Greenwashing: CMA Accepts Undertakings From ASOS, Boohoo And George At Asda

The UK CMA concluded an inquiry into ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda in March 2024, securing voluntary commitments on accurate environmental claims. Emphasizing compliance, the CMA urged all businesses to align with consumer protection laws amidst impending legislative changes.
UK Environment
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In August 2022, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) launched an inquiry into ASOS, Boohoo and George at Asda to investigate the three fashion brands' potentially misleading "green" claims.

Nearly two years later, in March 2024, the CMA announced that it had agreed voluntary undertakings with the three fashion brands, which commit them "to use only accurate and clear green claims" and "change the way they display, describe, and promote their green credentials, meaning millions of customers can expect to see clear and accurate green claims".

The brands have also signed up to an agreed set of rules around the use of green claims, such as not using "'natural' imagery – such as green leaves – logos, or icons to suggest a product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is" and not misusing ambiguous terms such as "eco" or "sustainable" to make statements on their fabrics. This brings to a close the CMA's investigation into environmental claims made by these retailers, without any finding of infringement of consumer law.

On the same day, the CMA published an open letterto the fashion sector, stating that it "expect[s] any business making environmental claims promptly to review and, where necessary, change its practices to comply with the law". The letter refers businesses to the CMA's "Green Claims Code" and emphasises that promoting environmental sustainability remains a priority for the CMA.

The Green Claim Code sets out guidance on how consumer protection law applies to environmental claims and is said to provide a framework for businesses to make environmental claims. The undertakings provided by the three brands build on these principles, and further guidance for the fashion industry is expected from the CMA in due course.

The CMA's open letter reminds businesses that the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill (expected to receive Royal Assent this month) envisages the introduction of significant fines for breach of certain consumer protection legislation, including in respect of misleading green claims (up to 10% of a business' worldwide turnover).

Commenting on the development, Maria Cronin said:

"These developments reinforce the need for businesses to implement robust processes to ensure that any environmental claims comply with consumer protection law and to evidence any claims they make. It also demonstrates the CMA's pragmatic approach to navigating green claims, with a word of warning that enforcement action is on the cards."

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