H&M charged with making fraudulent sustainability claims

How the issue of greenwashing has grown to unprecedented heights

An unidentified lady by the name of Chelsea Commodore filed a lawsuit against H&M in federal court in New York, claiming that the Swedish fast fashion giant had essentially lied about the sustainability of its products. The proof of this deceptive advertising, which would have also encouraged consumers to spend more money on products that were not truly sustainable, would be found in the fact that, as The Fashion Law reports.When H&M was sued for using “falsified information that did not match the underlying data,” it allegedly removed the green label system that highlighted the sustainability of some products. According to a Quartz poll that was recently released, “in many cases, H&M provided data that gave a completely false picture of the impact of an item of apparel on the environment,” these labels, which are also present on the brand’s items in Europe, were the focus of the survey.Because the website ignored warning indicators in the Higg index scores, these mistakes happened. On H&M’s website, a suit, for instance, was listed as using 20% less water while having a water usage score of -20% (using 20% more water than typical).

A further implication of Commodore’s case against H&M is that consumers have been duped into buying extra for clothing that appeared to be more sustainable but was actually considerably less so. The Fashion Law makes the humorous observation that it should not have come as a major surprise that H&M clothing was not sufficiently sustainable considering the extremely low price of the products being sold.By claiming that “Recycling solutions do not exist or are not commercially available at scale for most products,” Commodore also criticizes H&M’s recycling initiative. The woman also claimed that recycling every article of clothing that H&M sells in a few of days would take ten years. A remark that casts doubt on the fast fashion industry, which, in spite of assertions to the contrary, has not actually altered and is, in fact, expanding and becoming more prevalent every day. It doesn’t help that haul culture is prevalent on TikTok, where hashtags for H&M alone have received over 261 million views.

One of the primary issues with sustainable fashion is the vagueness of language, which is shown by the H&M charges. When a company creates a truly sustainable product, which typically costs more and requires a larger production effort, it should actually present the evidence for its claim in plain terms, with no obvious ambiguity.We can, however, assume that we are dealing with some form of manipulation when, as is frequently the case, a brand relies on ambiguous claims that you don’t understand, such as that a certain garment has “sustainable properties” that are not better specified or that “at least 40%” of a certain garment is made with recycled or recycled materials.For instance, the fact that many grading systems are too flexible and misunderstood in this regard does not help (it is no accident that the Higg index has received a lot of criticism for Quartz) or the fact that some good data is displayed while the vast majority of bad data is concealed. In general, and particularly in the U.S., the public and press are beginning to pay more attention to brands’ statements about their dedication to sustainability—a dedication that does not exist and is replicated by a number of unclear pieces of information meant to deceive consumers. After all, the earth would already be secure if all brands were as sustainable as they claim to be.

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