The consumer watchdog, which contacted some 70 clothing companies in May, said so-called ‘green washing’, or pretending to support climate saving measures, is rife in the fashion industry. It will now conduct a further investigation into sustainability claims made by two Dutch and four international companies.
If found to be misleading, the ACM will fine the two companies and ask foreign consumer watchdogs to do the same for the other four. Fines can be as high as €900,000 for each infraction or an even steeper percentage of turnover.
‘We are investigating this because consumers who want to buy sustainable clothing have a right to correct and verifiable information. We also want to protect companies who are honest against competitors who mislead,’ ACM director Edwin van Houten said.
Van Houten said many clothing manufacturers like to present themselves as sustainable but that claims are often exaggerated and unfounded. Vague terms such as ‘sustainable’ and ‘ethical’ were used without any further explanation, ACM spokeswoman Saskia Bierling said. ‘Why one product would be better for the world is not made clear,’ she told the Financieele Dagblad.
Other companies offer ‘sustainable fashion collections’ without telling clients how they differ from the other clothes on offer while ‘organic cotton’ labels were found to be misleading because information elsewhere showed that the product contained less than 95% organic cotton. The ACM wants manufacturers to state the percentage exactly. The ACM has not released the names of the offending companies yet to give them a chance to defend themselves, Bierling said.
The ACM had said earlier that the fashion industry needs global guidelines or rules instead of the vague labels beloved by the industry, such as ‘honest’, ‘green’ or ‘circular’. Online retail giant Zalando told the paper earlier that it too would welcome international rules which all manufacturers can be held to.