Asda among three major retailers investigated over ‘green’ fashion claims

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says it will scrutinise eco-friendly and sustainability claims made by Leeds-headquartered George at Asda, ASOS and Boohoo about their fashion products.

The move comes as part of the watchdog’s investigation into potential “greenwashing” and follows concerns around the way the firms’ products are being marketed to customers as eco-friendly.

In January this year, the CMA turned its attention to the fashion sector and its initial review identified potentially misleading green claims.

These included companies creating the impression that their products were sustainable or better for the environment – for example by making broad claims about the use of recycled materials in new clothing – with little to no information about the basis for those claims.

The CMA says its concerns relate to:

  • Statements and language used by the businesses are too broad and vague, and may create the impression that clothing collections – such as the ‘Responsible edit’ from ASOS, Boohoo’s current ‘Ready for the Future’ range, and ‘George for Good’ – are more environmentally sustainable than they actually are.
  • Criteria used by some of these businesses to decide which products to include in these collections may be lower than customers might reasonably expect from their descriptions and overall presentation – for example, some products may contain as little as 20% recycled fabric.
  • Some items have been included in these collections when they do not meet the criteria.
  • There is a lack of information provided to customers about products included in any of the companies’ eco ranges, such as missing information about what the fabric is made from.
  • Any statements made by the companies about fabric accreditation schemes and standards are potentially misleading, such as a lack of clarity as to whether the accreditation applies to particular products or to the firm’s wider practices.

Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the CMA, said: “People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so confident that they aren’t being misled. Eco-friendly and sustainable products can play a role in tackling climate change, but only if they are genuine.

“We’ll be scrutinising green claims from ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda to see if they stack up. Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary.”

The CMA says it has written to the three businesses outlining its concerns and will use its information gathering powers to obtain evidence to progress its investigation.

Possible outcomes include securing undertakings from the companies to change the way they operate, taking the firms to court, or closing the case without further action.