German environmental aid is suing BP, Shell, dm and Co. for “climate fraud”


    Even the name of the detergent gives a good feeling. “Pro Climate” is the name of the concentrate of the house brand “Denkmit Nature” of the drugstore chain dm. At the same time, the tubular bag is kept in a soft shade of green. In addition, a number of seals and signal words line the packaging.

    For example, “environmentally neutral product” is written on the front, as well as an announcement of compensation payments for, among other things, CO2 emissions, ozone depletion and soil acidification. You can also see the Blue Angel eco-label and the EU Ecolabel.

    However, the German Environmental Aid (DUH) is not convinced by all of this. On the contrary: The association sees a clear case of consumer deception and misleading advertising promises and is therefore taking legal action against dm. “On the corresponding online product page, there is not a sufficient explanation of how dm has made the product environmentally neutral,” criticizes the DUH.

    And on the back of the packaging there is only a general reference to a collaboration with the Technical University of Berlin and the claim of compensation for any remaining environmental impact. But that’s not enough.

    “Anyone who advertises environmental and climate protection must also prove this,” explains lawyer Remo Klinger from the law firm Geulen, who was hired by environmental aid

    And the DUH now wants to systematically uncover and prevent this. The organization is therefore expanding its field of “ecological market surveillance” and will in future explicitly monitor advertising promises on topics such as environmental and climate protection.

    In the course of this, legal proceedings have already been initiated against dm, initially with the request to refrain from certain advertising statements – on which the company has not yet commented on request.

    At the same time, seven other companies received similar letters from environmental aid, including the Nivea manufacturer Beiersdorf, the drugstore chain Rossmann and mineral oil companies such as Shell, BP and Total Energies. The DUH accuses them all of greenwashing, i.e. the attempt to present themselves as particularly ecological without there being a sufficient basis for this.

    This involves, for example, slogans such as “climate-neutral car dealerships”, “CO2-neutral” engine oil, “climate-neutralized” shower gel or “climate-fair” air travel. The company Green Airlines, for example, promises on its own website that every flight ticket will help the environment, as screenshots from the DUH show.

    “As soon as you book a flight ticket with us, you are acting in a climate-friendly manner. With every passenger flown, we compensate for more emissions than are caused.” DUH Managing Director Jürgen Resch considers this absurd and fundamentally denounces the “phenomenon of overcompensation”, for example through the purchase of certificates.

    “The more allegedly overcompensated air travel that takes place, the better it should be for the climate in this logic.” But of course the opposite is the case. “If this sale of indulgences made sense and worked, the Federal Minister of Finance would only have to pay 19 billion euros a year for certificates and Germany would be climate-neutral on paper from now on.”

    However, this does not help climate protection. “Then no one would make any effort to really save CO2.” Resch even speaks of “climate fraud”.

    The managing director now wants the first warnings from environmental aid to be understood as a “clear signal to trade and industry”. Other cases are already in preparation. In addition, Resch calls on consumers to keep sending the DUH new sample cases.

    The reaction of the companies is different. The Berlin start-up Mother Nature, which offers an app for climate-conscious action and promises a reduction in the CO2 footprint of users, has already issued a cease-and-desist declaration, according to Agnes Sauter, head of the Ecological Market Surveillance department at the DUH.

    Another company has also announced a cease-and-desist declaration. Others, on the other hand, would refuse completely and would therefore be sued shortly. And still others have already adjusted their website to the points at issue, including Beiersdorf and Rossmann, but have not yet issued a cease-and-desist declaration. “But we will insist on that,” announces Sauter.

    Rossmann sees the situation differently. “Basically, the claim of climate neutrality for our advertised products does not constitute a violation of competition law, so we have not issued a cease-and-desist declaration,” says a spokeswoman. “We consider our previous communication on this topic to be comprehensive and transparent.”

    It should also be noted that the products or the certified, international climate protection projects at the DUH were not and are not the subject of criticism. Rather, it is about possible, formal deficiencies in communication.

    A misleading of the consumer and in particular an incorrect advertising of the climate-neutral products is and was not present at any time. “Nevertheless, we take the criticism seriously and are currently examining further optimization of communication.” There is also an open exchange with the German Environmental Aid.

    Beiersdorf reacts in a similar way. The company, which was attacked by the DUH for advertising statements about a shower gel and a night cream, is open to dialogue with consumer protection groups. Concrete offers of talks have already been made, says a spokeswoman. “However, we see no reason for a cease-and-desist declaration.”

    This was also explained to the DUH in a corresponding reply. Beiersdorf deliberately decided against the widespread term “climate neutral” and instead speaks explicitly of “climate neutralized” at the product level.

    “We are thus emphasizing to consumers that the affected products have a remaining CO2 footprint that is offset by our commitment.” To this end, “significant measures” have been taken to reduce the CO2 footprint.

    “We achieve this, for example, by using recyclate in our plastic packaging, by reducing the weight of the packaging and/or by optimizing the formulas with regard to the ingredients used. Remaining emissions are then offset by certified reforestation projects, as stated on the products and in the communication about them.”

    When selecting the projects, Beiersdorf relies on recognized standards that are also publicly available to consumers.

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