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H&M Responds to Dual Greenwashing Lawsuits

H&M clapped back at plaintiffs in each of the two greenwashing complaints it’s fighting in Missouri and New York state courts.

The world’s No. 2 fashion retailer after Inditex, which was hit with its second greenwashing suit in November for allegedly using unlawful, false and misleading marketing for its “Conscious Choice” collection, asked the Missouri court to consider 10 exhibits in connection to its motion to dismiss the complaint filed by plaintiffs Abraham Lizama and Marc Doten.

The Swedish fast-fashion giant listed 10 “true and correct” links to various webpages, including its “Lets Change,” “Let’s Be Transparent” and “Let’s Close the Loop” pages. Also included in the exhibits was a copy of the H&M Group’s 2021 sustainability disclosure, a 74-page document outlining the company’s business practices, supply chain, strategies and procedures.

Essentially, H&M is trying to prove that consumers had the information they’re claiming didn’t exist available right at their fingertips.

 “Viewing these webpages in their entirety makes clear that plaintiffs have mischaracterized and omitted the full context of H&M’s representations, as set forth fully in H&M’s accompanying memorandum of law,” according to H&M’s Dec. 6 court filing.

One day before that request was lodged with the court, Chelsea Commodore filed a premotion letter concerning the court’s anticipated motion to dismiss her separate greenwashing class-action lawsuit in New York state.

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Like plaintiffs Lizama and Doten, Commodore filed a lawsuit after purchasing H&M clothing that displayed allegedly falsified data regarding the positive environmental attributes of the products. Commodore claims that H&M falsified the underlying data of each of its “sustainability profiles” to incorrectly present negative values as positive values for various environmental attributes and that the products aren’t recyclable and consist of environmentally harmful materials like polyester, which doesn’t biodegrade and sheds damaging microfibers. Just like Lizama and Doten, she also alleged that consumers pay a premium price for these products because of H&M’s eco claims.

H&M countered that Commodore failed to allege any dishonest acts but didn’t deny that its sustainability profiles reported falsified data on its website. Instead, the Cos and Monki owner said that “no reasonable customer would be misled by H&M’s website when the link to the underlying data was readily and prominently available.” But, the amended complaint said, a reasonable consumer would have no reason to believe that H&M was falsely reporting data on its website. Even if reasonable consumers noticed the inconspicuous link to the third-party website, they would expect external information to confirm the representations on H&M’s website.

“H&M simply cannot demand that consumers consult and mine additional data on a third-party website to “correct misleading information” prominently displayed on H&M’s website,” it said.

Additionally, H&M argued that no consumer would view its sustainability statements in context as misleading because those statements educate consumers. But Commodore said the use of the sustainability misrepresentations, such as “sustainable materials,” “conscious choice” and “shortcut to sustainable choices,” present a positive picture of the environmental attributes of the products, not some neutral educational information. As such, the purpose of H&M’s greenwashing campaign is to convince consumers that they are purchasing environmentally friendly products, she claimed in court filings.

H&M further argued that Commodore only alleged that “placing recycling bins in stores is misleading because “recycling solutions either do not exist or are not commercially available.” The plaintiff said that she was not pointing to the existence of recycling bins in stores but rather identified various recycling representations, including that the products are “circular” and “close the loop,” and that H&M prevents products from winding up in a landfill. But since the majority of the products in question aren’t recyclable, these claims are misleading to any reasonable person, she claims.

H&M did not immediately reply to Sourcing Journal’s request for comment.