As is so often and tragically the case, commerce can adapt more quickly than policy. We’re seeing this right now in what’s known as greenwashing. This is where companies label their products as “eco-friendly,” “greener,” or “sustainable” to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers, but their practices are far from sustainable.
Compounding the environmental damage of their practices, these companies’ deception can shake the trust of consumers who might not believe the next “green” label they see.
Thankfully, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is acting to address this rash of greenwashing.
The UK’s green crackdown on the fashion industry
The CMA has begun investigating claims of UK fashion firms that their practices are sustainable. Many brands and labels make sweeping boasts of “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” products. However, on looking at each step of production the CMA has discovered this is far from the truth. This falsehood is swindling many consumers who pay premium prices for clothes.
“For those very generic general claims, most businesses won’t be in a position to prove that the product is good for the environment every step of the way. If you use the word ‘sustainable’, I think that really means that you have to be sustainable throughout the whole lifecycle,” said Cecilia Parker Aranha, the CMA’s director of consumer protection. “The other thing I would watch is if they say they’re ‘made with recycled fibers’. They are often only made with 16% to 20% recycled fibers.”
From its investigation, the CMA will compile a list of the worst offenders and make public requests for them to change their practices and their labeling. If they continue to falsely represent their practices and their products they could be taken to court.
How to watch out for greenwashing
If you want to be environmentally responsible in your purchases, it is recommended that you look out for the words “eco” and “sustainable” in sweeping claims about a product’s production. You should also keep an eye out for clothing brands that claim to use “recycled” or “organic cotton,” as these are often only a small makeup of the clothing composition. Look out for comparisons, as in “greener” or “more sustainable,” as these are often vague and comparative to nothing. Lastly, give shopping second-hand a try.