Over the last several years, Neal Marder has written and spoken about the rising trend of greenwashing, an advertising technique that involves falsely showcasing a company’s environmental commitment. Neal Marder addressed the topic in an article titled “The ‘Reasonable Consumer’s’ View of Green Labels—Lessons From Two Greenwashing Cases,” which appeared in GCI Magazine in March 2012.
In this piece, he and colleague Christian E. Dodd highlighted several examples of greenwashing that led to class actions. The authors cited the 2010 case Koh v. SC Johnson & Son, Inc., in which SC Johnson placed a “Greenlist Ingredients” “seal of approval” on a bottle of Windex and advertised Greenlist as an environmental rating system; however, because SC Johnson fabricated the Greenlist logo and standards itself, the plaintiff argued that the company had engaged in false advertising. Consulting the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California concluded that the label was indeed misleading to a reasonable consumer and allowed the plaintiff to move forward with the class action suit.
In a second example, the authors examined the 2011 case Hill v. Roll International Corp. In this case, the plaintiff argued that Fiji Water has misrepresented its environmental commitment with a “Green Drop” on its label; however, a California appellate court determined that the symbol would not cause a reasonable customer to assume that an independent organization had certified the product as green.
A partner and leading attorney at Winston & Strawn’s Los Angeles offices, Neal Marder has published an array of other articles, which are listed on www.winston.com.