Shopping at H&M may not be as sustainable as the fast fashion retailer would have its customers believe. In the latest greenwashing case against the Swedish conglomerate, a claim filed in a federal court in Missouri is suing for "misleadingly, illegally, and deceptively" seeking to capitalise on consumer 'green' trends, where H&M customers are led to believe that Conscious Choice products are an environmentally responsible purchase.
The 55-page filing states consumers are becoming more aware of climate issues and the role the fashion industry plays in producing garments that can be considered harmful and wasteful to the planet. Many shoppers are therefore seeking products that are ethically and consciously manufactured.
Deceptive business practices
Large corporations such as H&M have enormous marketing prowess and far-reaching messaging, which the plaintiffs, Abraham Lizama and Marc Doten, claim are "unlawful, unfair, deceptive, and misleading business practices."
“Basing sustainability strategies on the idea that consumers can continue to consume disposable plastic goods (because they can be recycled into more products) is highly problematic. This method of ‘green’ marketing does not address the fundamental issue of perpetuating disposable solutions and over-consumption of natural resources,” noted the filing. “Indeed, these strategies encourage consumers to buy more clothes or throw away garments sooner, in the belief they can be recycled in some magic machine.”
The filing iterates that in response to consumer desire for more sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion, many companies “greenwash” their products by deceptively claiming that their clothing is made from materials that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Misrepresentation of 'green' products
H&M uses green hangtags to identify and market its “Conscious Choice” products, a labelling tactic that suggests garments are either sustainable or more sustainable than other products, despite being manufactured mostly from polyester or recycled plastics, which the plaintiffs claim is a misrepresentation of products that do not negatively affect the environment.
In addition H&M charges a premium price for its Conscious Choice products, which The Fashion Law says is significant to the filing, “as it is at the heart of the plaintiffs’ ability to show that they have suffered the necessary injury to have standing to sue.”
ClassAction.org, a platform committed to exposing corporate wrongdoing, says the The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Green Guides, a set of principles designed to prevent companies from greenwashing their products, states that “an environmental marketing claim should not overstate, directly or by implication, an environmental attribute or benefit.
“Marketers should not state or imply environmental benefits if the benefits are negligible,” the filing states.