H & M Raises Red Flags over Green Washing
A class action has been proposed against H & M in New York on the basis that H & M’s advertising claims that its products are environmentally sustainable is misleading. Although this is a behemoth apparel company, it is also a reminder that companies, no matter their size, who claim to be environmentally conscious must ensure that their claims are verifiable.
In an effort to sway consumer behaviour and to position itself as an environmentally conscious brand, H & M launched a program whereby Sustainability Profiles were incorporated into its marketing and labelling of products, detailing how the products were environmentally sustainable. The class action complaint alleges that H & M was greenwashing its products and falsifying claims. For example, in one of the Sustainability Profiles, H & M claimed that a particular dress was manufactured using 20% less water on average. An independent news outlet conducted analysis on said garment and determined that the garment did not match the advertising claim. The class action claims that H & M falsified the Sustainability Profiles with inaccurate and misleading data, thereby manipulating consumer behaviour into paying a premium for products on the belief that they are environmentally sustainable. In addition, the class action takes aim at H & M’s claims that some of its products under the Conscious Collection are made with sustainable materials. Overall, the class action claims that H & M is engaged in deceptive acts and false advertising in violation of New York laws thereby incurring economic injury upon consumers who erroneously paid a premium for products that included claims that were false. At the time of this article, the class action was seeking certification as a class action.
How Does This Apply to You?
Eco-conscious consumers are now mainstream and not a fringe target market. In an age where corporate social responsibility has become desired, brands are wise to consider their environmental impact across their supply and distribution plan. Socially conscious marketing plans are booming. Laws are honing in on this trend and ensuring that marketing campaigns are not greenwashing - i.e. unsubstantiated environmental claims. It is important to ensure that packaging, labelling and marketing claims are onside with the laws in which your company is selling its products. Not only could you be dealt a legal blow, but the court of public opinion may also not be that forgiving.
If you need assistance with steering through Canada’s advertising laws as it relates to corporate social responsibility claims, please do not hesitate to contact us at Froese Law.