A 55-page case says H&M is misleading customers, adding that clothing in its Conscious Choice collection is neither sustainable nor environmentally friendly because it is made from recycled polyester, a disposable plastic considered to be a “one-way street to landfill or incineration.”
According to classaction.org and per the complaint, clothing made from recycled polyester will likely end up in a landfill because its fibres are weakened as they are mechanically recycled from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. According to the case, this method of “downcycling” PET bottles is “problematic in several ways.” In particular, in a “circular economy,” the case explains, materials should be reused and recycled “like-for-like” to prevent waste, meaning, according to the suit, “clothes should be made into new clothes, and packaging into new packaging, rather than poaching from other waste streams.”
Further, the filing contends that the Conscious Choice Collection actually contains a higher percentage of synthetics, 72%, than H&M’s main collection, 61%. Also, the case argues that recycled polyester still sheds microplastics that end up in the ocean, the air and food chains.
The case also alleges H&M is charging a premium for the Consiocus Choice collection.
“Plaintiffs and Class Members relied on H&M’s false and misleading misrepresentations in purchasing the products at some premium price above comparable alternatives that are not represented to be “conscious,” “sustainable,” and environmentally friendly. If not for H&M’s misrepresentations, Plaintiffs and Class Members would not have been willing to purchase the products at a premium price.”
“Marketers should not state or imply environmental benefits if the benefits are negligible,” the case reads.
It is not the first time H&M has found itself in hot water over its sustainability claims.
Earlier this year, The Norwegian Consumer Agency (Forbrukertilsynet) said it believed Norrøna is “breaking the law” in marketing clothes as environmentally friendly and issued a warning to H&M GROUP against using the same type of environmental claims.
Forbrukertilsynet said outdoor clothing company Norrøna had based its advertising on the industry tool Higg MSI, which measures the environmental impact of various textiles. The Norwegian Consumer Agency concluded that this tool is “not sufficient as a basis for the environmental claims they have used in marketing.”
The watchdog has also warned H&M Group of its use or planned use of the Higg MSI to communicate the environmental benefits of its products to consumers.
It subsequently led to the Higg consumer-facing transparency programme being halted.
H&M did not return request for comment when approached by Just Style.