To increase faith in sustainable products, crackdown on eco-friendly claims is needed
As it prepares for naming and shaming high-street clothing companies, the Competition and Markets Authority has stated that consumers are being conned into paying a premium for fashion products.
Entire lines of clothing are being labeled “sustainable” and “eco-friendly”, without the company having proof that the whole process – from manufacture to delivery, packaging, and sale – is good for the environment, according to the CMA.
CMA is currently investigating claims made by Britain’s fashion industry and will soon have a list naming the worst offenders. The CMA is currently investigating each sector of the industry, with supermarkets and packaged food likely to follow.
The UK spends PS54bn per year on footwear and clothing. This figure is likely to grow in the future. Some estimates suggest that fashion accounts for between 2% and 8% of global carbon emissions. It also causes waste and pollution. Each year, around 300,000 tonnes worth of clothes is buried or burned in the UK.
According to the watchdog’s findings, buyers who want to make the right choice by purchasing sustainable products are being misled by broad claims. This could lead to a loss of trust that could prevent the UK from meeting its climate commitments.
Cecilia Parker Aranha is the CMA’s director for consumer protection. She stated that about 60% of respondents to their research indicated they would pay more for products. I believe it was as high as 9% for products that are environmentally friendly. My impression is that people will pay more for products.
Companies have been quick and easy to claim green on their products, sometimes with little effort to make them more sustainable.
Parker Aranha stated, “We believe that there is a growing consumer demand for green products” and that they are willing to pay more for them.
The CMA is investigating claims that certain clothing items are “better” for the environment. Claims about recycled materials being used in new clothing. Whole clothing ranges in stores are branded “sustainable”.
Parker Aranha stated that “I was really skeptical about anyone that made a broad claim that a product was ‘eco-friendly’ or sustainable. This is because the business would have to show that every component of the product, from production to disposal, will be beneficial to the environment. Another thing to watch out for is whether they claim they are made with recycled fibers. These are usually made with only 16% to 20% of recycled fibers.”
Most businesses will not be able to show that their product is sustainable for the environment beyond the very basic claims. “Sustainable” is a term that must be used throughout the entire lifecycle.
CMA will identify the companies it considers the worst offenders and ask them for changes. They could face prosecution if they don’t make any changes to their advertising.
Investigators found that Viagogo’s ticket-towing crackdown resulted in a .legal complaint against it. Viagogo then made changes to its operation. It warned that similar consequences could be imposed on greenwashing fashion companies.
Parker Aranha stated that “if businesses refuse to make those changes, we have the right to sue them.”
This area is still unexplored, and companies are free to call themselves eco-friendly without being subject to any scrutiny.
Parker Aranha said: “I don’t think greenwashing or misleading environmental claims are an area that many regulators in the UK have looked into so far.”
Customers may lose faith in sustainable products and abandon eco-friendly options. Companies that make an effort to go green could be at a competitive disadvantage.
Parker Aranha stated that this is a problem because a lot of these claims are false and consumers are buying the wrong products. Businesses are losing out on the best deals.
It could also undermine trust. Consumers won’t believe the claims made on packaging regarding green issues if they don’t trust it. This will have an effect on the UK’s ability and willingness to address climate change and other sustainability issues.
You should be on the lookout for greenwashing phrases
While some ranges may be called “eco” or include “eco”, it is difficult to prove that the entire supply chain was eco-friendly.
All product range labeled sustainable
Some components can be legitimately called “sustainable”. However, make sure to check for any qualifications. It might be made from non-toxic materials, but if a whole range or entire garment is labeled “sustainable”, it raises red flags because it is too broad.
Made with organic cotton or recycled cotton
Although many clothing brands claim they are made from recycled or organic fabrics, only a small portion of their fabric is made up of these materials.
It could be greenwashing if something is labeled “greener” or more eco-friendly but doesn’t indicate with whom it is compared.