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Fashion brands overstating their sustainability credentials could soon be named and shamed

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Sustainable label by EE Labels

A list naming and shaming greenwashing fashion businesses could soon be published if the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has its way.

Last year the government organisation warned companies had until 2022 to make sure their environmental claims comply with the law. The Green Claims Code, published last October, lays out how businesses can communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading shoppers.

Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “More people than ever are considering the environmental impact of a product before parting with their hard-earned money. We’re concerned that too many businesses are falsely taking credit for being green, while genuinely eco-friendly firms don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

“The Green Claims Code has been written for all businesses – from fashion giants and supermarket chains to local shops. Any business that fails to comply with the law risks damaging its reputation with customers and could face action from the CMA.”

The Guardian newspaper last week stated entire lines of clothing are being labelled “sustainable” and “eco-friendly”, without the company having proof that the whole process – from manufacture to delivery, packaging and sale.

How ‘eco’ are sustainable collections?

For apparel to be truly sustainable everything from fabric origin to production to shipping to waste would need to follow certain criteria. When a brand labels its ranges eco-friendly consumers should have insight into the entire supply chain and company practices as well as a product’s pollution levels.

The CMA states up to 40 percent of green claims made online could be misleading, suggesting that thousands of businesses could be breaking the law and risking their reputation.

Header 2Disclosure of environmental sustainability information

In a recommendation to Government last week, the CMA says it supports the requirement for businesses to provide environmental information in all circumstances, not just where businesses choose to make a claim about the (comparatively) positive environmental impact of their product. They also pointed out that there is currently no statutory obligation for businesses to assess or publish information on the environmental impact of their supply chains.

Brands who publish misleading or false information could soon be called out on the CMA ‘worst offenders’ list. Companies will need to clarify why certain items or collections are environment friendly and a garment’s portion of recycled fibres. A recycled t-shirt that only uses 12 percent recycled cotton is not a fully sustainable garment, for example. This would need to reflect in the item’s description.

The CMA says in order to shift consumption patterns, it is important to ensure consumers are educated and supported to make sustainable choices. The CMA’s work on greenwashing, and the legislative changes proposed, would assist in this. Existing consumer protection law can already be used to tackle some ‘dark patterns’ (manipulative online choice architecture which misleads consumers into buying things they don’t need, or that doesn’t meet their needs). These methods can lead to consumers buying more than they reasonably need.

Article source: UK Government Competition & Markets Authority