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Empac denounces greenwashing after legal victory over Superfos

By Rory Harrington , 25-Jan-2012

Empac has condemned the practice of greenwashing after a Danish court ruled that Superfos had breached advertising guidelines in claims that plastic packaging was more eco-friendly than metal.

The European metal packaging trade body hailed its legal victory over the Denmark-based firm, now called Superfos RPC, in the wake of a recent decision handed down by the Danish Maritime Court that statements made in its brochures and on its website about the supposed green benefits of plastic versus metal were misleading and unsubstantiated.

Jim Hansen, secretary general for the Danish Aluminium Association which represented Empac in court case, told FoodProductionDaily.com that greenwashing – making exaggerated or inaccurate environmental claims about a product – such as these did not benefit anyone in the packaging industry and should be avoided.

Controversial advertising

The row started in 2008 after metal packaging industry players spotted what they believed were inaccurate environmental claims made in literature from Superfos circulating at a trade show in Paris.

As a result of the unrest, Empac launched legal action which, three years later, resulted in the Danish ruling highlighting the inaccurate and unsupported claims – including invalid statements relating to carbon dioxide emissions.

As a consequence, Superfos has been banned from making a series of claims and using images detrimental to metal packaging which were originally included in its website and brochures, said the body.

Although Superfos withdrew the material in 2008, it resisted attempts to settle the matter, leaving Empac no choice but to go to court, said Hansen.

The plastics company was not ordered to pay damages but he said it was important to “have on record that Superfos acted in contravention of the advertising guidelines.”

Greenwashing

The Court’s decision on 30 December 2011 said: “To prevent unfair competition strict requirements for accuracy of such environmental claims must apply. These have to be clear, true, specific and not misleading and have to be substantiated by an impartial expert.”

Hansen stressed that organisations should take great care when making life cycle analysis claims.

“Life cycle analyses (LCA) usually centre on someone’s own material. But if you do make statements about another industry’s material you should be careful,” he said.

The aluminium trade member added that third party validation of methodology and calculations was essential – and was what Superfos had failed to do.

“We are pleased with the result of the case as it is really specific that organisations keep their focus on their own material as it is of no benefit to anybody to greenwash the reputation of your material because all packaging types have their own advantages,” said Hansen.

FoodProductionDaily.com contacted Superfos for a comment but received no reply prior to publication.

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