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| 1 minute read

Dairy industry may also advertise sustainability

In a YouTube video the dairy producer Melkunie claims to be on the sustainable tour: Melkunie is planting 40,000 trees. That's not greenwashing. Why not? Melkunie does what it says and also explains its sustainability claim. The fact that dairy production has harmful effects on the environment does not mean that Melkunie should no longer use the word sustainable. 

In the animated video, a cow explains that 40,000 trees and shrubs are being planted on and around Dutch farms. The video ends with the text: 'That's great for biodiversity'. And 'on the sustainable tour'. Good one. From Melkunie.

This video is a thorn in the side of the complainant. Although he believes that planting trees does give an improvement in biodiversity (compared to not planting them), this still is a drop in the bucket. Therefore, it would be greenwashing. After all, the dairy industry has a major impact on biodiversity (CO2 emissions, cutting down forests in South America for soy, etc.).

Arla Foods can show that it financially stimulates its dairy farmers to actually implement all kinds of sustainability actions. And that, in cooperation with Trees for All and BoerenNatuur (FarmerNature), it plants 125,000 trees and shrubs at farms in the Netherlands, 40,000 of them from Melkunie.

The significance of this ruling by the ACC (in Dutch) is that dairy manufacturers are entitled to advertise the sustainability activities they undertake. There is no total ban on sustainability claims for the dairy industry, even though the dairy industry in general has a negative impact on the environment. The average consumer can be assumed to be familiar with the harmful effects of dairy farming and dairy production. That those unfortunate effects exist, does not cause the statement to be misleading for that reason alone. Of course, the sustainability claim must be duly made: in line with the Sustainability Advertising Code (in Dutch) and the Guidelines sustainability claims of the ACM. Melkunie plants trees and shrubs around farms. This is indeed nice for biodiversity. It is not suggested that this removes the harmful effects of dairy production. In short: the video is not greenwashing.

Ebba Hoogenraad handled this case for Arla Foods.

3 October 2023


advertising law