CMA investigates fashion companies over ‘green’ claims
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will scrutinise eco-friendly and sustainability claims made by ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda about their fashion products as part of an ongoing investigation into potential greenwashing.
In January this year, the CMA highlighted the fashion industry as the focus of its initial review to identify concerns around potentially misleading green claims. These included a number of companies creating the impression that their products were ‘sustainable’ or better for the environment – for example by making broad claims about the use of recycled materials in new clothing – with little to no information about the basis for those claims or exactly which products they related to.
The investigations into ASOS, Boohoo and George include whether:
- the statements and language used by the businesses are too broad and vague, and may create the impression that clothing collections – such as the ‘Responsible edit’ from ASOS, Boohoo’s current ‘Ready for the Future’ range, and ‘George for Good’ – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are
- the criteria used by some of these businesses to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions and overall presentation – for example, some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric
- some items have been included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria
- there is a lack of information provided to customers about products included in any of the companies’ eco ranges, such as missing information about what the fabric is made from
- any statements made by the companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading, such as a lack of clarity as to whether the accreditation applies to particular products or to the firm’s wider practices
Sarah Cardell, interim Chief Executive of the CMA, said fashion companies should take note. “Look at your own practices and make sure they are in line with the law,” she said.
“Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.”
The CMA has written to the three firms outlining its concerns and will use its information gathering powers to obtain evidence to progress its investigation. How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. Possible outcomes include securing undertakings from the companies to change the way they operate, taking the firms to court, or closing the case without further action.
The move comes after the CMA published its Green Claims Code in September 2021. The code aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, while avoiding the risk of misleading shoppers.
The CMA’s wider investigation into misleading environmental claims is ongoing and other sectors will come under review in due course.