‘Eco-Friendly’ Claims Under Fire as UK Launches Probe of 3 Retailers

ASOS, sustainability, environmentalism, retail, marketing, advertising, CMA, investigation

The U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is launching an investigation into three fashion retailers for making misleading claims about their sustainability practices, according to a Friday (July 29) press release.

Fashion retailers ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda have come under scrutiny as part of an investigation looking into industry-wide attempts at so-called greenwashing — when an organization spends more resources on marketing itself as environmentally friendly than on minimizing its environmental impact.

Consumers spend more than 54 billion pounds ($65 billion) every year in the fashion sector, according to the CMA press release. An initial review by the agency “identified concerns around potentially misleading green claims,” such as companies marketing their products as better for the environment without providing much evidence.

The CMA is looking into whether ASOS, Boohoo and George’s usage of vague slogans — such as the “Responsible edit” from ASOS, Boohoo’s current “Ready for the Future” range, and “George for Good” — may have made consumers think the products are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are. The agency noted that products in these lines may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric.

“People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so confident that they aren’t being misled,” said Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA. “Eco-friendly and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine. We’ll be scrutinizing green claims from ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda to see if they stack up. Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action — through the courts if necessary.

“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,” she added.

The CMA published its Green Claims Code in September, with the goal of helping businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials without misleading shoppers.

Related: HP Exec Ellen Jackowski Joins Mastercard as Chief Sustainability Officer

Earlier this week, HP executive Ellen Jackowski joined Mastercard as the company’s chief sustainability officer. In her new role, Jackowski will be responsible for “further integrating Mastercard’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy into the organization,” according to the company press release.

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