COP27 sponsor Coca-Cola reported for greenwashing

Update 13 December 2022: The ASA Council has made a decision not to investigate Coca-Cola’s adverts, saying: “Council considered that the ads were specifically highlighting the specific aspect of Coca-Cola’s product whereby the bottle and cap are connected, rather than the benefits of recycling or Coca-Cola’s overall environmental impact and would be interpreted as such by those who saw them. Council also noted that the ads were not making broad image claims about Coca-Cola and the positive impact that this aspect of their product would have on the environment or climate. Therefore, Council concluded that the ads were unlikely to mislead on the basis suggested.

Original post: Greenwash alert! Adverts for Coca-Cola which promote an attached-caps recycling scheme under the slogan ‘Together for Good‘ have been reported to the Advertising Standards Authority for giving a false impression of Coca-Cola – the world’s top plastics polluter – as doing its bit for the environment.

Seeing the ads give the overall impression that Coca-Cola is helping to reduce plastic waste, and that buying Coke, Fanta and Sprite would be an environmentally-friendly choice. However, some crucial information is missing from the ads (surprise!).

As we detailed in our complaint to the ASA, Coca-Cola is by far the world’s top producer of both plastic packaging and plastic waste, contributing to a global plastics crisis that recycling cannot possibly keep up with. Helping out? We don’t think so.

“The adverts misleadingly portray Coca-Cola as socially and environmentally responsible while omitting this material information regarding the company’s enormous contribution to global plastics pollution and associated impacts on the climate, nature and public health, as well as the inefficacy of recycling as a way to address these.”

The ads are also a classic example of passing the onus to the consumer to clean up a mega-corporation’s ruinous activities. Just like when fossil fuel giant BP invented the ‘carbon calculator’ for individual people to measure their own carbon footprint (errr hello BP?), Coca-Cola’s ads deflect attention away from its own activities, i.e. churning out some 200,000 plastic bottles every minute, to place the responsibility on us to recycle.

Also recycling doesn’t work. We need deposit return schemes (Coca-Cola has lobbied against those) and a massive reduction in single-use plastics that are choking our oceans and rivers and altering entire ecosystems.

Coca-Cola has recently come under fire over its sponsorship of this year’s international climate summit, with almost 240,000 people signing a petition to remove the company as COP27 sponsor before the summit began this week. We’re asking the ASA to act to remove these bogus Together for Good adverts and make sure Coca-Cola doesn’t pollute our spaces with similar misleading greenwash in the future.

If you want to make a complaint to the ad regulator, simply go to the ASA’s Make a complaint webpage and add a couple of paragraphs about why you object to the advert (here’s a summary of our complaint if you’d like some pointers, but bear in mind your complaint doesn’t have to be long). You can attach a photo of the advert – either one you’ve spotted yourself or one taken from this blog. Contact us at hello@adfreecities.org.uk if you’d like more info or if we can support.

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