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Survey finds consumers want harsher penalties for businesses caught greenwashing

Consumers have not only lost faith in what businesses say about their green and sustainability credentials, following a number of greenwashing scandals, but are also calling for harsher punishments and decisive action to cut down on the practice, according to new research from law firm Leigh Day.

Posted on 16 March 2023

In a survey of 2,010 people, 75% said they wanted to see harsher penalties for corporations caught greenwashing, with 77% feeling that companies put profits before the environmental impact of their products, and 60% agreeing that senior executives should face prison for environmental crimes.
 
The dieselgate emissions scandal could be said to be a classic example of greenwashing. The scandal relates to allegations that manufacturers fitted software to some diesel engines to cheat emissions tests. That would mean that affected cars emit higher levels of pollution than they should and that they don’t meet the necessary legal standards.

For half of those surveyed, the dieselgate scandal was the first time they realised businesses were actively greenwashing to deceive customers. Meanwhile, 70% said they have since lost confidence in what companies say regarding their sustainability and environmental commitments as a result.
 
While the scandal broke in 2015 in relation to Volkswagen a large number of other manufacturers have now been implicated in the scandal and have ongoing legal cases against them.
 
Daniel Leader, partner representing drivers in over 15,000 claims against Volvo for alleged emissions test cheating, said:
 
“It is clear that those surveyed feel that companies caught greenwashing or breaking the law need to be held to account in a way which is a deterrent.  One way consumers can send a clear message that greenwashing will not be tolerated is to make sure that companies are held to account.
 
“We are currently working on a number of legal actions against car manufacturers for the alleged use of cheat devices in diesel vehicles which we believe resulted in affected cars emitting much higher levels of toxic emissions than should have been permitted. We believe our clients were deliberately misled over the environmental performance of their vehicles and as a result are entitled to financial compensation.”
 
Those who own or lease a diesel vehicle can check if they are eligible to sign up to one of the diesel emissions legal group claims, such as the one we are taking against Volvo, on our website.

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Daniel Leader
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Daniel Leader

International human rights, business human rights and corporate accountability lawyer

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