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September 7, 2022

SAC explores how to communicate green data with consumers

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) says it continues to explore ways to communicate environmental information to consumers after the Norwegian competition watchdog indicated claims in general, and based on Higg data, must be sufficiently documented and qualified.

By Hannah Abdulla

In August, the SAC met with the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) for what it says was an open and constructive discussion focusing on the transparency programme which was designed to test and improve how brands may communicate environmental information to consumers to prevent “greenwashing”.

It comes after the SAC halted its Higg consumer-facing transparency programme after backlash from the NCA which claimed the programme was resulting in misleading environmental claims from brands.

The Norwegian Consumer Agency (Forbrukertilsynet) issued warnings to clothing retailers H&M Group and Norrøna in June over what it deemed “misleading environmental claims”, adding their use of the Higg Index is insufficient as a tool to support their environmental claims.

It said it believed Norrøna was “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. The Norwegian Consumer Agency concluded that this tool from the SAC is “not sufficient as a basis for the environmental claims they have used in marketing.”

In its update, SAC CEO Amina Razvi said the meeting between the two parties was “positive and constructive”.

She added: “Both parties agreed that supplying consumers with accurate, trusted, and substantiated product-specific information should be the end goal for consumer-facing information. This will ensure that the changes needed to drive the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future are accelerated as quickly as possible.”

Razvi also said the NCA clarified “that there is no general ban on using global averages in marketing, but that claims in general and based on Higg MSI data specifically must be sufficiently documented and qualified.”

“We will continue to collaborate with the NCA across the upcoming months to agree on a path forward for consumer-facing environmental information. This will involve working with other consumer authorities, globally, to align on a set of key principles to help drive a harmonized and clear approach to communicate environmental claims.”

In a statement on its website, Higg said it was pleasing to see the Norwegian Consumer Authority (NCA) working with other global consumer authorities to align on a set of key principles to help drive a harmonized and clear approach to communicate environmental claims. 

“Higg believes consumers need the information to act with urgency to address climate change, and it is only through a consistent approach that the insights provided through the Higg platform can be meaningful and enable impact reduction.

“Higg’s mission is to provide businesses with the tools and data they need to address environmental and social impact in their value chains. The recent pause in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s transparency pilot program, in no way affected business use of the Higg Index tools hosted on the Higg platform.

“It is only through collaboration that solutions for consistent consumer-facing environmental information will be achieved. The joint effort between the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and the NCA is a powerful example of how stakeholders can come together to proactively address the impacts of climate change.”

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