Sweden-based fast fashion company H&M has been sued in the United States for “misleading” marketing, in which it, as the plaintiff claims, falsely represents some of its products as “sustainable.” The lawsuit, filed by a New York state resident, appears to reflect consumers’ growing awareness of corporate greenwashing practices.
The plaintiff, Chelsea Commodore, claims that a majority of the H&M products that are marketed as sustainable are no more sustainable than its other products, according to reports. Consumers, she claims, are tricked into paying higher prices believing that they are buying environmentally-friendly products.
Shoppers are increasingly aware of the clothing industry’s environmental impact
Shoppers are undoubtedly becoming increasingly aware of the adverse environmental impacts of the clothing industry and are opting for sustainable products. According to a recent study, almost 80% of American shoppers consider a product’s environmental impact before buying it, while about 70% would change their shopping habits if they learned that a brand was not operating sustainably.
This makes it all the more important to spot and expose greenwashing, a practice of misleading customers into believing that a company’s products and operations are more environmentally-friendly than they actually are. Companies usually do this by using appealing words without a strict legal definition in their marketing campaigns, such as “sustainable,” “green,” or “clean.”
Other fashion majors have also been called out for greenwashing
This practice has been detected in other global fashion brands as well, such as Spain’s Zara and Japan’s Uniqlo, but also across other industries, according to environmental organization Earth.Org. Also, fast fashion brands’ also green initiatives are widely advertised, even though they account for a tiny part of their business, Earth.Org. noted.
Only 20% of discarded textile is reused or recycled
The clothing industry in general is widely seen as a significant environmental polluter, generating vast amounts of textile waste. At the global level, only 20% of discarded textile products is reused or recycled, while as much 80% is landfilled or incinerated, according to Remake, a global advocacy organization fighting for fair pay and climate justice in the clothing industry.
Clothing that ends up in landfills can emit methane for over 200 years
The clothing that ends up in landfills takes up to 200 years or longer to decompose, emitting methane in process, warns Remake, noting that this greenhouse gas is more potent than carbon.