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FTC targets Kohl’s and Walmart for falsely advertising products as bamboo

By Rachel Douglass


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Image: Walmart Inc.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced it will be taking action against retail giants Kohl’s and Walmart, claiming the duo falsely marketed “dozens of rayon textile products as bamboo”.

The commission is calling for both companies to pay penalties of 2.5 million dollars and three million dollars, which the FTC said are the largest penalties issued in this area. Additionally, it is asking the court to order both Kohl’s and Walmart to “stop making deceptive green claims”, it said in a release.

On the filing, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, Samuel Levine, said: “Kohl’s and Walmart are paying millions of dollars under the FTC’s Penalty Offense Authority for mislabeling their rayon products as bamboo. False environmental claims harm both consumers and honext businesses, and companies that greenwash can expect to pay the price.”

Cracking down on greenwashing claims

The complaint filed by the FTC comes as the organisation found Kohl’s and Walmart to have claimed a number of their “bamboo-derived” products were providing environmental benefits, such as being produced “free of harmful chemicals”.

However, the FTC alleged these textiles were actually made of rayon derived from bamboo, a move that was not disclosed to customers.

In its complaint, the commission said claiming environmental benefits for these products was therefore “misleading” as the rayon manufacturing process actually uses toxic chemicals and creates hazardous pollutants.

Products by the retailers that were targeted by the FTC included rugs, nursing bras, towels, sheets and blankets.

Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for Walmart told WWD that the company was taking the claims very seriously and it was holding itself accountable.

The statement continued: “We have worked to strengthen our product description programmes and expect our suppliers to provide products that comply with all laws, including those around labelling. We value our relationship with the FTC and are pleased we could work with them to resolve these issues.”