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Asos, Boohoo and Asda promise “landmark changes” following CMA greenwashing probe

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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Asos circular design collection Credits: Asos

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has reported that fashion e-tailers Asos and Boohoo, along with supermarket clothing brand George at Asda, have signed formal agreements to use “only accurate and clear green claims” moving forward as it cracks down on “greenwashing” in the sector.

The move follows the CMA launching a greenwashing probe in 2022 scrutinising whether the ‘green’ claims made by the three fashion retailers were misleading customers about their fashion products' sustainability values and how they were being marketed to customers as eco-friendly.

The three fashion brands, who have not been found to breach any consumer protection law, have agreed to change the way they display, describe and promote their green credentials, with the CMA explaining that they must display key information “clear and prominent,” and in plain language that is easy to read and clearly visible to consumers.

Statements regarding fabrics, such as materials in green ranges must be specific and clear, such as “organic” or “recycled”, rather than ambiguous terms such as “eco”, “responsible”, or “sustainable” without further explanation. The percentage of recycled or organic fibres must also be clearly displayed and easy for customers to see. The CMA adds that a product can’t be called “recycled” or “organic” unless it meets certain criteria.

Competition and Markets Authority issues guidelines on “greenwashing”

The criteria used to decide which products are included in environmental collections, such as Asos’s former ‘Responsible edit’, Boohoo’s ‘Ready for the Future’ range, and George at Asda’s ‘George for Good’, and any further ranges – must be clearly set out and detail any minimum requirements. For example, if products need to contain a certain percentage of recycled fibres to be included in the range, this should be made clear. Products must not be marketed or labelled as part of an environmental range unless they meet all the relevant criteria.

The CMA also adds that retailers must not use “natural” imagery such as green leaves, logos, or icons in a way that suggests a product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

In addition, search filters must be accurate, only showing items that meet the filter requirements – for example, if a consumer uses a filter to show “recycled” trousers, only trousers made from predominantly recycled materials should be shown.

Asos, Boohoo and George promise to use “only accurate and clear green claims”

While any claims made to consumers about environmental targets must be supported by “a clear and verifiable strategy,” and customers must be able to access more details about it. Such information should include what the target is aiming to achieve, the date by which it is expected to be met, and how the company will seek to achieve that target.

The CMA also said that statements made by the companies about accreditation schemes and standards must not be misleading to the consumer. For example, statements must make clear whether an accreditation applies to particular products or to the firm’s wider practices.

All three firms must also regularly provide the CMA with reports on how they are complying with the commitments they signed – as well as taking steps to improve their internal processes.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive at the CMA, said in a statement: “Following our action, the millions of people who shop with these well-known businesses can now have confidence in the green claims they see.

“This also marks a turning point for the industry. The commitments set a benchmark for how fashion retailers should be marketing their products, and we expect the sector as a whole – from high street to designer brands – to take note and review their own practices.”

As part of the update, Cecilia Parker Aranha, director of consumer protection at the CMA also issued an open letter to the sector, urging fashion retail businesses to review any environmental claims and practices in light of the findings to ensure they are not misleading shoppers and comply with consumer protection law.

On the conclusion of the investigation, John Lyttle, chief executive of Boohoo Group PLC, said: "I'm pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement with the CMA following its investigation into environmental claims.

“Along with the other retailers who have been a part of this process, we have chosen to sign a set of undertakings that will provide some helpful clarity on how the CMAs green claims code operates in practice.

"We remain committed to working with others to find collective solutions to the shared challenges of sustainability within the fashion industry."

Competition and Markets Authority
Executive Management
George at Asda