Navigating green claims: ASOS, Boohoo, and Asda commit to landmark changes

Green claims

Following an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), major fashion retailers ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda have committed to making their environmental claims clearer and more accurate. It marks a pivotal step towards business sustainability in the fashion industry. 

This significant industry shift is set against the backdrop of the UK’s substantial £57.8 billion expenditure on clothing in 2022. Collectively, these retailers, which generated over £4.4 billion from UK fashion sales last year, will now enhance how they promote their green credentials to millions of customers.

About the CMA green claims investigation 

The CMA’s investigation into these retailers began in July 2022 after potential greenwashing practices were identified. As a result, the firms will no longer use vague terms like “eco” or “sustainable” without specific details. For instance, a product must now clearly state the percentage of recycled or organic fibres it contains to be labelled as such.

Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive at the CMA, highlighted the broader industry implications of these changes: “This marks a turning point for the industry. We expect all sectors—from high street to designer brands—to review and potentially adjust their practices accordingly.”

What have the firms committed to? 

The firms each signed undertakings that commit them to an agreed set of rules surrounding the use of green claims. These include: 

  • Green claims: ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda are required to ensure that all environmental claims are substantiated, clear, and prominent. ASOS, which processed 83.7 million orders globally last year and reported revenues of £3.5 billion, and Boohoo, with over £1.9 billion in global sales and 20 million active customers, are pivotal players in this initiative.
  • Product details: Claims about fabric content must be explicit, using clear terminology like ‘organic’ or ‘recycled’. Ambiguous phrases without detailed explanations are prohibited.
  • Environmental collections criteria: The criteria for including products in environmental collections must be transparent and include specific minimum requirements. For example, George at Asda’s ‘George for Good’ range will clearly outline its qualifying criteria.
  • Imagery and filters: Natural imagery that might imply a greater level of environmental friendliness than is accurate is banned. Search filters must also accurately reflect the environmental attributes of listed products.
  • Environmental goals: Claims about environmental targets must be supported by accessible, detailed strategies outlining goals, timelines, and methods.

In addition, the retailers are obligated to submit regular reports to the CMA detailing compliance with these commitments and to continually refine their internal procedures. These measures are part of a broader initiative by the CMA to ensure transparency and accuracy in green marketing within the fashion industry. 

The authority has also issued an open letter to the sector and plans to expand its Green Claims Code with specific guidelines tailored to fashion retail, reinforcing the need for clear and honest communication about sustainable practices.

Looking ahead

The commitments made by ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda represent more than just regulatory compliance. They signify a transformative moment for the entire fashion industry. 

The move towards honest and clear green communication is a pivotal step towards fostering a more sustainable future. With these changes, the fashion industry is being presented with an opportunity to transform from a symbol of consumption excess into a leader in sustainability innovation.

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