French yogurt maker and bottled water Danone is being brought to court by three environmental groups accusing it of failing to adequately reduce its plastic footprint.
Both groups said the company behind Evian and Volvic mineral water had failed to perform its duties to operate under pioneering French law.
The 2017 “duty of vigilance” law mandates monitoring human rights and environmental concerns within large French companies and their supply chains. It is increasingly being used by NGOs against multinational companies, as part of a growing trend of climate litigation.
Danone has been named, along with Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle, as one of the world’s top 10 plastic polluters, according to Brand audit in December.
Rosa Pritchard, attorney Earth client“Danone is moving forward without a serious plan to tackle the plastic, despite the clear concern of climate, health and consumer experts, and the legal obligation to confront the problem,” said one of the groups taking the action. She added that the company’s mandatory “Vigilance Plan”, listing the company’s environmental and social impacts, was “completely silent on plastics”.
Danone has denied the accusation. We are very surprised by this accusation, which we strongly refute. Danone has long been recognized as a leader in environmental risk management, and we remain fully committed and determined to act responsibly.
“We are implementing a comprehensive framework of actions aimed at reducing plastic use, developing reuse, promoting collection and recycling schemes, and developing alternative materials. We have already made significant progress on each of these fronts, particularly in terms of plastic reduction, for example. , with a decline of 12% globally (60,000 tons in absolute terms) between 2018 and 2021.”
She said ending plastic pollution cannot come from one company, and requires the mobilization of all actors, public and industry. “This is why we are in favor of adopting a legally binding international treaty, under the auspices of the United Nations,” Danon said.
The lawsuit, one of several recent legal actions targeting plastic pollutants, was filed at the Paris Judicial Court this week. Surfrider, ClientEarth, and Zero waste FranceThey said they wanted the company to accept accountability for its use of plastic.
“We want Danone to republish its mandatory duty of care report and specifically account for plastic use, including a concrete strategy to reduce it,” said Antidia Citores, spokesperson for Ocean Advocates. Surfrider Europe Foundationto Reuters.
In September, the groups formally notified Danone, giving the company the opportunity to correct its “vigilance plan”. The company responded to the official notification letter, but the NGO argues that the response was insufficient and did not adequately address its claims.
The French law was introduced after the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, in which 1,100 people were killed in the collapse of a clothing factory used by Western fashion brands. The lack of accountability for brands has led to pressure from human rights groups and others to campaign for more corporate responsibility.
Danone is present in 120 countries, including Indonesia and Turkey, which receive much of the West’s plastic waste. Danone It has topped Indonesia’s plastic pollutant brand audit rating for the past three years.
ClientEarth said Danone annually uses more than 74 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower in plastic. In 2021, it used 750,000 tons, more than the 716,500 tons used in 2020, according to its 2021 financial report.
The groups are calling on judges in a civil court in Paris to force the company to issue a new plan within six months that includes phasing out plastics.
The case is one of several legal cases brought by NGOs following a landmark international agreement to stem the rising tide of plastic waste. In March 2022, world leaders agreed to put in place a legally binding treaty over the next two years that would cover the full life cycle of plastics from production to disposal.
Only 9% of plastic waste It is never recycled. Plastics are difficult to recycle, slow to decompose, expensive and polluting to incinerate; It breaks down into small and widespread particles that enter the food chain and cause harm to animals.
Over the past seven decades, plastic production has risen from 1 million tons in 1950 to 460 million tons in 2019, and is expected to triple by 2060. Most waste ends up in landfills, in incinerators, or seeps into the environment, according to to me Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Danone said it is committed, by 2025, to reusing, recycling or composting plastic packaging.