Source: Alamy

George at Asda had been investigated by the CMA as part of its greenwashing crackdown efforts

Asda has pledged to only use accurate and clear environmental claims for its George brand in response to a greenwashing crackdown on the fashion sector.

As part of the clampdown, George at Asda, along with fashion retailers Asos and Boohoo, must not only avoid making misleading claims about the eco-credentials of their clothes, but also file regular reports to the Competition & Markets Authority.

All three retailers committed to clearly setting out which products qualified for their eco ranges based on minimum requirements.

They also pledged to avoid using “ambiguous” statements such as ‘eco’ or ‘sustainable’ in regards to the materials used without further explanation, and not to use “natural imagery” such as green leaves to make a product appear more eco-friendly than it is.

Additionally, any claims made to consumers about environmental targets “must be supported by a clear and verifiable strategy”, the CMA stipulated.

The CMA secured the commitments from the retailers after an investigation starting in 2022, which looked into the green claims of major fashion brands.

The CMA secured those commitments from the retailers after an investigation that started in 2022 and looked into the companies’ green claims and whether they were exaggerated and risked breaching consumer law.

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“Following our action, the millions of people who shop with these well-known businesses can now have confidence in the green claims they see,” said CMA CEO Sarah Cardell.

“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.”

An Asda spokesperson said: “We have proactively engaged with the CMA throughout this process and are pleased to have mutually agreed the voluntary undertakings. We support any measures aimed at improving consumers’ understanding of environmental claims and providing clear and consistent guidelines to the fashion industry as a whole regarding the future use of such claims.”

The CMA on Wednesday issued on a letter to the UK fashion industry – one of the world’s largest polluters and carbon emitters – advising all retailers to thoroughly examine their green claims to ensure they are legally compliant with consumer law.

Ministers are also considering a new law – the Digital Markets, Competition & Consumers Bill – that would impose fines of up to 10% of a business’s global turnover if they are found to breach consumer regulations.

The law will cover greenwashing claims, CMA’s director of consumer protection, Cecilia Parker Aranha, reiterated in the letter.

“Future action by enforcers, including in respect of misleading green claims, could […] result in the imposition of a penalty,” she wrote.

The regulator has increased scrutiny of companies that may be exaggerating their eco-claims in efforts to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, as well as investors pouring billions into the green markets.

Following the fashion investigation, the CMA said it would turn its focus to fmcg companies including Dove maker Unilever over concerns shoppers were being misled by their green claims on some household products.

It is still unclear when the results of that investigation will be published.

Businesses can refer to the CMA’s Green Claims Code for support regarding any environmental claims.

What George at Asda, Boohoo and Asos agreed with the CMA:

  • Green claims: Asos, Boohoo and George at Asda must ensure all green claims are accurate and not misleading. Key information must be clear and prominent, meaning it must be expressed in plain language, easy to read, and clearly visible to shoppers.
  • Statements regarding fabrics: Statements made about materials in green ranges must be specific and clear, such as ‘organic’ or ‘recycled’, rather than ambiguous - eg, using terms like ‘eco’, ‘responsible’, or ‘sustainable’ without further explanation. The percentage of recycled or organic fibres must be clearly displayed and easy for customers to see. A product cannot be called ‘recycled’ or ‘organic’ unless it meets certain criteria.
  • Criteria for green ranges: 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.
  • Use of imagery: The companies 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.
  • Product filters: 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.
  • Environmental targets: 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 in question will seek to achieve that target.
  • Accreditation schemes: Statements made by the companies about accreditation schemes and standards must not be misleading. For example, statements must make clear whether an accreditation applies to particular products or to the company’s wider practices.

Source: Competition & Markets Authority