Danone sued by NGOs for plastic pollution

ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste France demand that Danone be ordered to plan a “deplasticization trajectory”, or exit from plastic, judging its efforts insufficient. “We are well aware that this cannot be done overnight but it must start today,” argued Antidia Citores, spokesperson for the NGO coalition.

And to do so, these three NGOs want a judge to force the French multinational yogurt and water bottles to free itself from its addiction to plastic which often fails in nature, in a summons consulted this Monday by AFP . The organizations are launching this procedure in France on the basis of a 2017 law on “duty of vigilance”, which obliges large French companies to ensure respect for fundamental human rights and the environment right down to their suppliers. of the whole world.

A “duty of care”

This “duty of vigilance” is increasingly used by associations to sue large groups and publicize controversial activities: TotalEnergies for an oil project in Uganda and Tanzania, EDF for a wind project in Mexico, Suez in 2021 for its water management in a city in Chile, BNP Paribas for its financing of new oil and gas projects, etc.

Danone had first been given formal notice at the end of September by the coalition of NGOs, at the same time as eight behemoths of the food industry and distribution (Auchan, Carrefour, Lactalis, etc.) The coalition only assigned Danone , a later stage in the procedure which paves the way for a hearing before the Paris court. “The dialogue is still ongoing with the others (companies). It is not excluded that they must also be accountable to French justice,” said one of the NGO lawyers, Sébastien Mabile.

Danone says it is “very surprised” by the approach

Danone opens the ball, say the NGOs, in particular because the group does not mention plastic pollution in its “vigilance plan” although it is among the ten biggest “plastic polluters” in the world, behind Coca Cola, Pepsico or Nestlé, according to the “Break free from plastic” movement.

Danone says it is “very surprised” by the approach. The company, which notably produces yogurts of the same name and bottled waters (Volvic, Evian or Aqua in Indonesia), considers itself “long recognized as a pioneering company in the management of environmental risks”. The company claims to implement a “comprehensive framework of actions aimed at reducing the use of plastic, developing reuse, contributing to the strengthening of collection and recycling channels so that plastic remains outside nature and developing research on alternative materials.

Eliminate plastic at the source

Danone (100,000 employees, more than 24 billion euros in annual turnover) used nearly 751,000 tonnes of plastic in 2021, according to its latest annual report. The group has set itself the goal of designing “100% recyclable, reusable or compostable” packaging by 2025.

NGOs criticize it for betting on recycling its packaging rather than dealing with the problem at the source by reducing its use of plastic, in favor of returnable bottles, for example. “Recycled plastic does not prevent having plastics at the bottom of the ocean”, summarizes Antidia Citores. She also regrets that the group buys – for example for baby Blédina meals – vegetables that have grown under plastic greenhouses, mulched with polypropylene.

More broadly, activists demand that the “extremely serious environmental damage” resulting from its activities cease, underlines Me Mabile. The objective, he adds, is “to put the question of plastic on the agenda of companies at the same level as the question of the climate”, so that they reduce their plastic footprint in the same way as their carbon footprint. .

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