Asos, Asda and Boohoo are under investigation over accusations of greenwashing of their fast fashion ranges.
The UK’s competition watchdog announced on Friday that it had opened a probe to assess whether the three companies had misled the public with their environmental claims.
“Should we find these companies are using misleading eco claims, we won’t hesitate to take enforcement action – through the courts if necessary,” said Sarah Cardell, interim chief executive of the Competition and Markets Authority.
“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.”
Fast fashion companies have come under increasing pressure to reduce their environmental impact.
We want to know if @ASOS, @boohoo and @Georgeatasda’s products are as eco-friendly as they say they are.
That’s why we’ve launched an investigation to see if their #greenclaims are misleading customers.
Find out more: https://t.co/QfdXHKLIML#GreenClaimsCode pic.twitter.com/EjfTodmuLX
— Competition & Markets Authority (@CMAgovUK) July 29, 2022
An initial CMA review in January identified “concerns around potentially misleading green claims” by some fashion retailers.
“These included a number of 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 or exactly which products they related to,” the watchdog said.
The CMA said that eco-friendly language used by the retailers was “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”.
The CMA will also continue its wider investigation into the fashion sector and consider whether to put additional firms under the microscope.
Asda, Boohoo and Asos have received letters from the watchdog outlining its concerns and the CMA said it will use its information gathering powers to obtain evidence to progress its investigation.
How the review develops will depend on the CMA’s assessment of the evidence before it, the watchdog said in a statement.
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.
Asos pledged to co-operate with the probe and said it was “committed to playing its part in making fashion more sustainable”.
An Asda spokesperson said: “We know how important it is that our customers can trust the claims we make about our products, which is why we ensure the statements we make can be supported by industry accreditations.
“We are ready and willing to answer any questions the CMA have about our George for Good range and welcome further work by the CMA to ensure the sustainability claims made by the fashion industry as a whole are robust and clear.”
BooHoo has been approached for comment.