Greenpeace dobs Toyota into the ACCC for alleged greenwashing through ‘misleading advertising’

Greenpeace Australia Pacific has asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to investigate environmental claims made in Toyota’s advertising, following its investigation into greenwashing.

The request, which concerns the environmental performance of the motor company’s vehicles, and its net zero ambitions, alleges Toyota is misleadingly marketing itself, to give the “false impression” it is leading the transition to clean cars.

Director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s electrify campaign, Lindsay Soutar

It comes a day after the ACCC revealed it would be asking more than 100 businesses suspected of greenwashing to substantiate their claims, after an internet sweep of 247 business’ websites revealed 57% had made concerning environmental claims.

Speaking to Mumbrella, director of Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s Electrify campaign, Lindsay Soutar, said the organisation believed “Toyota’s advertising is misleading Australian consumers by understating its car emissions and overstating its commitment to clean electric transport.”

She continued: “Toyota makes claims in its advertising that give the false impression the company is leading the transition to clean cars when the truth is, it’s not leading on the switch, and in fact has a track record of working globally to block the take up of electric vehicles.”

In statement sent to Mumbrella, a Toyota Australia spokesperson said: “Toyota Australia has a long track record in helping customers reduce their vehicle emissions, including through the supply of over 315,000 hybrid-electric vehicles and investment in reduced tailpipe emissions vehicles and carbon-neutral technologies. We are committed to achieving a sustainable future and reject any claims to the contrary.”

In 2021 an InfluenceMap report named Toyota as the company with the third most negative influence relating to Paris Agreement-aligned climate police, after ExxonMobil and Chevron.

It is not the first time Greenpeace has singled Toyota out for greenwashing, with East Asia division of the group having last year ranked the motor company dead last in its Auto Environmental Guide 2022. At the time, Green Peace Australia Pacific also released its own report, Under the Hood: The Truth About Toyota, which alleged Australians had misplaced trust in Toyota’s commitment to a cleaner future, pointing to the corporation’s “well-documented international lobbying against measures to reduce climate pollution from transport”.

Soutar said Greenpeace would continue to call Toyota out, as it believes consumers are increasingly invested in the environmental, and should be “empowered to make green choices” when it comes to car-buying.

“Toyota is Australia’s most trusted car brand, but we have looked into it and we believe they’re not being upfront, so we’re calling it out. We’ll continue to do that until they improve their performance.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific’s complaint to the ACCC was filed on behalf of Greenpeace by the Environmental Defenders Office, outlining a number of advertising materials and claims that have been used in the Australian market by Toyota.

One spot pinpointed in the complaint includes a 2022 Toyota Mirai ad, which claimed the Toyota Mirai model featured produced less CO2 than a human on a run.

“The people — and, increasingly, the corporate regulators — are calling out these misleading practices and holding these corporations to account.,” said Environmental Defenders Office managing lawyer Kirsty Ruddock.

“If companies like Toyota continue to behave in this manner, they run the very real risk of eroding their social licence and seriously damaging their brand and their customer base.”

Toyota is not the first car manufacturer to be hit with greenwashing claims, after Volkswagen was infamously handed a record $125 million penalty by the ACCC in 2019 for misrepresenting its compliance with Australian diesel emissions standards, in regards to more than 57,000 diesel vehicles imported between 2011 and 2015.

In 2021, Volkswagen’s appeal against the fine was dismissed by the Federal Court, and was later denied special leave by The High Court to appeal the penalty.

The full complaint made to the ACCC can be viewed here.


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