Three fast-fashion firms sign agreement after greenwashing concerns

The competition regulator has urged UK fashion businesses to give accurate information about how environmentally friendly their clothes are after three fast-fashion firms signed a new agreement.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had initiated an investigation into Boohoo, ASOS and George by Asda over concerns about the way products were marketed as eco-friendly.

Its initial review of the fashion sector had identified concerns of possible greenwashing – making items appear environmentally friendly when they are not.

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What’s changed?

But the firms have pledged to provide clear, prominent and transparent information about any environmental claims made about products, such as using terms like organic or recycled, rather than ambiguous ones like eco, responsible, or sustainable, with no further explanation.

Use of natural imagery such as green leaves or logos to suggest non-existent environmental benefits will also be avoided by the brands.

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Environmental information must be expressed in plain language, be easy to read, and clearly visible to shoppers.

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Any statements about fabric composition must be similarly clear and specific: the percentage of recycled or organic fibres must be clearly displayed.

If a brand has a specific range of clothes, designed to have less of a negative environmental impact than other products, then companies must provide detail on minimum requirements for items to be included in the collection.

Minimum percentages of recycled material, for example, should be made clear.

Any environmental targets set by fashion businesses must be supported by a clear and verifiable strategy with customers able to access more details about the goals.

Information must be provided on what the target is aiming to achieve, the date by which it is to be met, and how the company will reach it.

“A turning point for the industry”

These pledges “set a benchmark for the industry”, the CMA chief executive Sarah Cardell said, and build on already established marketing regulations.

In an open letter, the CMA called on fashion businesses to familiarise themselves with the new undertakings.

“This also marks a turning point for the industry… we expect the sector as a whole – from high street to designer brands – to take note and review their own practices,” Ms Cardell said.

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More guidance for the fashion industry is to be published by the CMA, it said.