Sustainable clothing advertising promise warned off foundation warentest

Many fashion companies, including Hunkemoller, advertise sustainable clothing. Environmentally friendly is not necessarily, shows the consumer center.

Misleading advertising with sustainability

Producing clothing usually requires vast amounts of water, energy and chemicals. More and more people therefore rely on green fashion. But it is often not easy to recognize. The consumer center (VZ) Rhineland-Palatinate has now warned three companies for misleading advertising with the term "sustainability.

Unclear what is supposed to be "sustainable"

Hunkemoller, Peek& Cloppenburg Dusseldorf as well as Ulla Popken had advertised textiles such as T-shirts, sweaters, sweatpants and cardigans as sustainable in their online stores – without stating what makes them environmentally friendly. Ulla Popken named the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 seal. This certifies that clothing is free of harmful substances, but not that it has been produced in a resource-friendly way. "This easily misleads customers and they buy products with false ideas," says Jennifer Hauber, legal expert at VZ Rhineland-Palatinate. "More transparency is needed when advertising with the term 'sustainability'."

No agreement with Hunkemoller

Peek& Cloppenburg Dusseldorf and Ulla Popken have reacted and adapted their websites, Hunkemoller has not. The consumer center has therefore filed a lawsuit. Hunkemoller justifies its advertising with its membership in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). The product range of the companies participating in it should contain at least ten percent of reasonably environmentally friendly cotton – it does not reach the organic standard.

BCI seal disappointed in test

In Stiftung Warentest's textile seal comparison, the BCI provided no evidence of the origin of the tested garments. The seal set the least stringent requirements in comparison. Hauber also points out: "It is not clear whether the more sustainable cotton is actually in the advertised products, because it is mixed with conventionally produced cotton in the supply chain."

A view of the seal helps nevertheless

A helpful seal with high environmental requirements is Global Organic Textile Standard (Gots). It performed best in our textile seal comparison. The origin of the garments was well documented. The seal covers all stages of production, and the criteria apply to the production of any textile.

Since the end of 2019, there is also the Green Button, introduced by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. If a fashion supplier already meets the criteria of a sustainability seal such as Gots or Fair Wear Foundation, it can apply for the Green Button. It is awarded to companies that comply not only with ecological standards, but also with social standards – such as the minimum wage and adequate health protection for employees. This is certified by external institutes.

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