Thursday, February 22, 2024

Sheep’s Clothes: Courtroom Dismisses Lawsuit Over Allbirds’ Carbon Footprint and Animal Welfare Claims


Decide Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York not too long ago dismissed a putative class motion lawsuit difficult varied environmental influence and animal welfare claims made by Allbirds in advertisements for its wool footwear.  In doing so, the court docket decided that plaintiff’s allegations, which largely consisted of criticisms of the wool trade basically, didn’t plausibly allege that Allbirds’s descriptions of its personal practices had been false or deceptive. Dwyer v. Allbirds, Inc., 7:21-cv-05238-CS (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 18, 2022).

Plaintiff’s criticism centered on two classes of claims: 1) claims about animal welfare, together with claims that Allbirds’s sheep “Dwell The Good Life” and are handled “humanely,” and depictions of Allbirds’s sheep as “completely satisfied,” and dwelling in “pastoral settings”; and a pair of) claims about Allbirds’s environmental influence, together with “Sustainability Meets Type,” “Low Carbon Footprint,” “Environmentally Pleasant,” “Made with Sustainable Wool,” “Reversing Local weather Change,” and “Our Sustainable Practices.”

Animal Welfare Claims

Plaintiff alleged Allbirds’s animal welfare claims are deceptive as a result of “[e]conomic realities dictate – and require – that each one sheep bred for wool are additionally slaughtered and offered for his or her meat,” and investigations of greater than 100 large-scale wool operations have revealed inhumane situations. In line with plaintiff, Allbirds’s sheep can not “reside the great life” when it’s unimaginable to supply particular person care to sheep raised in massive numbers.

The court docket rejected plaintiff’s claims as a result of plaintiff alleged nothing associated to the wool utilized by Allbirds specifically. For instance, the court docket famous that plaintiff didn’t plausibly allege that Allbirds works with any of the 100 farms within the cited investigation. And in contrast to in Lee v. Canada Goose – a case we beforehand blogged about involving comparable allegations – plaintiff didn’t plausibly slender Allbirds’s sourcing to areas or firms extremely probably to make use of inhumane strategies.

Plaintiff additionally criticized Allbirds’s licensed wool provider, however the court docket discovered that plaintiff’s allegations went to the provider’s methodology for certifying farms and didn’t quantity to allegations that inhumane practices happen at these farms.

Additional, in a choice paying homage to Ehlers v. Ben & Jerry’s, the court docket discovered that the depictions of “completely satisfied” sheep in “pastoral settings” had been “clearly supposed to be humorous” and wouldn’t be understood as making a factual declare on which an affordable shopper would rely.  The court docket referred to as these depictions and the assertion that “Our Sheep Dwell The Good Life” “basic puffery.”

Environmental Impression Claims

Plaintiff alleged Allbirds’s environmental influence claims are deceptive as a result of they’re based mostly on instruments that solely measure the carbon footprint of every product, with out assessing wool manufacturing’s different environmental impacts. In line with plaintiff, if Allbirds had calculated the carbon footprint from sheep farming total, versus the carbon footprint generated solely by its merchandise, its environmental influence figures can be considerably greater.

The court docket discovered that merely criticizing this technique was not sufficient to state a declare. Importantly, the court docket famous that Allbirds’s promoting makes clear what’s included in its carbon footprint calculation. Though plaintiff believed Allbirds ought to have used a distinct technique to measure its carbon footprint – one that features your complete lifecycle of wool manufacturing – the court docket discovered this doesn’t plausibly allege that Allbirds’s environmental influence claims are materially deceptive.

As mentioned in our submit on Lee v. Canada Goose, animal welfare and sustainability-related class actions are on the rise. This choice serves as a reminder that advertisers must be cautious to not overstate the breadth of their carbon footprint analyses. When making carbon footprint claims, advertisers ought to be sure you disclose any limitations or assumptions that go into their claims (as Allbirds did right here). Moreover, the court docket’s choice right here could curtail the influence of Lee on future class actions of this type. In reality, Decide Seibel explicitly questioned the reasoning of Lee, noting that she is “unsure [she] would have reached the identical conclusion.” Following Dwyer, Lee could successfully be cabined to circumstances the place a plaintiff is ready to plausibly slender an advertiser’s sourcing to firms that use inhumane or unsustainable practices. In different phrases, generalized allegations about trade practices might not be adequate. Watch this area for additional developments.

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