuels for plant-based material without sacrificing performance or recyclability," cites Coca-Cola's corporate website.
Øe, who is responsible for making sure brands and companies doing business in Denmark are complying with its national Marketing Practices Act, found that in this case, Coca-Cola doesn't appear to be doing so. “[T]he carbon claims marketed without an existing full life-cycle assessment of the bottle were misleading,” the official report said.
After Coca-Cola debuted the PlantBottle in Denmark, a local environmental group called Forests of the World filed a complaint against the company, saying Coca-Cola's marketing of the bottle was using deceptive greenwashing tactics, and lacked any substantial benefits to the environment. "The group blasted PlantBottle posters and ads featuring environmentally friendly imagery (leaves, green fields, farms, wind turbines, butterflies and flowers) and said that Coca-Cola simply had no proof that its product offers any positive effect in regards to reducing CO2 emissions," reports IB Times.
In a statement, Kristian Jørgensen, a spokeswoman for Forests of the World, said Coca-Cola “sinned against almost all principles when it comes to guidelines for good and fair marketing concerning environmental claims.”
Besides Denmark, the PlantBottle is currently available in parts of the U.S., Canada, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, Sweden and Chile.
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Image: Coca-Cola United