Finally, fast fashion companies are being scrutinized for what they call “greenwashing,” the practice of employing misleading marketing claims to convince consumers that their products are sustainable or environmentally friendly.
In the UK, sustainability claims by major brands including Boohoo and Asos are being investigated by the country’s competition watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Last fall, the organization published the Green Claims Code, a set of guidelines that says companies using green marketing “must not omit or hide important information” and “must consider the full life cycle of the product.”
Both Boohoo and Asos have said they are cooperating with the CMA’s investigation, and the future of each of their “sustainable” and “round” collections will be shaken.
The UK’s move follows in the footsteps of a number of jurisdictions that are reassessing the status of sustainability marketing. In June, Norway’s consumer authority warned outdoor clothing brand Norrona and fast fashion giant H&M against using data from the Higg Index – a sustainability assessment tool created for the fashion industry – to verify environmental claims.
And in March, the EU introduced tougher rules for brands and retailers who want to market their goods as green.
The lawsuit has spilled over into the United States, where H&M finds itself at the center of allegations that the company has “created an extensive marketing ploy to ‘greenwash’ its products.”
While fast fashion is not the only sector that markets its products using misleading sustainability claims (the automotive, beauty and luxury clothing industries also come to mind), companies such as Asos and Boohoo also produce and sell cheaply made clothes. The dissonance between “eco-friendly” and “fast fashion” is particularly deafening.
As the UK, EU and US begin to think greenwashing is a punishable offence, companies may think twice before throwing around words like “sustainable” and “circular”. A more transparent fashion system is something we can all get behind.