Industry / Legal

Greenwashing Class Actions on the Rise, Says JVC


Class actions over environmental claims have become a hot trend in the legal world, and jewelry companies should take precautions to ensure they’re not the next target, Jewelers Vigilance Committee (JVC) president and CEO Tiffany Stevens said in a presentation March 11 during the Plumb Club’s Symposium ’24 in New York City.

Stevens (pictured) advised retailers and brands to adhere strictly to the Federal Trade Commission’s Green Guides—because class action lawyers are watching.

“I get a notification every day about a new greenwashing class action lawsuit,” she told Symposium attendees. “You can no longer think, ‘I’ll make these vague claims and hope for the best.’ We have entered a new space where vague claims are now actionable. If you say something and you can’t back it up, you may face legal consequences.”

Stevens tells JCK she’s not aware of jewelry businesses being targeted by eco-suits, which so far are aimed mostly at food and fashion companies. But she adds: “If I were a general counsel or CEO of a major jewelry brand, I would be worried about this and directing my marketing team to be incredibly cautious.”

She notes the claims have had mixed success.

For instance, in January a widely watched lawsuit over water brand Danone’s use of the term carbon neutral survived a motion to dismiss in New York federal court.

Plaintiffs had argued that the phrase could mislead consumers into thinking no carbon was involved in the water’s production. Judge Nelson A. Román agreed, saying carbon-neutral is “ambiguous” and potentially confusing to the public.

“[Danone] expects too much from consumers to learn what it means when it places carbon neutral on the product label,” wrote the judge.

On the other hand, a greenwashing claim against retailer H&M went nowhere. In a suit filed in 2022, plaintiffs alleged the retailer’s advertising for its Conscious Choice clothing line contained “false and misleading environmental scorecards.” The suit was dropped in December 2023.

A list of different environment-related class actions can be seen on this website.

(Photo courtesy of the JVC)

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By: Rob Bates

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