Britain’s competition regulator will investigate whether fashion brands Asos, Boohoo, and George at Asda are misleading shoppers with their environmental claims as it scrutinises retailers for evidence of “greenwashing”.
The investigation comes as regulators heighten scrutiny of companies which may be exaggerating their green credentials in an attempt to woo climate-conscious consumers as well as billions of dollars from environmentally-focused investor funds.
“People who want to ‘buy green’ should be able to do so confident that they aren’t being misled,” said Sarah Cardell, interim CEO of Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). She said:
If the three companies are found to be misleading customers, the British CMA will take enforcement action, including in court, if necessary, Ms Cardell said, noting the probe was “just the start” of the authority's work in the clothing industry.
The agency has outlined its concerns to the three companies and will begin gathering evidence.
It will examine whether the language used in marketing clothing, footwear or accessories is too vague.
Online fashion retailers Asos and Boohoo said in separate statements they would work with Britain's CMA, and were committed to providing accurate information about their products.
Representatives for supermarket group Asda, which owns the clothing line George, did not immediately respond.
The CMA's concerns come as the global fashion industry comes under increasing pressure to clean up its act.
The UN says the clothing industry is the second biggest consumer of water globally, behind agriculture. And, according to estimates, the industry is responsible for up to 8% of carbon emissions.
Many regulators across the US and Europe are cracking down on potentially false environmental, social and governance-related, or ESG, claims made by companies across sectors as well as investor funds to make sure they are backed up.
The CMA last year published a green claims code, a set of guidelines for companies and shoppers to ensure that environmental claims are genuine and not misleading.
It will examine products in the fashion brands' eco ranges, where some labelled as environmentally friendly can contain as little as 20% recycled fabric, the CMA said.