Greenwashing claims are growing, and fast-fashion retailers remain at the center — perhaps unconcerned.
Last week, the U.K.’s consumer watchdog group the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, launched public investigations into Asos, Boohoo and George at Asda on whether their green claims stack up.
But the latest is only part of a broader picture bubbling up.
The CMA’s investigation trails a class-action lawsuit filed against H&M last month for the alleged use of “false and misleading” environmental scorecards and advertising, and an investigation by the Norwegian Consumer Authority into outdoor brand Norrøna’s eco-marketing claims. The friction — and media brigade — led to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition pausing the transparency program that the brands (as well as many others) were part of.
“Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action — through the courts if necessary,” Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive officer of the CMA, warned in a press statement.
For Asos, the CMA found its language too “broad and vague” for collections like its “Responsible edit,” while Boohoo’s “Ready for the Future” men’s sustainable range and George’s “George for Good” were also said to be more environmentally sustainable than they actually are.
As of publication, some 4,000 items (including basics, athleticwear and more) still carry the “George for Good” moniker on Asda’s website and 350 goods still carry Boohoo’s “Ready for the Future” label online. Meanwhile, Asos’ “Responsible Edit” filter no longer appears in the website’s browsing menu.
Though the CMA provided no additional updates to WWD as of Tuesday, the organization said it has been engaging with the three firms since January, and its latest plea outlines its concerns as it continues to obtain evidence surrounding green claims. In public statements, the companies said they would cooperate during the investigation. What happens next could be a shift in how the companies pledge to operate, a visit to court to process potential consumer violations or a closed case without further action.
Two years ago, Boohoo lost 23 percent of its value in one day, equating to $1.35 billion in losses, amid reports of modern slavery in its Leicester supply chain.
Attentive to industry controversy surrounding companies like Boohoo, Kristin Dorsey, vice president of marketing at Linc, a customer experience automation platform for brands like Levi’s and Eddie Bauer, told WWD that delays or silence in greenwashing cases can be a “death sentence” for brands.
“Now more than ever, proactive communication is key to building trust and loyalty with customers,” she said. “This is especially true for building trust with Gen Z customers, who place even higher importance on a brand’s values compared to past generations. It’s best to stay out in front and offer full transparency.”