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Fashion manufacturers investigated for greenwashing claims

The UK’s competition watchdog is investigating claims made by Asda, Asos and Boohoo about the sustainability of their fashion products.

The concerns centre around the use of vague language which may give the impression that clothing is more sustainable than it is in reality. 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would not hesitate to take action if it finds that the three companies have made misleading claims.

This is part of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into ‘greenwashing’ - when brands present the image of doing something environmentally friendly which may not correspond with the reality. 

In January, an initial review highlighted concerns about claims that could be misleading, for example companies that say they are using recycled materials in new clothing without backing it up with the relevant information.

The CMA is investigating whether the broad and vague phrases that these three companies are using could make customers think clothing collections are more sustainable than they actually are. In particular, the ‘Responsible edit’ from Asos, ‘Ready for the Future’ from Boohoo and ‘George for Good’ at Asda.

The investigation is looking into which clothes make it into these collections and if they live up to the standard that customers might expect, for example some products in these collections may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric. It is also investigating a lack of clarity over accreditation schemes - which products they apply to and what they translate to in terms of standards.

Lecturer in marketing, fashion and sustainability at Glasgow Caledonian University, Dr Elaine Ritch, said that in her opinion greenwashing was "prevalent" in the fashion industry. 

Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, said: “Eco-friendly and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine.

"This is just the start of our work in this sector and all fashion companies should take note: look at your own practices and make sure they are in line with the law."

All three companies have responded to say they will work with the CMA to clear up any queries they might have.

The CMA published its Green Claims Code in September 2021 to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials without misleading consumers.

John Martin