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RCC Ruling on Arla "climate neutral milk"

Jurisdiction: RCC - CvB (Advertising Code Committee - appeal body)

Side A: Anonymous party

Side B: Arla (Corporation)

Core objectives: Whether the claim "climate neutral" with which Arla advertises its organic products is misleading 

The contested advertising concerned the statement "climate neutral" for Arla organic dairy on the product packaging, the website, and in videos and commercials.

The complainant argued that such claims implied that the milk had no effect on the climate. Because this environmental claim could not be substantiated, it allegedly violated articles 2 and 3 of the Code for Environmental Advertising (MRC).

The Committee was of the view that an average consumer would interpret these claims in the sense that the production of the products had no impact on the climate respectively that adverse affects were completely cancelled out. The Committee referred to a previous Ruling on Shell "Drive CO2 neutral" 1. After giving the defendant the opportunity to provide more information in an interim decision, the Committee found that Arla had not demonstrated the absolute certainty required with regard to the full and permanent offsetting of emissions through its forest projects. Thus, the accuracy of an absolute claim such as "climate neutral" had not been demonstrated as required by article 3 MRC. The advertising was therefore in breach of article 2 MRC. 

Arla subsequently appealed this decision, arguing that it met all the established and highest standards for claiming climate neutrality. Specifically, Arla stated that its 'climate neutral' claim was a relative and not an absolute one, as the claim related to a label and that it was entitled to use this label for its products. Therefore, Arla argued that this case differentiated from previous cases which had involved absolute claims. 

The appeal body confirmed the decision of the RCC in part. It found that Arla's statements were misleading to the extent that there was no clarification that the claim specifically related to the label. Thus, the appeal body found the statements to be misleading within article 2 MRC and in conjunction with article 8.3(a),(c) of the Dutch Advertising Code. The appeal body found no violation of article 2 MRC. 

Case documents

from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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