It is not unexpected that the CMA would turn its attention to the fashion industry first following the publication of its guidance to businesses last September on how to avoid greenwashing claims. The influential factors here to prioritise this industry sector over others appear to be the size of the market and the scale of consumer concerns. It is clear that many consumers are now actively seeking out brands based on their green credentials, a fact not missed by key players who have targeted their marketing messages accordingly. There are plenty of claims being made about the sustainable nature of clothing items but often these cannot be substantiated, especially when the whole production cycle of the item is analysed.
Although there are some real champions out there who very much stand behind their claims, this is by no means as wide spread as it should be. Consumers who feel mislead are quick to complain, particularly where they have made a purchase based on conscience. The CMA's message when it issued its guidance is clear - businesses must be able to substantiate their green and sustainable claims and be accountable. The do's and don'ts contained in the guidance offers assistance in a way most businesses should be able to follow and clarifies existing law. The difficulty for many businesses in the sector lies in the sustainability of the entire life cycle of its products. Given this, the CMA is likely take a more aggressive approach to investigating and enforcing and may well be looking to target a high-profile case to drive home the message. The wording of marketing claims needs to be very carefully considered before publication, given the reputational risk. However, the CMA's approach is welcome. This may well impose greater accountability in a sector with a significant environmental impact and drive consumer behaviour.