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A food manufacturer had affixed the label “climate-neutral product” to the packaging of a jam, among other things, and was therefore warned by an association. He was accused of deception. The association justified this with the fact that consumers would assume with such an advertisement that the production of the product proceeded climaticneutrally. However, an average consumer would not know that climate neutrality could also be achieved through compensatory measures, such as reforestation projects in South America in this specific case. In addition, the advertising had not been explained. The company objected to this and replied that it was generally known that it was not possible to manufacture products without emissions. It was also irrelevant to the consumer how climate neutrality had been achieved. The legal dispute was then brought before the Mönchengladbach Regional Court. The court granted the association’s injunction, whereupon the company appealed.


Although the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court rejected the company’s appeal, it reasoned differently from the Mönchengladbach Regional Court as to whether the advertising was unfair. The company was found to be in the right insofar as the OLG stated that the average consumer would understand the term “climate neutral” in the sense of a balanced balance of the company’s CO₂ emissions, which could be achieved both by avoiding emissions and by compensation measures.

Nevertheless, the specific jam advertisement was unfairly abbreviated, because the company withheld essential information from the consumer. Climate protection and the debate about so-called “greenwashing” that has been conducted in the course of this debate have increasingly developed into topics that determine everyday life. Advertising the climate neutrality of a product could therefore have a significant influence on the purchase decision. The consumer must be put in a position to take an informed decision in this regard. In this regard, the court stated:

Gerade wenn der Verbraucher – wie dargetan – weiß, dass eine ausgeglichene Klimabilanz auch durch Kompensationszahlungen erreicht werden kann, besteht ein Interesse an einer Aufklärung über grundlegende Umstände der von dem Unternehmen beanspruchten Klimaneutralität … Der Zertifikatehandel und andere Kompensationsmöglichkeiten stehen – jedenfalls aus Verbrauchersicht – in dem Verdacht, das betreffende Unternehmen betreibe nur sog. „Greenwashing“, ohne dass der Klimaschutz tatsächlich maßgeblich verbessert. Der Verbraucher hat daher – neben der Frage, welche Produktionsvorgänge einberechnet werden – ein erhebliches Interesse an der Information, ob die Klimaneutralität (auch) durch eigene Einsparmaßnahmen erreicht wird oder nur durch den Erwerb von CO₂-Zertifikaten beziehungsweise durch die Unterstützung von Klimaprojekten Dritter (…), darüber hinaus – da bestimmte Ausgleichsmaßnahmen umstritten sind – die Art der Ausgleichsmaßnahmen.

The Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf allowed the appeal because the question of permissible advertising with the term “climate neutral” has not yet been decided by the highest court.


The decision of the OLG Düsseldorf continues the principle developed by case law, according to which an advertisement with a distinguishing feature must always be explained.

Similar to advertising with test results, for example, the advertiser is obliged to provide the consumer with information that enables him to understand the special feature of the product or to check the criteria used to evaluate the special feature.