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Greenwashing: CMA starts review of environmental claims in fashion retail


The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has started a review of environmental claims in the UK fashion retail sector, investigating how products and services claiming to be ‘eco-friendly’ are being marketed, and whether consumers could be being misled.

The CMA has prioritised the fashion retail sector citing estimates that UK consumers spend £54 billion annually on clothing and footwear, which is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. It said that consumers are increasingly looking for more environmentally sustainable options when buying clothes, while more fashion businesses are making environmental claims. These includes claims that individual items of clothing are sustainable or better for the environment, claims about use of recycled materials in new clothing and entire ranges of clothing within stores being branded as ‘sustainable’.

The CMA’s review will examine environmental claims across the fashion retail sector in the UK to determine whether or not businesses are complying with consumer protection law. Where the CMA identifies businesses which it thinks are ‘greenwashing’, it said it will take “appropriate action”.

The CMA said it wants to hear from those with experience of the types of issues covered in the green claims code. Details of experiences can be shared with the CMA by email to: misleadinggreenclaims@cma.gov.uk

In September 2021, the CMA has published its final guidance for businesses to help them understand and comply with their existing obligations under consumer law. Alongside the guidance, the CMA has also published a video for businesses and short guide, all of which can be found on the Green Claims Code pages.

The CMA’s Green Claims Code aims to help businesses understand how to communicate their green credentials while reducing the risk of misleading shoppers. The code focuses on six principles which are based on existing consumer law. It underlines that firms making green claims “must not omit or hide important information” and “must consider the full life cycle of the product”.

The principles are:

  • claims must be truthful and accurate
  • claims must be clear and unambiguous
  • claims must not omit or hide important relevant information
  • comparisons must be fair and meaningful
  • claims must consider the full life cycle of the product or service
  • claims must be substantiated