The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today (29 July 2022) announced that it will investigate sustainability claims about fashion products sold by ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda.
What is green washing?
When a company professes to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually can’t back up their claims and is not making efforts to be sustainable is considered greenwashing. This is a mis-leading marketing tactic that works by appealing to consumers wanting to shop in an environmentally sound way.
The Complaining Cow thoughts on greenwashing
Consumers who want to shop in an eco-friendly and sustainable way believe that they are doing the right thing and making responsible purchases. If companies are mis-leading consumers it will damage the whole sector through undermining consumer confidence as well as damaging the environment.
Consumers thoughts on greenwashing
Consumers also welcome moves to tackle greenwashing. For example, Hayley Merrick The Womb Wise Woman, coach supporting entrepreneurs to nurture themselves by connecting to the cycles of nature says “More needs to be done to protect consumers in regards to marketing, claims and awareness of what it takes to be an eco-conscious brand.”
Environmental friendly businesses thoughts on greenwashing
Kerry Clayton runs Trend Tonic, a sustainable jewellery brand, and regularly writes about green washing. She comments “Recent years have seen consumers more environmentally-conscious about their purchases. Marketing products as ’green’ is a way for companies to jump on the trend, without actually changing most (if any) of their business practices”.
On her website, a sustainable baby clothes company, Bibevie, Rhian Thompson puts the details of all the choices she has made (and including “problem areas”), so that customers can make an informed choice on their purchase. She says “Sustainability means different things to different people, nothing is 100% perfectly sustainable in every way, so by giving people information, they can make a choice in line with their own set of principles.”
Anna Cargan owns Build a Bundle, an online second hand kids clothes shop. She points out that the most sustainable item is one that already exists! Although she recognises that we all need to buy brand new items sometimes, she would “love to see a world where people look for second-hand as their first option and only buy new if they can’t find something to reuse”, adding “And let’s not pretend that fast fashion companies are in the slightest bit green!”
The CMA ongoing investigation and guidance
The problem is wider than the 3 stores to which the CMA has written about its concerns. The CMA has an ongoing investigation into potential greenwashing launched in November 2020 and published its Green Claims Code in September 2021. This aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials without risking misleading consumers.
The fast fashion industry currently produces over 92 million tons of waste per year. The environmental impacts are colossal; the industry is responsible for 10% of the global carbon emissions, with that number set to almost triple to 26% by 2050.
What can consumers do to ensure they are shopping in an environmentally friendly way?
Delve into the claims, ask questions, look for detail where the fabric came from, how it was made and whether the workers were paid a fair price.
CMA further action against companies making false sustainability claims
Sarah Cardell, interim Chief Executive of the CMA, says: “Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.”
Further information on shopping/environmental issues
Is a penny on a garment enough to tackle environmental issues? MPs called for there to be a penny added to every item of clothing to fund a £35m annual recycling scheme. 19/02/19.
Fast and Cheap Fashion – Who pays the Price? – guest post by Simon Birch from Ethical Consumer regarding a new report claims that those at the forefront of unsustainable fashion have broken lockdown rules and put lives at risk. 03/08/20
How to shop ethically especially this Christmas Emma Oddie from Ethical Consumer shares ideas for shopping and supporting independent businesses. 25/11/20.
How can individuals & small companies compete in the fashion sustainability marketplace? Lora Nikolaeva of Lora GENE explores what needs to be done to help the sector. 02/11/21.
Earth Day – making a difference with your shopping habits Consumers share their ideas for shopping in a sustainable way whilst still trying to pay the bills. 22/04/22.
10 Tips for saving money on food – Stop Food Waste day Kate Hall a food waste expert provides tips on reducing waste and saving money. 27/04/22.
Helen Dewdney talks to Kate Hall food waste expert Kate talks to me for The Complaining Cow Consumer Show on East London Radio about food waste and how you can use your freezer to reduce waste. 19/06/22.