Sporting goods retail chain Decathlon Netherlands and clothing retail chain H&M have made a promise to to the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) promising to adjust or no longer use sustainability claims on their clothes and/or websites.
The two chains said that they would be informing consumers more clearly in order to minimise “the risk of misleading practices involving sustainability claims”, said a statement by ACM on its website. In addition, they will make donations of EU400,000 and EU500,000 respectively, to different sustainable causes to compensate for their use of unclear and insufficiently substantiated sustainability claims. Decathlon and H&M have made these commitments following an ACM investigation, and as such ACM will therefore not impose any sanctions.
Cateautje Hijmans van den Bergh, member of the board of ACM, said consumers that wish to make sustainable choices must be able to have confidence in the veracity of the claims that businesses make on their products or websites.
“We are pleased to see that these companies have acknowledged that they should have informed consumers more clearly about the sustainability aspects of their products, and that they will adjust various sustainability claims and their substantiations. They will also take measures to inform their customers better in the future. We also welcome their commitment to donate generous sums of money to sustainable causes as compensations for their vague sustainability claims. These donations go to independent organizations that contribute towards sustainability and clothing,” van den Bergh added.
According to ACM, it has seen many potentially misleading sustainability claims in the clothing sector. That is why, in 2021, ACM asked clothing retailers to take a critical look at their claims. ACM subsequently continued its investigation into Decathlon and H&M, among other retail chains. The investigation revealed, for example, that Decathlon and H&M offered their products using general terms such as “Ecodesign” and “Conscious“ without immediately specifying clearly the sustainability benefits with the claim.
Guidelines regarding sustainability claims
"Businesses that wish to promote their products using sustainability claims must make sure that such claims are correct, clear, and verifiable," said ACM. ACM examines in different sectors whether businesses use sustainability claims in accordance with the rules. ACM has explained five rules of thumb for businesses that wish to use sustainability claims. They are
- Make clear what sustainability benefit the product offers
- Substantiate your sustainability claims with facts, and keep them up-to-date
- Comparisons with other products, services, or companies must be fair
- Be honest and specific about your company’s efforts with regard to sustainability
- Make sure that visual claims and labels are useful to consumers, not confusing
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