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Asos, Boohoo, Asda investigated by UK watchdog over ‘green’ claims

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Asos x Nordstrom, New York City

A UK watchdog has launched an investigation into Asos, Boohoo, and Asda over their “green” claims.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it wants to “get to the bottom” of whether the three companies are “misleading customers” over their products’ sustainability credentials.

The move is part of the CMA’s recent effort to crack down on greenwashing across industries.

In September 2021, the watchdog published The Green Claims Code, which lays out how businesses can communicate their green credentials in an honest and accurate way without misleading shoppers.

In January, the CMA turned its focus to the fashion industry, which is notoriously a bad offender when it comes to inflated sustainability claims.

Since the introduction of The Green Claims Code last year, five out of 21 greenwashing complaints made to the CMA were related to the fashion industry, according to research from international law firm RPC.

The CMA said Friday it will investigate whether the language used by Asos, Boohoo, and Asda to describe their respective sustainability ranges are “too broad and vague”.

UK watchdog launches greenwashing investigation

It will also examine whether the criteria used to include a product in these ranges is “lower than customers might reasonably expect”, citing an example of products comprising as little as 20 percent recycled fabric.

Additionally, it will investigate whether certain items are included in collections even when they don’t meet these requirements, or whether there is missing information about products included in the eco ranges, such as what fabrics they’re made of.

Finally, the CMA said it will examine whether statements made 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 in a statement: “People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so confident that they aren’t being misled. Eco-friendly and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine.”

She said if green claims made by the companies don’t “stack up”, the CMA “won’t hesitate to take enforcement action - through the courts if necessary”.

Cardell added: “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.”

The CMA said it has contacted all three companies, all of which have released statements saying they will cooperate with the investigation.

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