Plaintiffs Withdraw Greenwashing Lawsuit Against H&M

Editorial TeamEditorial Team
December 20th, 2023
1:13 PM

Plaintiffs Chelsea Commodore and Rakeedha Scarlett dropped a 2022 greenwashing lawsuit against H&M, highlighting the critical role of accurate sustainability information in the fashion industry.

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In recent legal developments, two plaintiffs, Chelsea Commodore, and Rakeedha Scarlett, voluntarily dropped a false advertising lawsuit against H&M, a prominent fast-fashion retailer, for alleged greenwashing practices. The case, which was filed in 2022 and subsequently dismissed, underscored the importance of sustainability claims in the fashion industry and the need for accurate information to guide consumers.

The central focus of the lawsuit was H&M's purported use of "false and misleading" environmental scorecards, known as "Sustainability Profiles," for its products. The plaintiffs argued that H&M's sustainability claims did not align with data from the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, citing an investigation by Quartz. One example highlighted in the lawsuit revealed that a dress was falsely claimed to use 20% less water when, in reality, it consumed 20% more water.

Here are some certifications and partnerships associated with H&M:

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): H&M has used organic cotton in its products, and GOTS is a widely recognized certification for organic textiles.

  • Better Cotton Initiative (BCI): H&M is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, which focuses on promoting sustainable practices in cotton farming.

  • OEKO TEX Standard 100: This certification ensures that textiles and garments are tested for harmful substances, contributing to consumer safety.

  • Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified: Some H&M products have been Cradle to Cradle certified, indicating that they meet specific criteria for environmentally friendly production and design.


H&M's Alleged Misleading Recycling Program and Economic Impact on Consumers

Quartz's investigation unveiled additional instances of similar discrepancies, including misleading information about a recycling program that H&M allegedly promoted. The plaintiffs contended that due to the composition of the products, recycling solutions were either non-existent or commercially unavailable for the majority of items, and H&M recycled only a fraction of what it collected in its in-store recycle bins.

The economic impact on consumers was a key argument in the lawsuit, with the plaintiffs asserting that they and the represented class suffered "economic injuries" by paying a premium for garments falsely portrayed as environmentally friendly through the "Sustainability Profiles" feature. The expectation of a reasonable consumer, as outlined in the lawsuit, is that H&M provides accurate information about product attributes, and environmental impact, and avoids contributing to harmful environmental impacts.

While Commodore and Scarlett voluntarily withdrew their case, it sheds light on a broader pattern of greenwashing allegations within the fashion industry. H&M, despite claiming commitment to transparency and environmental responsibility, has faced similar legal challenges from other plaintiffs, such as Abraham Lizama and Marc Doten.


Ongoing Challenges Highlight H&M's Sustainability Labeling Controversy

Lizama's case, dismissed earlier this year, raised concerns about the misleading nature of H&M's claims regarding the Conscious Choice collection. The judge ruled in part based on H&M's use of phrases like "most sustainable products" instead of explicitly labeling items as "environmentally friendly."

Nevertheless, the legal battles are far from over for H&M, as Randall Sally filed a class-action lawsuit in November, echoing the grievances outlined in the previously dismissed cases. Sally alleges that H&M's labeling practices, such as the use of green hangtags claiming products are made with "recycled" and/or "organic" materials, are deceptive, as the products allegedly do not meet these sustainability standards.

H&M remains confident in its commitment to sustainability and transparency, asserting that the claims in the ongoing cases lack merit. The unfolding legal saga underscores the growing scrutiny of sustainability practices in the fashion industry and the need for companies to align their marketing claims with verifiable environmental standards. As consumers increasingly prioritize eco-friendly choices, the importance of accurate and transparent sustainability information cannot be overstated in shaping the future of the fashion industry.