Client Earth sues Danone over ‘plastic megapollution’

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Three environmental groups are filing a lawsuit against Danone over the company’s record on plastic pollution.

ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste France have filed the lawsuit against the French company, whose annual sales top more than £24bn euros, in the Paris Tribunal Judiciaire – the equivalent of the UK High Court.

The French ‘Duty of Vigilance’ law demands that companies over a certain size assess and prevent the impacts their operations have on the environment and human rights, via a ‘vigilance plan’.

‘Silent on plastics’
The groups allege that Danone is not doing enough to reduce its plastic footprint ands is “failing to live up to its duties under the law. They claim that the company’s ‘vigilance plan’ is “completely silent on plastics” despite using more than 700,000 tonnes of plastics for its packaging – the equivalent of almost 75 Eiffel towers – an increase over 2020.

Plastics are present throughout its value chain. Danone owns well-known brands such as Evian, Volvic and Activia. The company is truly global, with its products available in more than 120 countries.

It also has a large presence in countries which are on the receiving end of the Western world’s plastic excesses, putting further strain on their waste management facilities, such as Tunisia, Turkey and Indonesia. 

ClientEarth plastics lawyer Rosa Pritchard said: “Danone is trudging ahead without a serious plan to deal with plastics, despite clear concern from climate and health experts and consumers, and a legal obligation to face up to the issue.

“It continues to rely on single-use plastic packaging in the hopes that recycling will miraculously deal with the flood of plastics it puts on the market. But recycling is a limited solution as only 9% of plastics ever made have been recycled. It’s unrealistic for food giants like Danone to pretend recycling is the silver bullet.”

“It’s 2023 and high time Danone started implementing proper solutions such as refill and reuse beyond a few pilots to give consumers real access to a sustainable model. It needs to deplastify now.”

Strongly refuted
Danone says it is “very surprised” by the accusation, which it “strongly refutes”. In a statement the company said: “Danone has long been recognized as a pioneer in environmental risk management, and we remain fully committed and determined to act responsibly

“Putting an end to plastic pollution cannot come from one single company and requires the mobilisation of all players, public and industrial, while respecting the imperatives of food safety. This is why we support the adoption, under the aegis of the UN, of a legally binding international treaty.” 

Image: Plastic pollution is a global problem.

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