The end of greenwashing?

  • Written by Laura Houghton
  • Published on 1 February 2022
  • Blogs

Is the time for ‘greenwashing’ coming to an end?

The fashion industry is the first sector to be investigated for "misleading green claims" by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). In September 2021 The Green Claims Code and guidance on making environmental claims on goods and services was published following extensive consultation with businesses and consumer groups, in order to help businesses comply with the law. In November of 2021 the CMA announced that it was going to investigate the impact of green marketing on consumers in line with its annual plan commitment, with a view to carrying out a full review of misleading green claims in early 2022.

In her recent LinkedIn post, Emma Foster-Geering, Director of Sustainability at Vivo barefoot states;
Hate to say it, but I’m feeling really smug now that this awesome piece work from the CMA is finally on our doorsteps. After 15 years of making PowerPoint slides demonstrating the ‘business case’ for sustainability, it is well and truly something that now writes itself.

Yes it applies to all business.
Yes it applies to all products and services.
Yes it is going to be enforced.

Do I believe that legislation is the answer? Absolutely not, and in many cases it is a large part of the problem. BUT, a lot of great social change in history has come from key legislative reform and I hope this is the start of a successful evolution of sustainability in business from marketing opportunity to operational norm.
Greenwashing has unfortunately risen alongside the ever-growing the popularity and consumer demand for ethical and sustainable production, with many businesses now needing to review and reshape their messaging to ensure they don’t fall foul the law. In June 2021, a report released by the non-profit Changing Markets Foundation found that as many as 59% of all green claims made by European and U.K. fashion brands were misleading. Over the years it has become evident that without legislation, greenwashing will continue to shape inaccurate narratives. Although many businesses are making positive changes, many still need to become more transparent and uncover the issues within their supply chains in order to address them. Ensuring sustainable production and practices means that businesses need to gather the data from their supply chain to really understand and influence their suppliers business practices.

Businesses have had access to real solutions in order to tackle their ethical and sustainable production issues for some time now, at Segura we believe that every product should come with provenance, through our solution our clients are able to substantiate their claims and have complete confidence in their messaging. - Peter Needle, Segura Founder and President.

Sharing a supplier list and a broad plan will no longer be enough, businesses will be required to back up their claims. In order to ascertain whether the rules governing consumer protection have been breached, a court, the CMA or another enforcement body, may require the business to produce evidence. The CMA guidance details that they may deal with infringements of consumer protection law using a number of different measures. This includes taking civil action and also criminal enforcement. Businesses should consider carefully whether the visual symbols they use create a misleading effect. There should be a direct and verifiable link between these symbols and the meaning consumers are likely to draw from them.
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