The Canadian competition watchdog has issued a warning to consumers to be aware of apparel retailers engaging in “greenwashing” – particularly in relation to the sale of products made using fabric derived from bamboo.

The Competition Bureau of Canada said it was aware of many companies advertising products containing bamboo as environmentally-friendly since growing bamboo is fast, requires little or no pesticides and the resulting fibres have antimicrobial and biodegradable properties.

However, the CBC said transforming bamboo fibre into soft fabrics for clothing, towels or bedding involves the use of a lot of chemicals that may be harmful to the environment. The end product of this major chemical transformation process is a fabric called rayon or viscose, which contains no trace of the bamboo plant or its antimicrobial properties.

“Some companies try to make their products seem more eco-friendly than they are. This practice is called greenwashing, and it is against the law,” the Bureau said. 

“The advertisements and labels for these fabrics must include terms such as “rayon,” “viscose,” “rayon from bamboo” or “viscose from bamboo.” However, they are often misrepresented as “bamboo” without any mention of rayon or viscose.

“Bamboo-labelled sheets, T-shirts and other textile products found in stores and online may not be as “green” as they seem,” it cautioned.