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LONDON – The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched investigations into ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda over potential greenwashing. The CMA says the statements and language used by the businesses are too broad and vague, and may create the impression that clothing collections – such as the ‘Responsible edit’ from ASOS, Boohoo’s current ‘Ready for the Future’ range, and ‘George for Good’ – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are.

The move comes as part of its ongoing investigation into potential greenwashing and follows concerns around the way the firms’ products are being marketed to customers as eco-friendly.

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In January this year, the CMA turned its eye to the fashion sector and its initial review identified concerns around potentially misleading green claims. These included a number of companies creating the impression that their products were ‘sustainable’ or better for the environment – for example by making broad claims about the use of recycled materials in new clothing – with little to no information about the basis for those claims or exactly which products they related to.

The CMA has now launched investigations into ASOS, Boohoo and George to tackle these concerns. Among other things, these include whether:

  • the criteria used by some of these businesses to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions and overall presentation – for example, some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric.
  • some items have been included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria.
  • there is a lack of information provided to customers about products included in any of the companies’ eco ranges, such as missing information about what the fabric is made from.
  • any statements made by the companies 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: “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.

“We’ll be scrutinising 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.”

The CMA has written to the 3 firms outlining its concerns and will use its information gathering powers to obtain evidence to progress its investigation. How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it. Possible outcomes include securing undertakings from the companies to change the way they operate, taking the firms to court, or closing the case without further action.

The move comes after the CMA published its Green Claims Code in September 2021. The code aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials, while avoiding the risk of misleading shoppers.

The CMA’s wider investigation into misleading environmental claims is ongoing and other sectors will come under review in due course.

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