By Michael Susin

Fashion retailers ASOS, Boohoo, and George at Asda have signed agreements to only use accurate and clear green claims, following a sector review on concerns of greenwashing, the U.K. markets regulator said.

The companies--which together make more than 4.4 billion pounds ($5.56 billion) annually from U.K. fashion sales alone--have agreed to change the way they display, describe and promote their ecologic credentials, the U.K. Competition and Markets Authority said Wednesday.

Under the agreement, the companies must ensure that claims are accurate and not misleading, meaning they must be expressed in plain language and be easy to read.

Statements must be clear and specific, the watchdog said, using language such as 'organic' or 'recycled,' rather than ambiguous wording such as 'eco,' 'responsible,' or 'sustainable' without further explanation.

The percentage of recycled or organic material must be clearly displayed as well, and products can't be marketed or labeled as part of an environmental range unless they meet all the relevant criteria.

The companies must also not use natural imagery, such as green leaves or icons that suggest a product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

"The millions of people who shop with these well-known businesses can now have confidence in the green claims they see," CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell said.

The watchdog also issued an open letter to the sector, advising all fashion retailers to review their claims in light of these commitments.

Boohoo said the investigation was insightful and it expects the undertakings will provide further guidance to the industry on how CMA's green claims code will operate in practice, noting that it hasn't breached any consumer protection law.

"The group has not intentionally misled customers and is committed to best practices and providing customers with accurate information on the products they buy," Boohoo said.

ASOS said it welcomes CMA's commitment to ensure equal standards are applied across the fashion industry.

"Sharing clear and accurate information on the sustainability credentials of fashion products is crucial to empowering consumers to make fully informed choices," it added.

An ASDA spokesperson said the company welcomes the framework as it will provide clear and robust evidence for retailers' environmental claims.

"We support any measures aimed at improving consumers' understanding of environmental claims and providing clear and consistent guidelines to the fashion industry as a whole regarding the future use of such claims," the spokesperson added.

These undertakings have been provided to the CMA voluntarily and without any admission of wrongdoing or liability.

The watchdog is also investigating consumer-goods company Unilever's environmental claims on some of its household products as part of a wider investigation into greenwashing.

The regulator is looking into whether the Anglo-Dutch retailer overstates how 'green' certain products are through the use of vague and broad claims, unclear statements, and natural-looking images and logos.

Write to Michael Susin at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

03-27-24 0515ET