Chain stores H&M and Decathlon have been reprimanded for misleading sustainability communications in their Dutch online stores. An investigation by the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumer Markets (ACM), sthere had found individual claims to be unclear and insufficiently substantiated. Both companies agreed to improve their information and pay "€500,000 and €400,000 respectively to sustainable projects to compensate for their inadequate disclosures.”
According to press reports, because the two companies made the adjustments and changes, the authority did not punish them directly with fines. When asked, spokespersons for both corporations emphasize that these accusations relate exclusively to the Dutch web store and the products offered there.
H&M admits mistakes
"We acknowledge that the sustainability information on our website could have been clearer and more comprehensive. We have made changes that commit us to better inform our customers about the composition of our products and thus improve our sustainability communication," according to H&M's German headquarters in Hamburg.
The Dutch online store made changes like, for instance, elimination of the "Conscious" and "Conscious Choice" notice, adaptation of the design of the product descriptions, adjustment of the current texts about the conventional materials used.
Among other changes, they omitted information about H&M's future aspirations and sustainability efforts and included elsewhere on the website; they clarified what exactly the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) means and that there is no guarantee that the garment itself contains more sustainable raw materials.
They added text about recycled or more sustainable materials in the "product background" pop-up on the product page if the product description indicates that the product is made (in part) from the appropriate recycled or more sustainable materials.
Compensation was self-selected
As part of the commitment decision, the Dutch authority ACM had asked H&M to offer some form of compensation. "H&M acknowledges that the information on its Dutch website could have been clearer and more comprehensive. H&M has therefore donated compensation that will contribute to developments to promote sustainability. The discussions with regulators are subject to confidentiality. H&M is therefore unable to comment on the details of the agreements with the ACM," according to a statement from Hamburg.
It said the goal is to share more comprehensive and detailed information about sustainability efforts in the future. "We emphasize that the concerns raised by ACM were not about providing false information. H&M takes ongoing steps to comply with applicable laws and regulations, and hopes to realize clearer sustainability communications in the future through open and interactive dialogue with the ACM," the retailer says.
Unclear "Ecodesign" communication at Decathlon
At Decathlon, the ACM also said it found that communication about Ecodesign products on the Dutch website was unclear and lacked detail.
"We are currently working to further improve our communication on Ecodesign products to make it easier for our customers to understand the environmental information," Decathlon United's official statement said in response. Throughout the investigation, the Decathlon team fully cooperated with the ACM, answering every question and ensuring full transparency, it said.
Company spokespeople from the company's German headquarters in Plochingen reiterate that this was only "a comment from a Dutch authority" regarding information about products on decathlon.nl. "The products and communication on decathlon.de are not affected by the case."
This article was published by textilwirtschaft.de on September 14, 2022