Sustainable Products – Are Companies Being Honest?
The theme of this week’s issue is sustainable products. Whether you’re concerned about the ethical treatment of animals or the recyclability of single-use plastics, product sustainability has become a major selling point for the environmentally conscious consumer. Companies know that a large portion of shoppers will pay more for products that have less of a negative impact on the world – but are these products living up to their advertised claims? A handful of lawsuits are saying they aren’t. From some of the biggest names in bottled water to Allbirds’ popular wool running shoes and Red Lobster’s seafood, the lawsuits are hoping to shed some light on how these companies are really operating and how consumers are affected. Plus, our top story centers on the recent recall of certain Philips CPAP machines and how consumers are taking action. And, as always, the latest in class action settlements can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.
Several CPAP, BiPAP and mechanical ventilator devices made by Philips have been recalled over possible health risks – and now, lawsuits are being filed alleging that the company has known about these risks for some time now and is not likely to offer replacements for the machines anytime soon. Philips announced the recall on June 14, 2021, stating that the products’ sound abatement foam could break down into particles that could be inhaled by the user and “off-gas” certain chemicals, including ones deemed by the European Union as “highly toxic” and unsafe for use, even as hair dye. The recall was necessary, but now consumers are on the hook for the thousands of dollars needed to replace their machines, not to mention the medical bills associated with any health complications that may have developed. (Cancer, lung irritation and asthma are among the conditions cited in the company’s recall.) A successful lawsuit could help cover replacement costs, as well as force Philips to create a medical monitoring program for patients who used the devices and are concerned about future health risks. If you own one of the devices affected by this recall (follow the link for a full list), you can share your story with us and see how you could get involved in the litigation here.
In line with our theme of companies doing their best to look like they’re helping the environment, we have a lawsuit claiming that several titans of the beverage industry have been misleading us when it comes to how recyclable their single-use water bottles really are. According to the suit, “100% recyclable” plastic water bottles sold by the Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé Waters successor BlueTriton Brands and Niagara Bottling are not living up to their advertised claims – and may barely be recyclable at all. In fact, the case claims these single-use plastics cause significant environmental damage even when properly disposed of, stating that they are likely to end up in landfills anyway since they’re mostly unable to be reprocessed into usable materials. The companies at issue are behind several of the top bottled water brands, including Dasani and Poland Spring, so for a closer look at the products mentioned in the lawsuit, check out this page.
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Allbirds, the company behind the popular “sustainable” wool running sneakers, is facing a lawsuit that claims the company misled customers about its shoes’ carbon footprint and the welfare of the sheep providing its wool. The lawsuit claims that Allbirds’ carbon footprint estimation fails to account for a significant portion of the shoe’s environmental impact and that the company skewed the numbers in its favor to “make more significant environmental claims.” As far as animal welfare goes, Allbirds has promoted “happy” sheep while “hiding behind empty welfare policies that do little to stop animal suffering,” according to the case. The lawsuit goes on to allege that despite representations from Allbirds’ sheep supplier that its sheep “live the good life,” such claims are “not feasible” given that individual care in such large production operations “has to be almost or absolutely nonexistent.” We have more details on the case for you right here.
In another case filed over a product’s sustainability, we find Red Lobster accused of deceptively marketing and selling its Maine lobster and shrimp dishes as “sustainably sourced” despite claims that the seafood may come from suppliers who use “environmentally harmful and inhumane practices.” Red Lobster represents these menu choices with language such as “seafood with standards,” “sustainable,” “traceable” and “responsible.” The lawsuit claims, however, that such statements cannot be true given the lobster is sourced from suppliers whose practices threaten endangered North Atlantic right whale populations and the shrimp is sourced from industrial shrimp farms that “do not employ the highest environmental or animal welfare standards.” The lawsuit goes on to allege that consumers will inaccurately conclude from Red Lobster’s sustainability claims that its lobster and shrimp have been responsibly sourced and will ultimately end up paying more than they would have had they known the truth. You can keep reading about the claims – and the restaurant dishes at issue – over on this page.
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