NGOs want a judge to force Danone to break free from its addiction to plastic, which often fails in nature. ClientEarth, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste France demand that the French multinational of yogurts and water bottles be condemned to plan a “trajectory of deplasticization”, 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.
The organizations are launching this procedure in France on the basis of a 2017 law on the “duty of vigilance”. This obliges large French companies to ensure respect for fundamental human rights and the environment even among their suppliers around the world.
Formal notice at the end of September
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…
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, step later in the procedure which paves the way for a hearing before the Paris court.
Danone “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 considers itself “long recognized as a pioneer in environmental risk management”. The company (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. She also regrets that the group buys vegetables that have grown in plastic greenhouses, mulched with polypropylene.
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