Christmas shoppers are advised to be wary of clothing brands that claim their clothing has sustainability certifications.
A Consumer NZ investigation into sustainable fashion claims led four brands – H&M, Kate Sylvester, Maggie Marilyn and Ruby – to drop their claims after being unable to back them up.
Four other brands were also identified as not respecting the labeling rules.
Gemma Rasmussen, head of communications and campaigns at Consumer NZ, said she claims certification, the fabric itself must be certified and the garment must also be made in a certified factory.
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Retailers are also required to display license numbers to help consumers know they are getting the genuine item.
“Retailers have a responsibility to make sure their sustainability claims pile up. If they don’t, they risk misleading consumers, ”said Rasmussen.
Maggie Marilyn and Ruby advertised clothes made from fabrics certified by the Global Recycled Standard (GRS). This certification means that the garment contains at least 50 percent recycled content and comes from an accredited supplier and manufactured in a certified factory.
After asking everyone to justify their certification claims, Consumer NZ discovered that the clothing was not made in a certified factory.
Glassons and Juliette Hogan also advertised clothing made from “GRS certified” fabrics, but did not include a license number. Juliette Hogan withdrew her claims after Consumer NZ’s investigations.
Glassons also promoted products made from materials certified by the Organic Content Standard (OCS) and the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). However, the clothing tags did not show a license number.
Both standards have two certification systems that identify a minimum percentage of organic fiber content. Retailers applying for certification under any of these programs must also display license numbers that allow a customer to verify if the product is verified against a database.
Glassons CEO Stuart Duncan said product labeling was “very complex” and “the consumer should not be misled”. Glassons was in the process of changing the labels, he said.
Retail giant H&M said on its website that almost all of its “newborn clothes are 100% organic” and are OCS or GOTS certified.
When asked by Consumer NZ to provide license numbers and transaction certificates, H&M refused. He subsequently withdrew his requests for GOTS certification.
Fashion label Karen Walker website said 49% of the retailer’s clothing line is made from GOTS certified cotton. However, a spokesperson said he did not have permission to make the certification requests and subsequently deleted them.
Kate Sylvester has also marketed several T-shirts as “100% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton”.
One of the advertised t-shirts was produced in collaboration with Mindful Fashion New Zealand. Although the fiber and yarn were purchased from GOTS suppliers, they were ribbed, cut, and fabricated in facilities that did not have accreditation.
The remainder of the shirts had been purchased as blank finished goods from a GOTS supplier, but designs were printed on them at an unaccredited facility. The brand subsequently withdrew its claims.
Tips from Consumer NZ for spotting sustainable fashion items:
The best way to protect yourself from the “green” hype is to look for specific claims and supporting evidence.
Look for details like a certification license number. If it has one, you can use it to check the affected plan’s database.
If you think a company’s claim about sustainable clothing is misleading, report it to the Trade Commission.