Another police report for misleading sustainability marketing

Do you call your business or product sustainable? Then watch out! This has landed BMW Denmark in trouble.



The Danish Consumer Ombudsman has today reported BMW to the police for misleading marketing about sustainability. The photo is from the Consumer Ombudsman’s website.

In recent months, the Consumer Ombudsman’s criticism of greenwashing and misleading marketing has caused much debate and uncertainty among Danish companies. Today, BMW Denmark has been reported to the police for marketing itself as the world’s most sustainable car manufacturer.

These cases show that companies need to be extremely cautious about using vague and unsubstantiated statements such as ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘green’ in their communications.

Misleading marketing can have serious consequences for businesses. As well as undermining consumer confidence, it can lead to lawsuits, police reports and reputational damage.

Proving that you are the world’s most sustainable in your industry is exceptionally difficult, as it also requires both thorough and reliable data from your competitors and their subcontractors. This is the trap that BMW Denmark has fallen into.

Document your sustainability

A crucial factor in avoiding misleading marketing is documentation. Companies should be able to substantiate the claims they make about their sustainability efforts. This may include life cycle assessments, independent certifications or external assessments of company practices. By having concrete and reliable data, companies can back up their claims and avoid casting doubt on their honesty.

Credible communication about sustainability and ESG is essential to build trust with consumers if you want to truly support the green transition. When companies market themselves as sustainable, they need to document and substantiate their claims. If companies use sustainability as part of their strategic communication or marketing, consumers have a right to know what companies are actually doing to promote sustainability. By being open about their efforts and using accurate information, companies can avoid consumers feeling misled and instead build trust around their green initiatives.

Need for international coordination

While it’s important to have clear rules and guidelines at a national level, a coordinated approach across borders is also necessary. Harmonizing rules and standards for sustainability marketing at the EU level can help Danish companies avoid competitive disadvantages. By establishing common guidelines for sustainable marketing, we can ensure that companies operate under a level playing field and avoid unnecessary uncertainty.

On the one hand, Danish companies are at a disadvantage in international competition if they only have to comply with the Consumer Ombudsman’s requirements, but on the other hand, it can be an advantage for Danish companies if the Consumer Ombudsman’s strict requirements become internationally known. In some cases, it can be worth using in communication.

We have previously written about the Consumer Ombudsman’s greenwashing allegations creating legal uncertainty in Børsen.

Still not sure if your sustainability communication complies with the law?

As a PR agency with a focus on sustainability and ESG communication, we can help companies navigate this complex landscape and ensure their messages are credible and transparent.

If you are unsure whether your company is in violation of the Danish Marketing Practices Act, let’s have a non-binding conversation on +45 4142 3635 or mark@kempkjaer.dk. We can help you assess how to communicate without breaking the law, and when in doubt, we work with lawyers who know the issues inside out.