Greenwashing fashion brands under fire from UK regulations
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Misleading eco-claims by British fashion brands should be punished. Those who violate consumer protection law will be liable for revised advertising fees and possible legal action. This decision is made to avoid inaccurate and false environmental claims. The fashion industry has been singled out for greenwashing investigations due to its scale and global impact.
The UK government’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will lead the charge to uncover unsubstantiated environmental claims under a new Green Claims Code. It comes after increased consumer awareness has popularized seemingly greener clothing options, but the number of companies claiming responsibility has not necessarily been matched by action. The authority has already published guidelines for consumers to help identify greenwashing.
A worrying trend
The fashion industry is a major contributor to carbon emissions. As brands at all price points feel compelled to reduce their footprint, concerns about greenwashing practices are growing. Fashion should be presented as an example of what happens to offenders.
“Now is the time for the fashion industry to review what it says to customers and make the necessary changes to comply with the law,” said Cecilia Parker Aranha, director of consumer protection at the CMA. The Guardian. Companies that cannot substantiate their claims risk legal action from the MAC and long-term reputational damage.
Growing consumer distrust follows the A Changing Markets Foundation report in 2021. Looking at the use of synthetic fibers in the fashion industry in the UK and Europe, the results were discouraging. Of the 46 brands analyzed, 60% were found to make misleading or simply false claims regarding their eco-commitment. Major offenders included fast-fashion giant ASOS, the frequently referred to chain Zara and alleged eco-champion H&M. The latter was found guilty of particularly deceptive marketing and non-environmental clothing production.
The report pointed out that H&M’s conscious collection used more synthetic fibers than its regular lines. In addition, one in five parts were made from 100% fossil fuel-based synthetic materials. The brand hit back by saying it invests in recycling technologies and is certified by credible programs, including the Global Recycled Standard. This came after the report noted that polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles is not a long-term solution. Recyclability of clothing is key and H&M has been terribly short. Like many of its other brands.
“While brands are quick to capitalize on consumer concerns using sustainability as a marketing ploy, the vast majority of these claims are all fluff and flimsy,” Urska Trunk, campaign manager for Changing Markets said in a statement. “As they green their clothing collections, they are simultaneously dragging their feet in embracing truly circular solutions, such as not making the necessary investments to ensure a future in which clothes can be recycled into clothing.”
Levi’s just announced that it will do just that, with liquefied jeans used to make new batches.
Time is up
Time has been called on false eco-claims. The CMA has given companies until December 31, 2021 to substantiate their credentials or adapt their marketing materials to remove spurious claims. Launching a survey of greenwashing in 2020, the authority estimated that up to 40% of green claims, across all industries, could be false.
Action is taken against offenders. The Advertising Standards Authority has already imposed fines and restrictions on large companies, setting a precedent for others. Both BMW and Shell had ads reviewed and then banned for being misleading.
In New York, even more progress is being made. If passed, the new Fashion Sustainability and Social Responsibility Act will make the state the first in the United States to punish brands that contribute to climate change.
All images courtesy of Unsplash.